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Tag: sleep

I Tried It: The 4-7-8 Deep Breathing Method For Better Sleep

sunset in richmond

Do you ever have nights where your mind is whirring and it’s tricky to drop off to sleep? I do.

 

I’ve been trying the 4-7-8 deep breathing method to help me get to sleep and it’s been really helpful! Pioneered by Dr Andrew Weil, the technique is designed to calm the mind and relax the muscles. If you’re one of the 30% of Brits who suffers from poor sleep, anything is worth a try, right?

 

Not sleeping well doesn’t just affect your blood sugar balance, make you tired and unable to concentrate – it also puts you at risk of more serious health issues including obesity, heart disease and diabetes and even reduces your life expectancy.

 

The 4-7-8 deep breathing technique comes from yoga breathing, where you have to keep the tip of the tongue behind the upper front teeth. You breathe in through your nose quietly and blow air out forcefully through your mouth making a whoosh sound.

 

Here’s how to perform the 4-7-8 mindful bedtime trick:

1.    Exhale through your mouth making a ‘whoosh’ sound.

2.    Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a count of four.

3.    Hold your breath for seven seconds.

4.    Exhale through your mouth, making a ‘whoosh’ sound to the count of eight.

5.    Inhale again and repeat the cycle 2-4 times or until you feel yourself drifting off.

 

According to Dr Weil, this technique works by filling the lungs with air, allowing more oxygen into the body, which in turn promotes a state of calm. Dr Weil advises doing the breathing during the day as well as it can also be used to improve digestion and stop the ‘fight-or-flight’ response in the body, reducing stress.

 

Even if you decide this stress-relieving technique isn’t for you, it’s worth exploring other ways to reduce your stress levels. Stress plays such a huge part in how we feel about ourselves, and that in turn has a knock-on effect on how motivated we are to eat well and take proper care of both our physical and mental health.

 

It might seem like a luxury to practise mindfulness or indulge in any kind of self care but you know what they say when you’re on a plane: you’ve got to put on your own oxygen mask before you can save anyone else.

 

The same is true for healthy eating. In my clinic, people often come to me feeling unmotivated and exhausted by life and it’s my job to help you feel inspired to make positive changes for yourself. And once you feel motivated again, it will help to inspire the whole family and others around you.

 

If you know you need a diet and lifestyle upgrade, but are not sure exactly what that would look like for you, get in touch. Looking forward to talking to you and helping you take the first step towards a new you.

Do you get enough sleep?

do you sleep enough

How many hours do you sleep a night?  Ideally, according to the World Health Organisation, we should be sleeping at least 8 hours a night, uninterrupted. Anything less counts as sleep deprivation. And guess what: on average, most of us get 7 or fewer hours of sleep a night.

 

According to Matthew Walker, the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, we are suffering from a sleep deprivation epidemic in the Western world. We work longer hours, have less down time, are more stressed and spend our evenings staring at screens emitting blue light. All of this effects our sleep length and quality.

 

And to be clear: sleep deprivation is not heroic, despite the machismo around getting by on as little sleep as possible.

 

Sleep deprivation reduces the body’s ability to repair and heal itself, as most of these processes happen at night. It also increases the risk of insulin resistance, susceptibility to weight gain, cardiovascular disease and developing Alzheimer’s, amongst many other morbidities.

 

So what can you do to get more and better quality sleep?

 

1. Go to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time, even on the weekends. Deep sleep is essential for our physical and mental health, especially between 12am – 4am, so get to bed before midnight!

 

2. Create a digital sunset: turn off your devices at least 1 – 2 hours before bedtime. If you have to use your devices, use night shift mode to reduce the blue light, which affects melatonin production (this is the hormone that helps you get to sleep!).

 

3. Get your bedtime routine down pat: Unwind with a book (a physical one) or a bit of journaling, have a hot bath with a few scoops of magnesium salts (magnesium is a great relaxer), get some cosy, clean pyjamas and make sure your room is cool and pitch black, as even the smallest amount of light affects your circadian rhythms.

 

4. Try a lavender spray on your pillow. It’s not woo: lavender contains compounds that have a sedative effect.

 

5.  If you have kids that still wake up in the night (still in that boat!), go to bed a bit earlier so you’re getting an extra hour or two of sleep. It’s hard to sacrifice that time you get to unwind with your partner in the evening, but the health benefits are worth it!

 

6.  Stop drinking coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages after midday, as these stimulants can affect your circadian rhythms. I love a cup of Pukka Night Time tea just before bed.

 

7.  Eat tryptophan foods. Tryptophan converts to serotonin and melatonin, to help you feel good and sleep well. Try adding some of these foods to your meals and see how you feel: almonds, organic chicken & turkey, wild salmon, avocado, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds.

 

What are your top tips for getting a good night’s kip? Here’s what happened when I tried going to bed early and prioritising a good night’s sleep.

 

Get in touch for to book a free 20 minute health & energy review to find out more about how you can improve your sleep and reduce your stress.

 

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Stories I loved this week.

hotel de ville

It’s nearly the beginning of October and hopefully we’re all getting to grips with packing school lunchboxes during the week. Here are some nice lunchbox tips. (Cup of Jo)

The bacteria in your gut may be shaping your waistline. (The Economist)

Have you tried mediating before eating? (Bon Appetit)

I had a little cry after reading this article. It’s shocking how many women feel that their doctors don’t listen to their concerns or take them seriously. (The Cut)

Are you sober curious? I probably am and am part of the trend of millennials that are choosing to drink little to no alcohol. (The Pool)

How many hours do you sleep a night? The shorter the time you sleep at night, the higher the risk of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and weight gain. (The Guardian)

Any type of exercise can reduce cardiovascular risk and early death, even vacuuming or taking the stairs, as long as you get at least 150 minutes (that’s only 2.5 hours!) a week. (Vox)

I Tried It: Going To Bed Early

bed

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for at least seven months now, trying to fit everything in. Being a good mother, being a good wife, cooking, studying for my nutrition degree, doing coursework, working four days a week and trying to fit in some form of regular exercise. I’m exhausted just typing this out.

