I Wanna Get My Sleep back: A 5 Point Plan

I believe that overly anxious women could solve all the problems of the world at 3am, if we only harnessed our collective mental capacity to the power of the greater good, instead of lying wide awake for hours running through our to-do list!

When women are in a group, volunteering at the school pizza lunch, climbing onto yellow buses to supervise school trips, meeting for book clubs or cheering on soccer games it is routine for every woman present to grab their coffee and yawningly announce that they were wide awake again at 3am the previous night.

All this underused mental energy should find a higher global purpose than running through a list of errands, inventorying the washing powder/tooth paste/ overripe bananas in the house, visually blocking out a future work project and route map planning our coffee stops for the following day. 

Wakefulness, anxiety, and loss of sleep is endemic in our culture and the sad fact is that the time that we put into stressing in the middle of the night means that we have already lost the battle for the following day.

Are you sick and tired of feeling tired? Do you want to open your window a 3am and shout into the blackness of the night, “I Wanna Get My Sleep Back!”

Here is my 5 point plan for reclaiming your peaceful sleep that will make you a champion of the busy day ahead.

1. Cut out the caffeine.

Isn’t it the greatest irony that the life saver who is helping you through on the daily is actually the bad guy who is robbing you of your sleep at night? Relying on caffeine for empty energy is a vicious circle that in the end leaves you feeling more drained. By activating the fight or flight mechanism in the body, caffeine is actually spiking both your blood sugar (you are going to crave carbs when that crash comes!) and cortisol (stress hormone) levels whilst draining your adrenal glands down to empty and leaching the relaxing mineral, magnesium from the body. You need to get off this muffin-top enhancing, hormonal see-saw and find your calm and relaxed constant energy for the day. This may mean throwing the caffeine crutch to one side for a couple of weeks and monitoring the effect on your sleep.

When it comes to your precious sleep, giving up caffeine is the game-changer.

Giving up caffeine can be a tough bullet to bite if your body is addicted, and rather than going cold turkey you may need to take this step as a gradual process. Switch to de-caff when you order coffee, experiment with green tea and try not to drink caffeinated beverages after midday. I am going to get real here….you may be dragging along the ground for a couple of days but please, be kind to yourself and give yourself time to detox.

2. Consider Sleep Hygiene. 

When you have made the decision to focus on getting better sleep because you are exhausted it is a good idea to try and get into bed at least an hour earlier for the next few days. The hours before midnight are the very best for replenishing lost sleep and healing drained adrenals so if you are normally in bed by 10:30pm then shoot for 9:30pm knowing that you have time to relax.

I self enforce a rule to close down my electronics at 7pm as the bluish light of our screens can interrupt the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone. (Struggling with this rule? Tell your kids. They will love to turn the tables and enforce rules upon you!) This leaves me wandering around the house picking up crap and re-wiping over my counters wondering what to do with myself. What about a delicious soak in a relaxing bath of epsom salts and lavender oil? What about entering another world altogether and cosying up in bed with a really good book?

It is funny but after having my three children, and surviving the maelstrom of the toddler years, these actions of self care were ones that I had to learn all over again. Maybe this is true for you too?

3. Eat More Leafy Greens And Supplement With Magnesium. 

Magnesium is our relaxation mineral and exerts the opposite effect on our muscles and vascular system than the mineral calcium, causing them to relax rather than contract. This relationship is most obvious in the heart where calcium causes the heart muscle to contract to start our heartbeat and magnesium then floods the cells of the heart to allow it to relax.

Make sure you eat a large salad of mixed leafy green on a daily basis or choose to make a vegetable based smoothie.

Try taking 2 capsules of 150mg magnesium citrate at night to relax your tired, anxious and knotted muscles as you nod off to sleep.

4. Eat More Fish And Supplement With Fish Oil Capsules.

I don’t know about you, but I am not thinking about rainbows and roses at 3am in the morning. It is a witching hour that attracts to my mind some of my most destructive and anxious thought patterns. I run over past events that I cannot change and project forward to find a worse case scenario for every situation. 

Oily fish such as wild salmon, halibut and sardines or good quality fish oil capsules, are rich in the omega 3 fatty acids that both fuel and calm the anxious brain. Over time you will find yourself feeling calmer and more relaxed as your brain enjoys the nutrition it requires. Try to eat oily fish once or twice a week and choose a fish oil capsule that is tested to be free from mercury and contains 1000mg of EPA and DHA.

5. Supplement With Melatonin

If you have been experiencing sleepless nights for a long period of time, then you might need help in adjusting back into a healthy sleep pattern.

Melatonin is our sleep hormone, normally manufactured by the body from the hormone serotonin, which brings on that sleepy feeling during the evening and also helps to reduce stress. Coffee consumed during the day and the blue light of screens can override this hormone and leave you feeling tired but wired in the evening and unable to sleep. Serotonin deficiency will also mean that you may not produce enough melatonin.

The precursor to both of these hormones is tryptophan, found in turkey meat, brown rice, cottage cheese, avocados, bananas, walnuts, tomatoes, and starchy carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, carrots, beets and sweet potatoes. You will also need vitamin B6 to make serotonin and therefore melatonin and this underlines how much your best nights sleep relies upon good nutrition!

5mg of melatonin taken thirty minutes before bed over a two week period should be enough to re-tune your body back into it’s natural hormonal pattern.

As women in the modern world we are often called on to wear the many hats of mother, worker, nurturer, cleaner, taxi driver, volunteer, perfect home-maker, accomplished baker and washer woman. It is all too easy for our hyper-vigilant cave women brains to kick under the stress of this perceived workload, Bam our sleep is lost and we are starting our day from a place of stress and depletion. In my practice 100% of the women I meet with describe issue with sleeplessness and it is one of my greatest pleasures to hear the words “…..and my sleep has improved” when I meet with them after they have implemented the changes above.

I dearly hope that you find the relief you need here too!

Legal Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to replace medical advice or diagnosis from your family practitioner, specialist or medical doctor. The recipes advice and articles consist of nutritional and lifestyle advice as the sharing of information to support a healthier body.

Louise Innes

Author: Louise Innes

Louise Innes is a holistic nutritionist who resides in Calgary, Alberta. Her balanced take on nutrition brings a refreshing perspective to the world of food.

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