Top Sleep Tips From OTO's Resident Expert Sienna
Sleep Soundly With Sienna - OTO's Holistic Health Coach, Hormone Expert & Sleep Specialist.
I don't need to hash out the benefits of good sleep or the consequences of lack of sleep - we've all felt them. Emotionally, physically, mentally; sleep affects all areas of our lives. We desperately crave sleep but many of us just can't reach that dreamy state. The pressures and stimulation of modern life leaves many of us with a racing, anxious mind, a nervous system trapped in the sympathetic (fight or flight) response and an out-of-whack sleep cycle.
On top of this, ‘better sleep’ has become an overcrowded and overwhelming cultural conversation... A palaver of information overload and conflicting advice that almost requires a PHD in order to get it right. The seemingly endless factors we need to regulate, tweak and optimize can lead to even greater stress, therefore becoming counterproductive.
So, I promise, I'm going to keep things simple & distill my advice into three actionable and straightforward areas to help you drift off...
1. “A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.” — Charlotte Brontë
Anxiety is our brain asking questions we can’t answer. To stop this anxious thought loop running, get your thoughts down on paper. Define what it is you are worrying about and how this makes you feel, identifying it takes some of the sting out of it and helps release the stagnant and unhelpful thoughts whirling around your mind while you are trying to fall asleep. If this isn’t for you, try speaking to a loved one to help get anything that’s bothering you off your chest.
2. Could your hormones be keeping you up?
While your hormones help your body to function, changes in your hormones – during puberty, perimenopause, menopause, pregnancy and on a monthly basis due to your menstrual cycle – can wreak havoc on your sleep routine and quality. In addition to this, when your cortisol (stress hormone) levels are high, your melatonin (sleep hormone) levels will suffer, leaving you in that torturous tired but wired state.
Sienna’s three ‘happy hormone hacks’:
- Eat lots of healthy fats - hormones are produced from fats. Eating the right kinds of dietary fats (omega 3 fatty acids, nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oils) is crucial for achieving great hormonal health.
- Balance your blood sugar levels - fast from dinner until breakfast, no snacking before bedtime & avoid eating carbs alone
- Exercise in the morning - hit and strength training are best for sleep & if you can do this outside that further optimizes your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
3. Get your nervous system on side.
Our nervous system is the smartest part of every human being. It governs functions in your body like how quickly your heart beats, in order to fall asleep at night you need your heart rate to drop. The problem is that many of us are stuck in the red zone - often known as 'fight or flight', where our body and mind are on high alert due to stress. We need to activate the parasympathetic branch of our nervous system to get your body in rest and digest mode before bed. The best way to do this is by incorporating calming lifestyle activities such as yoga, meditation and breathwork into your evening routine.
Overall, the best piece of advice I’ve been given was by James Wilson, The Sleep Geek, who reminded me that the things that stop you from sleeping are exactly the things that make you brilliant. When you simply can’t fall asleep at night, try your hardest to release perfectionism, go easy on yourself and know that you’ve got this - you’ve got through the day on little sleep before and you can do it again.