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Published on May 5, 2021

How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule And Feel More Well-Rested

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How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule And Feel More Well-Rested

“I try to sleep early but I can’t fall asleep because my mind keeps racing.” “I wake up at 2 am and can’t go back to sleep.” “I’m so busy I can only get 5 hours of sleep a night.”

Recognizable?

Many people are looking for ways on how to fix their sleep schedules. It’s a hot topic—and it should be.

One study showed that not sleeping enough is basically like being drunk. When they measured the accuracy in shooting a target in the military after sleeping a certain amount of hours, they found that men who slept for more than 7 hours had an accuracy of 98%. For those who slept 6 hours, the accuracy dropped to 50%. That’s almost a 50% drop!

But it gets worse: those who slept for 5 hours had an accuracy of only 23%, and those who slept for less than 5 hours had an accuracy of 13%. Yes, not sleeping enough is basically like being drunk![1]

Sleep doesn’t only influence your accuracy, but it also affects other areas of your life:

  • Emotionally: you get cranky, irritable, or even depressed
  • Mentally: you can’t focus well or remember important information
  • Somatically: your body feels achy and sore
  • Physically: your cells can’t repair, the inflammation in your body goes up, and all kinds of health issues arise

So, why is it important to not only sleep enough but also have a steady sleep schedule?

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Your body needs a rhythm. The wake-sleep cycle is also called the circadian rhythm. It’s a constant play between cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol is your get-up-and-go hormone in the morning. It gets activated with sunlight. Melatonin is your sleep hormone and can only increase when cortisol goes down in the evening.

I know you thought of stress when I mentioned cortisol, and you’re right about that. Cortisol goes up when we are stressed, have an infection or inflammation in the body, and when we are digesting food.[2] If you’re that person who wakes up at 2 am and can’t fall back asleep, that is your cortisol speaking. It’s too high and, therefore, melatonin is too low.

In this article, I’ll share with you five tips on how to fix your sleep schedule.

1. Define Your Sleep Rhythm

Everybody is different. Find what works for you. Do you feel most rested when you sleep early and wake up early? Or are you more of an evening person who’s more productive when sleeping late and waking up late?

Listen to your body, and pick your sleep schedule. Don’t worry if you’re not sure about it. Look at it as an experiment. Pick your time of going to bed and your time of waking up, and test it out for a week. Doesn’t feel right? Switch it up until you find a rhythm that feels good.

Need some extra support to fix your schedule? Take the Power of When Quiz and find your Sleep Chronotype.

There’s an interesting 15-minute video training at the end to know more about the effects on your sleep when you exercise, eat, drink alcohol, drink coffee, etc.

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2. Create a 5-Minute Morning Routine

Five minutes is enough to tell your body that it’s time to wake up and to prime your brain to be in the right mood, to be focused, and to feel positive. In those first five minutes of the day, your brain wakes up and switches from a subconscious state to a conscious state. This basically means that any input you get and anything you do in those first five minutes will set the tone for the rest of your day.

If you wake up in a rush, you turn on your WiFi right away and check your messages, you watch the news, you think of everything you still need to do, and run out the door, those influence the rest of your day. Your mind feels scattered, you’re all-over-the-place, you don’t feel fully present, and your stress levels go through the roof.

Find a mini-morning routine so that you can wake up feeling more well-rested, calm, and in control of your day. Create a set of habits that you can repeat every day so your brain doesn’t need to make decisions yet, like waking up and drinking a glass of water with lime, making your bed, thinking of three things you’re grateful for, looking out the window with a cup of tea, or going for a quick walk to get some sunlight in. Soaking up that sunlight in the morning will even help you fall asleep faster at night.

3. Calm Down Your Brain in the Evening

Another tip on how to fix your sleep schedule is learning how to calm down your brain in the evening. It’s important to prepare your body and your brain for sleep.

We want our cortisol levels to go down so that melatonin can go up. If we’re still receiving lots of input from social media, movies, the news, or we’re engaging in a heated discussion, our brain will still be up-and-running processing the information and emotions swirling around, instead of slowing down for a good night’s sleep.

How can you create an evening wind-down of one or preferably two hours before going to sleep where you completely disconnect and relax your system?

First of all, focus on output instead of input. We are living in such an input society where we keep consuming more information and new impulses through the media. We’re making our brains work overtime, even in the evening, by reading more books, listening to more podcasts, answering more messages. What kind of output can you focus on?

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Whether it’s journaling, drawing, meditating, find something you can do that can either come out of you instead of putting new things in or something that can give your brain a break by doing something more physical like stretching, yoga, breathing, or walking.

Secondly, don’t watch any screens. The blue light from your phone or laptop screen will block melatonin production. If you do need to watch a screen, install a blue light filter. This will create a red glow on your screen in the evenings so that your eyes can rest and melatonin doesn’t get blocked. Depending on your device and system, you can find many great free options.

Thirdly, don’t eat or drink anything before going to sleep. Like mentioned before, cortisol goes up when you’re digesting food. Try not to eat or drink anything at least two hours before bedtime. If you do feel hungry, go for good protein options instead of carbohydrates. There are even foods with protein that stimulate the production of melatonin, like almonds. If you do want to drink something, go for some relaxing tea like chamomile, lavender, or valerian.

