So How Can I Fix My Sleep?Oct 22, 2023
Today we’re going to begin looking at how we can all improve our sleep!
If you missed last week’s blog where I offered the short SLEEP SCORE quiz, for you to find out your Sleep Score, be sure to catch it HERE.
As you may have figured out, some of the questions give clues to the habits we can employ to help us improve our sleep and ultimately our health and longevity.
There’s been a lot of interest and research lately in our bodies' circadian rhythm. Whether or not we pay attention to these rhythms will make all the difference in our health, our energy, and how we feel on a day-to-day basis. And that’s because whether or not we pay attention to our circadian rhythm will directly impact our sleep!
What is Circadian Rhythm?
Circadian rhythm is the 24-hour internal clock in our brain that regulates cycles of alertness and sleepiness by responding to light changes in our environment. Our physiology and behaviour are shaped by the Earth's rotation around its axis. After all, like all other creatures on earth, we are subject to the power of Mother Nature.
Circadian rhythms dictate multiple processes in the body, including alertness or sleepiness, appetite, and body temperature. Circadian rhythms can be disrupted by travel, work, or underlying issues.
While we may love to travel, no-one enjoys jet lag! That's our body getting out of sync with the natural rhythm of our present location on earth, and demonstrates how powerfully we are affected by circadian rhythm.
And it turns out that this interest in Circadian Rhythm is not new.
In fact, practitioners of Ayurveda going back well over 5000 years studied what they called the rhythms of nature. And they understood that living according to these rhythms was essential.
For a quick look at an article that I wrote about a year ago, click on the link HERE.
Lifestyle and circadian rhythms
So ask yourself this question: how well do my habits comply with the rhythms of nature?
Be honest, this is simply an assessment. No need for judgment. Rather this is the first step in recognizing that we may need to make some changes.
One of the ways in which Ayurveda explains the rhythms of nature is to divide the 24-hour day into six 4-hour segments, otherwise known as the Doshic clock.
If we allow our bodies to pay attention to the energy that's dominant in each of these time segments, we will gain a clearer understanding of what we should be asking our bodies to do in each of these times.
And then we can determine if we have some habits that are not serving us. Some habits that we need to let go of. And others that we might want to take on.
What are your evening habits?
For example, the 4-hour segment from 6pm to 10pm, is influenced strongly by the characteristics of the Kapha dosha. This means that the energy of the Earth, and indeed our bodies, starts to slow down. We may feel heavier, more grounded, and also more fatigued. And that suggests that our activities during this time should be those that allow us to wind down and prepare for sleep.
A Quick Analysis
Think back now to your evening activities over the last week. Did they tend to be relaxing and grounding? Or ones that required more physical or mental energy? Were you aware of fatigue developing, or did you push through and stay up later? Did you sleep well, and awaken well-rested ... or not? And remember, there’s no need to be perfect. This is simply an exercise in awareness. And awareness is the first step to change and transformation.
This is not to say that we can’t on occasion have an evening out with friends and family that may last a little bit later. It doesn’t mean that we won't have the occasional activity, class or webinar in the evening. It just means that we might want to be aware of our common activities and see if making some subtle changes might make a difference in how we sleep and how we feel.
I’ve experienced this personally, as in days gone by, I used to work into the evening feeling like I was getting lots accomplished, but then I would find that my mind was all wound up, and I had difficulty falling asleep.
Another modern day influencer is watching TV — especially bingeable shows on streaming services! Depending on the content, this can make it even more difficult to fall asleep, especially if it’s violent.
And BTW watching the news at 11pm, when we know how disturbing it usually is, is not a good idea!
I’m sure many of you have experienced a natural fatigue that you may start to feel in the evening. But depending on your activity, you may have ignored it. Pushed through it. Enjoyed the feeling of getting a second wind, which then allowed you to stay up later.
However, if we recognize that it’s best to have a regular sleep schedule, getting ready to “hit the hay” close to that 10pm ending of the Kapha time, we won’t ignore the fatigue. We will listen to our body’s signals, and plan to turn in at an earlier time.
My #1 sleep habit
Here’s what I have found is a game changer: turn off all screens, computers, smart phones, and TVs at 8pm! After all, your favourite Netflix show will still be there tomorrow, and most of us are able to easily record shows to watch later.
Instead, choose evening activities that are calming, allowing you to sense when your body feels fatigued, and takes your mind away from exciting or disturbing thoughts.
This could be anything from reading an enjoyable novel, practicing gentle and restorative yoga, listening to a guided meditation, or taking a hot bath or shower.
I aim to be climbing into bed by about 9pm, followed by some meditation, journaling and light reading so that by 9:30 or 10pm, I am ready to turn off the lights.
Of course, this doesn’t happen every night if other things get in the way, but I do notice a longing for rest, and allow it to guide my activities as much as possible.
Our bodies are all influenced by the natural rhythms of nature.
As Ayurveda tells us, it’s important to wind down our activities after dinner, to feel our bodies’ fatigue, and to give in to your innate desire to go to bed!
Your challenge this week!
- Take a look at your schedule, find an evening or even better two or three evenings in a row with nothing in particular scheduled, and write into your calendar “screens off at 8pm.”
- Decide what calming activities you’ll engage in that evening in place of what you might normally do.
- And do your best to notice the fatigue that your body may have.
- Pay attention, and when you’re ready to sleep, go to bed and sleep!
- Plus get your friends and family on board with this and support them, and they may notice a difference too.
- Try this for a few days and see how you feel!
So What's Next?
Here’s a Sneak Peak of the new
15 days, Five habits, 1 goal
· Education, Coaching
· Accountability, Empowerment
· Five Habits that make a difference
· Coaching and accountability to keep you on track
· Change is possible!
Great Sleep is only 2 weeks away
· Together, we can do this!
Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life (Harper Paperbacks, 2019)
Physiology, Circadian Rhythm https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519507/
Circadian Rhythm https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm
What Are Circadian Rhythm Disorders? https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/circadian-rhythm-disorders
For more info on this and other natural health topics:
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