By Billabong Retreat Host, Kimberly Ashton
Kimberly is a 5 Elements Wellness and Energetic Nutrition coach, Hatha and Yin Yoga teacher, sound healer and energy medicine practitioner. Kimberly hosts the Stress relief weekend retreats once a month at Billabong, and offers private 5 Element wellness consultations and private sound healing sessions.
It’s cold outside and we want to hibernate, sleep-in late and sleep more in general. For many people sleep is an issue because quality of sleep or quantity of sleep isn’t sufficient. This can affect you all year around, and your energy levels too.
What happens when you don’t have enough sleep is that you reach for sugar or caffeine when really your body could be either dehydrated, experiencing low blood sugar and/or just needing sleep. More good quality sleep = more energy.
There are many things you can do to improve your sleep levels and chances of having a good night’s sleep. Some of my top suggestions are as below and later we will discuss food.
- Take time to unwind time before bed. Just like you would with young children, prepare and slow down to go to bed with habits like brushing your teeth, reading a fiction book and getting into your pyjamas. This bedtime routine has been extensively studied and is just as important for adults as it is for children. It signals to the brain and nervous system that it’s time to switch off and get a peaceful night’s rest.
- Ban electronics from the bedroom and bright lights as it stimulates the brain and eyes. Your phone or computer should not be the last thing you do or see before you sleep.
- Try journaling or keeping a diary for some short notes about your day. Note how you are feeling, if that helps you clear your mind from to-do lists, emails, work from the day, meetings the next day.
- Meditation, yoga nidra, meditation and stretching/yin yoga work really well in the evenings. Attend a class in person, try an online class (just do it with a low brightness on the screen), or find a self-practice. Slowing down the nervous system is key before bed.
- Other relaxation practices like; listening to music, tea rituals, taking a bath, hot foot soak or having a massage can be helpful.
TIME OF EATING
In addition to environmental factors when it comes to food it’s important to build good habits about when you eat and how often you eat. Skipping meals a lot, not eating well for days or eating really late at night, are all bad habits as they create irregular blood sugar levels, overwork our pancreas/spleen. Eating late disrupts our liver which should be resting and detoxing after 11pm and in the long term can cause metabolic issues. The liver in both Western nutrition and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) needs ample time overnight to cleanse, metabolise waste and detox the body. It also needs time to detoxify and process emotions, stress and anger from the body. If you push it past its ability then you can increase your risk for fatty liver, liver and gallbladder stones and more serious chronic illnesses.
I highly recommend stopping eating at least 3 hours before bed, so you can:
- Optimize your blood sugar, insulin and leptin levels as this contributes to overall good health and restful sleep.
- Lower your blood sugar during sleep and help minimise damage from too much sugar floating around. Additionally, it will jumpstart the glycogen depletion process so you can shift to fat-burning mode. Yep, good sleep means less weight gain!
Eating too close to bedtime, or very late at night when you’d normally be sleeping, may throw off your body’s internal clock and lead to weight gain. Let your body rest and not burden it with digesting too much food overnight.
Don’t under eat and then overeat a large portion of food if you forgot or skipped a meal. Our digestion works best with regular small meals or 3 meals, not one huge one during the day or at dinner. If you deprive yourself of food and especially nutrients then you’ll find yourself overeating to compensate later. The body is intelligent and it works for you to create optimal health- don’t get in its way.
BEDTIME TEAS & CAFFEINE DURING THE DAY
One other area of holistic nutrition to consider is the consumption of herbal teas late in the afternoon or 1-2 hours before bed. Rose, chamomile and lavender tea calm the heart, mind and brain- all important to improve your ability to sleep. I don’t recommend drinking a large cup as it will make you get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Also consider the time of day you are having your last caffeinated beverage. If you can’t sleep your heart and mind could still be powered by the coffee you had at 3 or 4pm. Try to drink caffeinated beverages in the morning if you want to improve your sleep.
Enjoy trying new things and I hope you get a good night’s sleep,