4. Upgrade Your Bedroom

Make sure your bedroom is super sleep-friendly with a good quality mattress, fresh sheets, good blinds to block the light from interrupting your sleep and make sure it’s not too humid or hot. It’s worth investing in the greatest sleep circumstances. You spend about 33 years of your life in bed![3]

Use your bed only for sleeping and making love. We need to train our brains in our favor. If we tell our brains that the bed is only a place for sleep, it will respect that and help us fall asleep faster.

On the other hand, if you sometimes use your laptop in the bed, watch movies, scroll your social media feed, your brain will think it can start doing other mental activities when you’re actually just trying to sleep.

If you can’t fall asleep and your brain is racing, get back up, walk around, read a book in the living room, drink some lavender tea or diffuse some lavender oil, and try again. Don’t just twist and turn in the bed hoping you’ll fall asleep soon. To train our brains to fall asleep faster and respect our sleep schedule, it’s better to get up, leave the bedroom, and then come back to try again.

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5. Bring Down Your Stress Levels

Last but not least on how to fix your sleep schedule, you need to keep your cortisol levels low. It can peak for short moments, and that is totally natural. But when you are chronically stressed and your cortisol is high all the time, the effects on your health can be detrimental.

This is why it’s so important to work on your stress management skills. Which tools do you have in your toolbox already that you can use? What gives you that feeling of calmness? How can you do more of that, especially during your evening wind down?

You can either try different stress management practices at home or get help from a stress coach:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Journaling
  • Reframing problems
  • Exercising
  • Meditating
  • Connecting with positive people
  • Laughing
  • Listening to relaxing music
  • Doing yoga

Find out what fits you as a person and what you can easily implement even when life gets in the way. We all fall off the wagon and forget about these practices now and then. It’s never too late to get back on that horse and restart a regular relaxation practice.

Final Thoughts

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”—Thomas Dekker

High levels of cortisol don’t always come from mental stress. It can be physical stress too when your immune system is fighting against bacteria, viruses, toxins, injuries, or certain foods. If you feel that might be the case, it is worth investigating more into your physical health and finding where the inflammation in your body is coming from.

And with that, I’m wishing you a lovely evening and a great night’s rest!

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More Tips on How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule

Featured photo credit: Kalegin Michail via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Centers of Disease Control and Prevention: 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep
[2] Healthline: High Cortisol Symptoms: What Do They Mean?
[3] Dreams: Your Life In Numbers

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Maya Lombarts

Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and founder of Healthy High Achievers

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Last Updated on January 18, 2022

How to Improve Digestion: 6 Ways For Stressful People

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How to Improve Digestion: 6 Ways For Stressful People

Does your digestive system seem off lately? Or has it been like that for a while? Have you been experiencing feelings of stress or burnout? If the answer to both these questions is yes, it could be the stress that’s driving your digestive system out of whack. You might also be wondering how you can improve your digestion.

Studies show that your stress levels can wreak havoc on both your mind and body.[1] One of the biggest ways that stress can impair your body’s condition is by disrupting the performance of your digestive system, resulting in a variety of adverse health consequences.

How Stress Affects Digestion

Some of the most common digestive issues caused by stress include heartburn, acid reflux, ulcer, diarrhea, and indigestion. Stress can also indirectly trigger the development of irritable bowel syndrome by affecting your immune system.

Researchers have also shown that individuals already suffering from IBS tend to have frequent flare-ups of systems when they are under considerable stress.[2] Conditions such as IBS and other gastrointestinal tract diseases are considered stress-sensitive disorders. Effective treatment usually entails the patient learning to cope with and manage their stress levels.[3]

A scientific review also discovered that there could be a strong correlation between high levels of stress and eating disorders, such as overeating and obesity.[4] When an individual is experiencing stress, their adrenal glands release cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone. This hormone is known to increase appetite, leading to overeating and other related eating disorders. People with high cortisol levels are more likely to consume foods with high fat and/or sugar content, resulting in more digestive issues and weight gain.

Effectively reducing your stress levels can help reduce inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract and lower the sensitivity of your gut. Moreover, lower stress levels contribute to easing any gastrointestinal distress you may be experiencing, while at the same time optimizing nutritional uptake.

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If you find that your stress levels are high affecting your digestion, here are some tips that can help heal your gut.

1. Increase Your Level of Physical Activity

One way to boost your digestion and, at the same time, lower your stress levels is by engaging in moderate physical activity regularly. Physical activity helps increase blood flow to the different parts of your digestive system, which makes it easier for food to move along the digestive tract while improving the efficiency of the digestive muscles.

This movement of food along the digestive tract is known as peristalsis. Common signs that your peristalsis is not working optimally include constant constipation and diarrhea, and in some extreme situations, motility disorder.

Movement and exercise are also important in triggering the release of endorphins, which help relieve tension and are considered natural pain relievers. Endorphins are also quite effective at boosting one’s sleep quality, which is essential in combatting high levels of stress.

