These days, I have to really focus on getting enough sleep to get me through my busy week. I have a tendency to be a bit of a workaholic….writing emails or blog posts at 10 pm at night and then dragging myself out from bed at 5 or 6 am the next morning just to get my day started. It’s certainly not good for my health and if I do this too often and my body let’s me know by weakening my immune system and removing that outward glow I strive for.
Getting adequate sleep is as valuable as my matcha green tea morning fix. I’m just not the same without it. It’s also possibly the best thing to do if you’re chasing that elusive fountain of youth. Not getting enough sleep means our bodies can’t repair and recover optimally, and our ability to function also becomes affected.
In fact, research shows that people who don’t get enough sleep have a greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome (also known as syndrome X or insulin resistance syndrome), which can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Perhaps one of the most important tips I’ve learnt for a good night’s sleep is learning how to unwind and nurture my body into a restful state. When I consciously make time to relax, such as having a bath scented with lavender essential oil or turning of the computer at a decent hour, I find that I can get a solid 8 hours of quality sleep. By morning, I feel like I’m ready to attack the next day with renewed energy.
Get the most of your beauty sleep with my 7 step plan:
1. Enjoy a healthy hot drink. I love unwinding at the end of the day with my Healthy Hot Chocolate. This drink is comforting, nourishing and full of magnesium from the cacao, which helps calm the nervous system. Combine it with cashew milk, and you also get a good dose of the feel good hormone, serotonin, which helps promote wellbeing and relaxation. I use my Healthy Chef Naked Chocolat with this drink because it contains a hint of vanilla, which is a lovely luscious spice that also helps relax the nervous system.
2. Keep your stress levels down during the day. Chronic stress can keep cortisol levels in the blood elevated for longer, which in turn can affect metabolism, suppress thyroid function and increase abdominal fat. Ensure you get enough down time for yourself a few hours before bed by turning off all electronic devices and learn to chill out and relax.
3. Keep your bedroom calm and peaceful and at the right temperature so it’s conducive to wanting to sleep. Using elements such as eye shades or blinds can help block out any light in the room which helps stimulate melatonin, a hormone that helps promote sleep. I need to have a cool bedroom so that it’s lovely and fresh, then I love to snuggle underneath my doona cover so I’m nice and warm. For me – that’s how I fall asleep, and if it’s raining outside, that’s even better as the meditative sounds of the rain put me to sleep.
4. Avoid coffee and choose herbal teas that promote sleep instead. Teas such as camomile, mulberry and GABA Oolong have a gentle calming effect on the nervous system and the mind. GABA specifically is high in the amino acid, Gamma Amino Butyric Acid, one of the main neurotransmitters for the central nervous system which helps calm and relax the body. Other teas such as chamomile, passionflower and lavender relax the body, reduce stress and calm the nervous system.
5. Get adequate protein in your diet. Protein is an essential nutrient to help your body recover and repair. Increasing protein intake can help support high stress levels by stabilising any blood sugar spikes, reducing mood swings, jitteriness and improving sleep. It can also support proper hormone production that is essential to your overall wellbeing. I often have a warm mug of hot chocolate, yoghurt mixed with my Naked Chocolat or even a glass of almond milk mixed with a little Healthy Chef protein.
6. Discover the benefits of cacao. Aside from my Healthy Hot Chocolate to help me unwind, I can’t get enough of healthy foods that incoporate cacao. Not only does it contain magnesium to help relax blood vessels, improve circulation and blood flow, but the flavonoids in cocoa can help to increase nitric oxide production that allows more oxygen flow, as well as help lower blood pressure. Cocoa is also rich in a compound called resveratrol, the same that’s found in red wine. Resveretrol helps to control inflammation and protects your brain as well as calm the nervous system. Research also suggests that resveratrol can support mental health by increasing the brain’s production of feel-good endorphins and serotonin.
7. Avoid going to bed on a full stomach or lying down after eating. Give your body time to digest properly (i.e. try not to eat at least 2-3 hours before going to bed). I often make a light vegetable soup or a shake rich in protein in preference to a heavy meal in the evenings. I make dinner the smallest meal of my day and lunch the main meal of my day.
Healthy Chef Naked Chocolat (Mylk + Dark) is available from The Healthy Chef eStore HERE.