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Wake-up call: how to sleep your way to a more energetic you

January 12th 2015 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru

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Always tired? Here’s how to get your get-up-and-go back...

Tired of mornings filled with bleary eyes, man-sized yawns and coffee breath? If you’ve always dreamed of becoming a morning person full of energy and fervour for the day, we can make it a reality thanks to these expert tips from two of our Get The Gloss Experts.

Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace is at hand to provide his essential 3-step bedtime wind-down and we asked nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik for her definitive wellness and food dos and don’ts to ensure that our slumbers are kept as nightmare-free as possible. Whether you suffer from work-induced sleep deprivation, anxiety issues or insomnia, it’s time to put your lack of energy woes and early morning demons to bed once and for all...

Eve Kalinik’s energy-boosting rules

1. Don’t eat late at night - our digestive systems are tired much like our minds are, so it’s best to avoid eating too late at night. Sleep is the time where the body should be repairing and regenerating and not digesting and instead building up energy stores for the next day.

2. No caffeine after 4pm the day before - caffeine late in the day can leave your body wired throughout the night which means the nervous system is on high alert when we actually want the opposite. Our adrenaline hormones should naturally fall in the evening to promote sleep so espressos after dinner are a no go if you want to wake up feeling refreshed.

3. Go to bed hydrated - generally speaking when clients say that they are feeling low in energy often it can simply be a sign that they are just not drinking enough water. Just don’t chug back your daily quota right before going to sleep, because then you will be up all night and definitely won’t be full of the joys of spring come the morning.

4. Get an early night - the sleep you get pre-midnight is generally better so where you can, try to get a few nights a week where you are making the most of this.

5. Switch off any electrical, mobile or TV devices in the bedroom - like our mobiles, iPads and TVs, our brains are electromagnetic devices and in order to create a restorative pattern at night, it’s imperative to take these stimulants out of the bedroom.

6. Use aromatherapy oils - lavender and camomile are well renowned for their calmative properties, so using these can help to induce a more relaxed state of sleep. Camomile tea can be very beneficial for putting you into a state ready for slumber. And a good night’s rest means a perkier you in the morning.

7. Coffee change-up - in the morning, start with hot water with the juice of ½ a lemon before you have anything else. Your body will have been working hard overnight, so it needs rehydrating first thing and the lemon acts as a nice kick start for the digestive system. Don’t be tempted to start with a coffee - you’ll be spiking those adrenaline hormones first thing and that’s just setting you up for a crash later in the day. That’s not to say don’t have your one cup a day at all, but just after having eaten breakfast.

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Andy Puddicombe’s 3-step sleep meditation ritual

Before going to bed, make sure you have been to the bathroom, lock the door, turn off your phone and done all the other things you usually do before going to bed. If you find it helps, you could even prepare a few things for the morning or make a list of things you need to do the next day.

Having got ready for bed, lie flat on your back under the covers, as if you are about to go to sleep. If you find it more comfortable, place a thin pillow under your head. It doesn’t matter if you usually sleep on your front or side, this exercise is best done lying on your back and you can always flip over afterwards. As you lie there, take a moment to appreciate the sensation of sinking into the bed, the feeling that your body is being supported and that you have reached the end of the day, with nothing more to do.

Once you are lying comfortably, take five deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, just as you do in the core technique. As you breathe in, try to get a sense of the lungs filling with air and the chest expanding. As you breathe out, imagine the thoughts and feelings of the day just disappearing into the distance, and any feelings of tension in the body just melting away. This will help to prepare the body and mind for the exercise ahead.

Step 1

Begin by checking in, in the usual way, noticing how you are feeling, in both body and mind. Remember that in the same way you can’t rush relaxation, neither can you rush sleep, so take your time with this part of the exercise. Don’t worry if there are lots of thoughts whizzing around (this is absolutely normal) and for now just let them do their own thing. Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to resist the thoughts, no matter how unsettling and uncomfortable they may be.

Next become aware of the physical points of contact in a little bit more detail. Bring your attention back to the sensation of the body touching the bed, the weight of your body sinking down into the mattress. Notice where the points of contact are strongest – is the weight distributed evenly?

You can also notice any other sounds or sensations. Sounds can be especially disturbing when you are trying to go to sleep. At first it is helpful to recognize whether it’s a sound you can change or if it’s something outside of your control, something you do can nothing about. Then, rather than resisting the sound, gently rest your attention on it, remaining present with the sound for 30 seconds or so, before bringing your attention back to the body.

Now try to get a sense of how the body actually feels. At first, do this in a general way. For example, does the body feel heavy or light, restless or still? Then try to get a more accurate picture by mentally scanning down through the body, from head to toe, gently observing any tension or tightness. Invariably the mind will be drawn to any areas of tension, but you can relax in the knowledge that you are about to sleep and that the exercises will help to release those areas. You can do this scan several times, taking about 20 to 30 seconds each time. Remember to notice the areas that feel relaxed and comfortable, as well as any areas of discomfort.