Physical activities that are known to improve digestion include regular running, walking, and biking. Yoga poses that focus on improving posture and alignment are also helpful in easing and eradicating gastrointestinal distress and act as a potent stress reliever.

2. Consider Foods That Are Natural Stress Relievers

Scientists have also discovered that some foods naturally contain mood-boosting properties. Consuming such foods can help relieve your stress symptoms while still providing your body with critical nutrients for optimal health.

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Almonds, for instance, contain high levels of magnesium, a mineral that has been proven to help manage cortisol levels in the body. Almonds also contain high levels of vitamin B, which, together with magnesium, help in increasing the production of serotonin, a powerful mood stabilizer and feel-good hormone.

Moreover, low levels of serotonin in the body have been linked to the development of irritable bowel syndrome, GERD, and duodenal ulcers, as well as episodes of bloating, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea.[5]

Dark chocolate is another type of snack that can help boost your digestion and bring down your stress levels. It is considered a highly efficient mood booster, but it also has a direct impact on your body’s digestive system. For starters, dark chocolate has a high concentration of flavonoids, a major antioxidant agent.

This chocolate also has high fiber content, mainly because of the cocoa used in production. When the gut bacteria ferment the antioxidants and fiber contained in the dark chocolate, anti-inflammatory compounds are released.[6] These compounds are not only essential in fighting inflammation within your digestive system, but they also play a crucial role in improving cardiovascular function and combatting inflammation-related disorders throughout your body.

Cocoa has also been shown to trigger the production of more healthy microbes in the colon, a further boost to your digestive system. It is also highly recommended to eat foods that are rich in probiotics and prebiotics. These compounds are critical in the production of good gut bacteria.

The abundance of good bacteria in the gut is essential for proper digestion of food and controlling inflammation within your digestive system and other parts of the body. Examples of foods rich in probiotics include yogurt, kombucha, kefir, tempeh, and natto.[7] Fruits and vegetables rich in prebiotics include the likes of onions, asparagus, garlic, and bananas. Consider making these gut-boosting foods part of your regular diet for enhanced digestive performance.

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3. Try Probiotic Supplements

Probiotics can also help improve your digestion. If you find that you don’t like probiotic foods or find them difficult to obtain, try a probiotic supplement instead. Research has shown probiotics to have remarkable effects on digestion, stress levels, immunity, and much more.[8]

Look for a probiotic that uses time-release tablets as these are more likely to deliver the probiotic bacteria safely past your stomach acid. Most probiotics in capsules are damaged or destroyed before they reach your intestines.

4. Avoid Foods That Can Impair Digestion

Just as there are good foods that can help improve digestion and simultaneously provide stress relief, there are foods that can wreak havoc on your digestive system.

Remember, when you are experiencing high levels of stress, your appetite increases, and you are more inclined to consume foods with a lot of (added) sugar and fats. Both these things are known to increase inflammation in people’s digestive systems, resulting in a variety of GI issues like constant bloating, diarrhea, and excessive gas.

Other major food culprits that can disrupt your digestive function include processed bread, white chocolate, coffee, and highly acidic foods.

5. Identify and Avoid Your Stress Triggers

An examination into what triggers your high-stress levels can help you identify these factors, and allow you to mitigate their impact on your physical and mental well-being.

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Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that helps you uncover the source of your negative thinking as well as the triggers that cause your stress levels to elevate. CBT has been shown to reduce stress in individuals with IBS. Consequently, these individuals suffered fewer IBS symptoms. This demonstrates the effectiveness of therapy in minimizing stress, which then directly boosts the digestive health of the individual.[9]

Meditation and mindfulness are also powerful techniques that can help you ease your stress levels. Studies have also shown that these practices can also help ease inflammation across the body, including along your gastrointestinal tract. Meditating as well as doing some breathing exercises before eating can help relax you, which in turn allows your digestive system to function optimally.

6. Quit Smoking and Excessive Consumption of Alcohol

Our stress coping techniques can also significantly impair our digestive function. If you are using cigarettes and/or alcohol to cope with your stress, you are inadvertently introducing a host of dangerous chemicals that will affect your digestive health.

Smoking and alcohol consumption have been linked to a variety of GI diseases including heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcers, gallstones, pancreatitis, liver diseases, and Crohn’s disease.[10] It’s imperative that you look for healthier stress coping mechanisms, such as meditation and exercise to avoid exposing your digestive system to dangerous compounds.

Final Thoughts

If you’re wondering how to improve your digestion, the first thing you should know is that your stress levels actively impact how well your digestive system functions. Addressing your stress triggers, through exercise, therapy, and physical activity will help bring down your stress levels and allow your body’s digestive system to function optimally.

Moreover, consume foods that are good for your digestion, including foods rich in magnesium, vitamin B, serotonin, fiber, and antioxidants. Lastly, avoid stress coping mechanisms that put your digestive system in jeopardy, like smoking or excessive consumption of alcohol.

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More Tips on How to Improve Digestion

Featured photo credit: Eugene Chystiakov via unsplash.com

Reference

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