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Afternoon slumps? Joint aches and pains? Could sleep be why?

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Do I STILL need to harp on about the importance of sleep? It seems so!!

Following my post a couple of days ago on social media I had a number of messages with questions around sleep and nightly routines so I thought it might be helpful to have a spin through some of the most important bits and pieces in a little bit of a longer format here.

As much as I go on about it I really struggle to help people to see the importance of getting to bed on time and optimising their sleep.

I know, TV is all too tempting, just one more scroll of Facebook to see what Kate from the office is up to with her cat tonight, all while sipping that last post-dinner cup of tea or coffee. STOP RIGHT THERE!

We evolved living entirely by our natural sleep and wake cycles with the daylight – that is how our physiology works, we call this our circadian rhythm, our natural body clock if you like. We are still in tune with this, or at least our body is happiest when we work with it, despite now being in a world full of artificial light and stimulants.

SO many of us experience general fatigue, a lack of focus through the day, all that stuff and I truly believe that’s as a result of circadian rhythm disruption and sleep deprivation. A lot of the time people are focussed on the next fancy supplement they can buy or teeny tiny changes in rep ranges or weight in the gym when really, if they just focussed on getting a solid 8 hours sleep in line with that body’s circadian rhythm, they would see the world of difference without having to focus on insignificant minutia.

So, let’s get to work on improving that energy, concentration, headaches, aches and pains and so many more inconveniences we shouldn’t simply ‘put up’ with.

So thinking about artificial light at night time then, think phones, tele, laptops – whatever light stimulates those eyes, and in turn the brain and hormonal systems, regardless of the source, it’s detrimental to optimal sleep cycles. Having said that, natural light is the same, too much light coming through the window when trying to sleep? The body recognises it’s time to be awake!

When the body thinks it’s wake time it releases the hormone cortisol, which you may know as our ‘stress’ hormone. This prepares the body to move, to be active, to work. Cortisol levels peak in the morning hours as we should be waking – posing a problem for night shift workers! In the afternoon they dip allowing us to wind down.

In the modern world we are great at creating stressors that elevate cortisol levels beyond ideal for our natural body clock and therefore disrupting our sleep. Late night tele, working late, exercising too late, scrolling on your phone too late, can all stimulate this far-from-ideal response.

So what factors are the biggies in disrupting this natural cycle that we should be working with?

Stimulants including late night ‘entertainment’, alcohol, sweets, caffeine or tobacco all trigger this cortisol release we spoke about earlier telling your brain and body that it’s ‘go’ time. I promise there is method in my madness for all of you lovely lot that work with me on implementing a caffeine cut off! I’m not trying to be the coffee police for no reason – promise! After all, is there a greater joy in life than a good cuppa coff?

So first off, let’s try super-duper hard to wean off those afternoon and evening coffees and a scary film just before bed.

Interestingly, there is research to show that electromagnetic exposure can disrupt our natural body clock cycles, things like power lines nearby and electrical appliances buzzing away in the house can all be detrimental to some extent too. Its worth unplugging TVs, clocks, anything with a light or any electrical device in your bedroom.

So let’s focus on WINDING DOWN early and then sleeping by 10pm latest at every opportunity possible, minimising light exposure late in the day – certainly as you start that wind down routine, that’s artificial light primarily but also ensuring your bedroom is pitch black, avoiding stimulant consumption from the afternoon and hydrating well but cutting off fairly early to prevent unwanted trips to the loo through the night! It’s important we work to implement exercise and activity into our day, of course, I don’t need to tell you that here, however, moving with intensity too late in the day will be detrimental as it will leave those stress hormones raging.

Just implement one of these every couple of weeks, come and chat to me in a couple of months time once you’ve had a chance to settle into routine and really see the benefits, I will eat my proverbial hat if you haven’t seen the world of difference. Prove me wrong. You can’t…bet ya!

Peace and love, A x

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