Respect your natural rhythms for more restorative sleep
Waking up gently, eating at the right times and taking natural pauses throughout the day brings comfort and ease to your body and mind. Re-setting our clocks for wellness and more restorative sleep is a simple way to nurture yourself and boost your energy and mood.
Turning into your body's natural flow can massively help you improve your sleep. Nurturing your natural rhythm means that you will avoid getting into a cycle of stress or hyper-vigilance, which is one of the main reasons that people struggle to get the sleep and rest that they need.
When we are stressed, our body will respond by revving us up even more. Creating routine and moments of peace, particularly at the beginning and end of the day, but also dotted throughout, will give your body reassurance that you are safe, that it's ok to rest.
1) A gentle wake up
If you're a morning person, you will most likely wake up with the feeling that your batteries are fully charged, even if you feel tired later in the day! So you can get up and start your day with a hot shower and good breakfast and you're ready to go. Enjoy this time of energy and creativity because you might run out of steam later. That's ok.
If you are an evening person, it might take you a little more time in the morning to get started. Give yourself that time. Set your alarm a little earlier that you really need to be awake and wake up slowly. Drink a large glass of water, practice some gently stretching and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Don't worry, you'll make up for lost time when you are fully of energy in the evening and your morning-friend is naturally less productive.
Breakfast is recommended for everyone when it comes to your daily rhythm and restorative sleep. Eating breakfast sends a signal to your body that it's time for your day to start and for your circadian alerting signals to kick in. It helps regulate your appetite and your blood sugar levels, which helps your body avoid getting into a vicious circle of stress. If you're not very hungry in the morning, start gently with some stewed apple with cinnamon or a handful of nuts and dates.
2) Midday replenishment and review
Make sure that you eat regularly. If you've had a good breakfast, your body should have used up all of it's calorie reserves by around 12h30 or 13h. Don't leave lunch too late or you'll be slipping into fight-or-flight mode again.
Take the time for a healthy lunch and use it as a moment to check in with yourself. How has your day been going so far? What is the one thing you can do in the afternoon to feel really satisfied by the evening?
3) Peak concentration
We have peaks of concentration in the middle or the morning and again in the middle/late afternoon, around 16h or 17h. This is when our body temperate is the highest and our stress hormones give us a certain hyperactivity that is adapted to getting stuff done! Make the most of these moments so that you can rest when you're feeling less productive.
If you eat lunch around 12h30 or 13h you can allow yourself a healthy snack mid-afternoon. This gives you some grounding energy during your peak of concentration (see below). It will also stop you feeling drained and low on energy right before dinner and reaching for something unhealthy!
4) Pause and breathe
When our days are packed from start to end, it can be easy to neglect the breaks. But breaks are essential. According to our ultradian rhythms, cycles that last less than 24 hours, we have a natural drop in energy and concentration about every 80-120 minutes.
Allow yourself to let go of productivity and embrace some down-time in these moments. There are other things happening: digestion of information, processing of experiences, problem solving on a deeper level.
If we do not take the time to rest and repair ever couple of hours, we will naturally slip into our fight-or-flight mode and build up an excess of stress and anxiety, which will prevent us from sleeping later.
Pauses help us to digest information, experiences and emotions throughout the day, so that they don't creep up on us when our head hits the pillow! They also ensure that our body and mind knows how to switch between doing and just being, a key skills for falling asleep easily.
5) Evening transition
After about 20h, we are in transition. We are in the middle ground between in our current day and our next day. If you don't allow yourself time to drift, to dream, to discover new things, you can easily end up feeling burned out and exhausted. Make sure that your evening meal has enough substance in terms of protein and complex carbohydrates (brown rice, brown pasta, lentils, grains) to give you the energy to get through the night.
6) The perfect bedtime
Everyone has a sleep window. It is the moment of the day when your circadian rhythm is wishing and willing you to go to sleep. If you pay attention you will notice that every day your body sends you strong signals around this time - yawning, drop in alertness and a drop in body temperature. If you go to sleep when your body is calling out for sleep, you will be guaranteed a quicker time to fall asleep and a more quality sleep. Typically it's also important to get to bed before midnight.
It can help to think of your day as four main phases - waking up, being awake (eating / working / moving / pausing), winding down and sleeping. Enjoy tuning into your natural flow, your needs and riding the wave of your true, natural, powerful energy!
About the author
I am Dot Zacharias, an Integrative Adult Sleep Coach, Co-Active coach and iRest Meditation teacher. Feel free to get in touch with any questions or for information about my sleep coaching.
Contact me for a free introduction call!