By now you have probably already noticed the rising and falling sensation of the breath, but if you haven’t, just bring your attention to that place in the body where you feel the movement most clearly. As always, don’t try to change the rhythm of the breath in any way, instead allow the body to do its own thing. There is no right or wrong way to breathe within the context of this exercise, so don’t worry if you feel it more in the chest than the stomach. Notice whether the breath is deep or shallow, long or short, smooth or irregular. This doesn’t require very much effort at all. All you need to do is to be aware of the movement.

If the breath is very shallow and hard to detect, you might find it helpful to place your hand on whichever part of the body you feel the strongest movement. And as it rests there, trace the rise and fall as your hand moves back and forth.

As you watch the breath for a minute or two, it’s quite normal for the mind to wander off. When you realise you have been distracted, that the mind has wandered off, in that moment you are back in the present, and all you need to do is gently return the focus to the rising and falling sensation. You don’t need to time this part of the exercise, you can just naturally move onto the next section when it feels as if a couple of minutes has passed.

Step 2

This next part of the exercise is about thinking back through the day in a structured and focused way. Begin by thinking back to the very first moment you can remember of the day, right after waking up in the morning. Do you remember how you felt upon waking? Now, as if your brain has been set to a very gentle ‘fast forward,’ simply watch as your mind replays the events, meetings and conversations of the day. This doesn’t need to be in detail, it’s more of an overview, a series of snapshots passing through the mind.

For example, picture yourself rolling out of bed, turning off the alarm, walking into the bathroom, having a shower, eating your breakfast, doing your meditation, walking to work, greeting a colleague and so on. Take about three minutes to go through the entire day, right up to the present moment. It might seem like a lot to fit into a few minutes, but as I say, this is only an overview of the day, so don’t take any longer than three or four minutes. After a couple of days you will no doubt feel comfortable with the speed of it.

As the mind replays the day, there is the inevitable temptation to jump in and get caught up in the thinking. Perhaps it was a meeting that went really well and you start to think about all the potential possibilities. Or perhaps it was an argument with your boss, and you start to worry about the implications of the discussion. It’s normal for the mind to wander like this at first, but obviously it is not helpful to get involved in new thinking at this time of night. So, as before, when you realise you have been distracted, gently return to the film playing back in your mind and pick up where you left off.

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Step 3

Having brought yourself up to the present moment, you can now return your focus to the body. Place your attention on the small toe on the left foot and imagine that you are just switching it off for the night. You can even repeat the words ‘switch off’ or ‘and rest’ in your mind as you focus on the toe. It is as if you are giving the muscles, joints, bones and everything else permission to switch off for the night, knowing they will not be needed again until the morning. Do the same with the next toe, and the next, and so on. Continue in this way through the ball of the foot, the arch, the heel, the ankle, the lower half of the leg and so on all the way up to the hip and pelvic area.

Before you repeat this exercise with the right leg take a moment to notice the difference in the feeling between the leg that has been ‘switched off’ and the one that hasn’t. If there was any doubt in your mind about whether anything was actually happening when you do this exercise, you will feel it now. Repeat the same exercise on your right leg, once again starting with the toes and working your way all the way up to the waist.

Continue this exercise up the torso, down through the arms, hands and fingers, and up the throat, neck, face and head. Take a moment to enjoy the sensation of being free of tension, of not needing to do anything with the body, of having given up control. You can now allow the mind to wander as much as it wants, freely associating from one thought to the next, no matter where it wants to go, until you drift off to sleep.

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Optional extra...

It is quite possible that by the time you have reached this point in the exercise you will be fast asleep. If you are, enjoy the rest and sleep well. Don’t worry if you are not asleep though – it is not that you have done the exercise incorrectly. Remember that it is not an exercise to make you go to sleep, but rather an exercise to increase your awareness and understanding of your mind at night.

So, if you are still awake, there are two ways to go. The first is to allow your mind to drift off, in the usual way, freely associating as it wants, without any sense of control or coercion on your behalf. This can feel very nice, but the only problem is that for some it feels a little vague or even disconcerting. If that is the case for you then this final part of the exercise will be a more helpful way to conclude.

Begin by counting backwards for 1000 to zero. This may sound like an impossible task, and a bit too much like hard work. But done in the right way it takes no effort at all. And it is a great way to keep the mind focused as you make the transition into sleep. As before, it is quite normal for the mind to wander, so when you realise you have become distracted, just gently return to whichever number you left off and pick it up from there.

As a final note, it is important that you do this exercise with a genuine wish to reach zero. Do not think of it as a way of getting to sleep, but as an exercise to keep you occupied and focused until the body and mind are ready to switch off for the night. No matter what thoughts arise in the mind, whether they are about going to sleep or otherwise, simply allow them to come and go. Your only intention, your only focus, is to try and make it to zero. And if you should drift off to sleep midway in the process, then that is fine too.

Feeling refreshed? Find out more about what mindfulness and meditation can do for you in Andy Puddicombe’s book, Get Some Headspace, £6.99.

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