Sleeplessness and low energy levels are two of the most common frustrations among individuals today. The two are often so closely related, where low energy levels are experienced because of a lack of sleep, or at least enough quality sleep.
The “eight hours a night” rule is a reliable place to start. At some point we need to cut down on the amount of things we do in a day to achieve this foundation. If sleeplessness and low energy levels continue to play an unfortunate role in your life, here are some other things to consider.
Sleep Hygiene (yes, this is 'something')
The ‘cleanliness’ or ‘tidiness’ of our sleeping environment surprisingly influences our quality of sleep. This could simply mean getting rid of the mess in our bedroom: making the bed before we get in it, tidying our clothes off floor, and closing drawers. Keeping the cell phone out of the bedroom, or on silent and untouched, is another way to ‘de-clutter’ our sleeping environment.
Lights / Social Media
Removing all forms of social media screens, turning off the television, and dimming the lights in the bedroom can help to switch the brain off in preparation for sleep. Do this one-hour before you go to bed.
LCD light and natural light stimulate serotonin production. This is a process we want to occur in the morning when we need to wake up. Not in the evening. At night we want to encourage the stimulation of melatonin, which is brought on when exposure to light decreases. The darker the room, with the fewer number of lights, the greater the amount of melatonin produced. This naturally encourages sleepiness.
Night Time Rituals
Creating a “winding-down” routine or ritual for your evening will help communicate with your brain that it is time to prepare for sleep. Rituals can include taking a warm shower, enjoying a small peppermint tea, or lighting a candle in the bedroom. Create a habit out of your routine every night and observe the difference in your quality of sleep over a few months. I also suggest keeping the bed sacred for sleep only: don’t read in bed, watch movies in bed, or work on your bed during the day. Getting in to bed at night should communicate with your brain that it is time to sleep, not to stay awake.
We have amazing bodies that can communicate with our brains when it is time to sleep based on our breathing! Diaphragmatic breathing taps into the parasympathetic nervous system, known for its ability to help the body “rest-and-digest.” Diaphragmatic breathing is the process of breathing with our diaphragm. We breathe in through our nose, allowing our stomach to expand under our ribs, then we breath out through our nose, allowing the air to leave our stomach. Doing this twenty times each night before we go to sleep can help prepare our bodies for rest. Relaxing yoga is another way to encourage diaphragmatic breathing.
Sleep and energy is thoroughly affected by what we do during the day. Upon arising we can encourage levels of hormone serotonin to rise by the onset of light. When you wake in the morning walk to the window and look into the daylight. Have your coffee outside in the sun if you can. This will help your body feel awake and ready for the day.
Movement is another consideration when it comes to sleep and energy levels. The body was designed to move, however most of us these days spend hours in front of a computer (as I am doing right now). Movement is a key component in encouraging our brain to communicate chemical messages to the rest of our body. If we are not moving daily we may be inhibiting the natural chemical message of sleepiness, rest, safety - all factors that encourage the body to fall asleep. On top of that, the very nature of being sedentary leaks energy from the body.
Our bodies were also designed to experience peacefulness and mindfulness. I find it incredibly beneficial to sit down for ten minutes before dinner to watch the sunset or the moon in the evening. You may like to journal, do relaxing yoga before bed, or take a slow stroll in the evening. Whatever you enjoy, these daily rituals done with diaphragmatic breathing can communicate with your body that you are safe and relaxed, which encourages sleepiness at night-time.
Most of us have heard of the sleep-inducing quality of magnesium. Magnesium is crucial for muscle function – it can help relax muscles when trying to sleep. I always suggest magnesium supplementation should go hand in hand with the above natural remedies. If you’ve tried all the above suggestions and are still struggling in the dark hours of the night, you could try taking 300mg of magnesium one hour before going to bed.
Good nutrition is crucial for all spheres of life, as you may have gathered from my previous articles... A woman recently came to me expressing frustration over having low-blood pressure in the afternoons that demonstrated itself through faintness or what we often call a ‘sugar-low.’ She felt that the only way around this was to eat a high-energy carbohydrate-based snack, like a bread roll or a small bag of potato chips. Over a few weeks of increasing her vegetable intake and the amount of good fats she eat at every meal, we eliminated her previous afternoon snack, and she reported stable energy levels throughout the whole day, no longer experiencing faintness in the afternoon.
Food is supposed to serve and nourish our bodies. By equipping ourselves with good fuel in the morning, at noon, and at night, we should be sustained throughout the entire day. We already know this, but if we stick to whole and natural foods, moderate protein, and good quality fats we’ll experience longer lasting energy levels. Eating green and colourful vegetables at breakfast, lunch, and dinner will provide a continuous flow of energy throughout the day. Drinking a minimum of 2.5 litres of water a day will help with cognition and concentration. If you try all these things, yet still experience extremely low energy then I suggest booking an appointment with a nutritionist or a naturopath.
Mental & Emotional Processing
Often ‘thinking’ can be the obstacle in the way of a sound sleep. I have found that processing my thoughts earlier in the day can minimise that amount of ‘thinking’ I do at night. In order to do this, I sit down with a coffee in the morning while I journal about the things on my mind. This can help to become ‘unstuck’ on any concerns or worries that flood the mind at night. I also recommend seeing a trusted counsellor or opening up with a health coach about the things that plague the mind.
An unfortunate realty about caffeine is that it causes the exact same process as described in the above paragraph. Caffeine can be the culprit in causing our blood sugar levels to rise and plummet, leaving our energy levels low. Most people usually counter this energy low by having more caffeine or sugar, which starts the whole circular process off again. I suggest limiting your coffee to one a day and to drink it before noon.
As with everything in life, energy and sleeplessness is multi-faceted. In saying that, you don’t have to live with low energy levels and exhaustion forever. Please contact me if you have any questions of concerns about your own energy levels or lack of sleep. I would love to help.
Feed, Nourish, Value Yourself