 

I’ve been cutting corners on my sleep for too long. Going to bed at 11pm, but lying in bed until midnight, on my phone, then expecting to get up at 6:15 the next morning feeling refreshed. It really is no wonder that the past two weeks have seen me going to bed between 9:30 and 10:30pm most nights, absolutely exhausted. Like fast asleep as soon as I hit the pillow exhausted.

 

I’m a big advocate of listening to what my body tells me, but in the case of sleep, I’ve been completely disregarding it. I’ve been acting like I’m 25 again and trying to get by on little sleep, with no consequences. Well, there are consequences – dark circles under my eyes, spots and over reliance on coffee, to name a few.

 

There’s also the little fact that at nearly 3, my son still doesn’t consistently sleep through the night. So going to bed late just compounds the effect of a broken night’s sleep.

 

It’s hard to overstate the healing powers of sleep and how much the body uses the time to repair and heal itself. Looking at the Chinese medicine clock, your gallbladder (11pm – 1am), liver (1 – 3am), lungs (3 – 5am) and small intestine (5 – 7am) are all active at night and use this time to refresh and regenerate.

 

Sleep also has a huge effect on weight loss and maintenance, cognitive ability, body repair and regeneration and insulin sensitivity. It’s fascinating to see studies that show that interventions that reduce sleep time by as little as 2 hours daily can induce a state of insulin resistance in otherwise healthy persons within a week, and halving sleep time to 4 hours or less is able to induce insulin resistance after a single night!

 

So what were the benefits to me of getting some extra sleep? Unsurprisingly, I woke up feeling a little more refreshed than normal, my energy levels were higher, so I could just bounce out of bed, without my usual sluggishness and I was in a far better mood throughout the day.

 

I can’t say that I’m going to continue going to bed so early every night, because I truly need that time in the evening after my son goes to bed to relax and unwind, but I plan to go to bed earlier at least three nights every week. Here’s to positive habit forming!

 

Get in touch for to book a free, no commitment 20 minute health coaching call to find out more about how you can improve your health & wellbeing and reduce your stress.

Photo by Quin Stevenson

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Stories I loved this week.

rain on my window

After having my nose deep in my text books for the last three weeks, with assignments and exam studying, I have now returned to the land of the living. It makes me laugh, thinking about how I used to cram at the last minute at university and complain about how little time I had! Ha!

The biggest lesson for me is that it can be done, with a lot of help and a lot of discipline and focus. Now, I’m giving myself the week off from studying, then I start my assignment, a study into a specific dietary model. Onwards and upwards!

Having spent the last three weeks studying like crazy on very little sleep,  I can see how lack of sleep can bring on the ‘munchies’. (The Guardian)

Have you seen Dr. Sandra Lee’s pimple popper videos? They’re incredibly gross, compelling viewing and getting mainstream coverage. (NYMag)

Three persistent insidious health myths. (The Chalkboard)

Can you teach yourself to like new food? This formerly picky writer gives it a try. (The Science of Us)

Microbial resistance is a growing problem. How can we be smarter about how we use antibiotics? (Chris Kresser)

I’ve always hated baby talk and never speak that way with my son. Apparently speaking to your kids in a ‘normal’ way can help grow their vocabulary. Makes sense. (Cup of Jo)

How not to get old and tired. Harsh title, interesting content. (goop)

Photo by Death to Stock Photo

Stories I loved this week.

Death_to_stock_photography_bonus_floral_1

It’s Boxing Day! Are you out braving the sales or are you at home with friends and family eating bubble and squeak and relaxing? We’re headed to my in-laws today for more turkey and Christmas pudding and very excited toddlers running around.

Then it’s a full week off with family time in London, full of day trips, walking and fun. I’m excited.  I’m always amazed at how many steps I manage to tot up just running around London with my two guys, especially since little J wants to walk everywhere now – those little legs can move. Bonus: he polishes off everything we put in front of him for dinner and sleeps very, very deeply on those evenings.

Reading this article on Raffi brought back so many memories. I’ve introduced his music to my son and he loves it too! (NY Mag)

I really feel for the parents of these children with extreme allergies. (The Guardian)

Have you heard Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast yet? I’ve just started listening to it and am really enjoying the insights on how to boost creativity. (Magic Lessons)

Use the Christmas break to work on your sleep habits and hygiene, not catch up on your sleep. (The Pool)

The top wellness trends of 2015. The trend for seaweed is a good one, but slightly worrying as some types of seaweed, including kelp specifically, contain high levels of iodine, which can have a negative effect on thyroid function. (Well + Good)

Have you read the Time profile on Adele yet? (Time)

Stories I loved this week.

Photo by Garrett Carroll

Fresh for the weekend, here’s a collection of stories and podcasts that I’ve found interesting this week – enjoy!

This boy is defying the stereotype of the typical teen (Guardian)

An oldie but a goodie – what doctors don’t know about the drugs they prescribe (TED)

Goop is gettng on board with fermented foods! (Goop)

Cholesterol is OK now – the US finally changing their dietary advice! (Times – paywall)

It’s official – going to bed early is a good thing. (Stylist)

Lovely food swaps, hacks and tips – pair veg with fats to help your body absorb nutrients more efficiently. (Goodness Direct)

I love this podcast – Michelle’s son, the Double-Os are adorable! (Nom Nom Paleo)

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