By Monique Costello, Soma Health and Wellness Program Instructor
Sleep is getting a lot of attention lately. As a Health and Wellness Coach, part of me thinks this is great. Another part of me wonders why it took so long! Sleep has always been a critical part of keeping our bodies healthy, and it’s something we talk a lot about when teaching in our Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate Program at The Soma Institute.
It’s also long been a challenge for many of us. Our fast-paced world and abundance of technology only multiply the challenges associated with getting a good night’s sleep. But, there are some simple things we can all do, and a few things we can eat and drink, that will help us get the sleep our bodies crave.
We all know it’s important to get good sleep, but not everyone knows why. Our bodies heal at night. The better you sleep, the better you heal. And the first step to ensuring that healing is making sure your circadian rhythm is in check. Early man rose with the sun and rested with darkness. Today, it’s not so simple. But the keys to getting your rhythm in check are cortisol and melatonin.
Cortisol is one of our master hormones. I call it the energy hormone. Stress, sugar and carbs can all increase our cortisol levels. When it’s working, cortisol levels are high during the day to keep us going. When the sun begins to set, our cortisol starts dropping, and that is when melatonin, our sleep hormone, checks in. As cortisol is getting ready to check out for the day, melatonin checks in and says, how was the day? How are we doing? Are we ready for sleep? On a tough or stressful day, the cortisol will basically tell the melatonin, maybe we should stay awake a little longer just in case anything happens. I’ll stay on duty so we can be alert. On a high stress day or when your mind is racing, that cortisol doesn’t rest and neither do you.
So, what can we do about it? Here are a few ways you can help train your body and your hormones.
- Go outside
Get some sunlight first thing in the morning or as soon as you can. This helps train your body to the idea that - there is sunlight, it’s time to wake up. The sunlight begins to reset your circadian rhythm.
- Avoid electronics 1 hour before bedtime
The blue light that comes from phones, TVs and tablets signals to our mind and our circadian rhythm that it is still light out and it’s time to be awake and alert.
- Set up a nighttime routine
Start this about one hour before bed. Consider activities as simple as brushing your teeth and as detailed as stretching or yoga. Non sleep deep rest (NSDR) yoga can be a great help. It’s a great way to calm your entire body.
- Make sure your bedroom is a cool, dark place
Take the air temperature down lower than you think you should. Get blackout curtains or a sleep mask to ensure darkness.
What you put into your body can also make a big difference. Avoid caffeine for 8 to 10 hours before you want to fall asleep. And, consider some nighttime rituals involving foods or drinks that promote good sleep. Below, I’ve included recipes for a lavender chamomile golden milk and potassium n’ice cream. The golden milk is full of ingredients meant to be relaxing and calming to the body, including lavender which is a calming herb. It also includes an adaptogen which helps the body recover from stress. The potassium n’ice cream is all about the potassium contained in bananas. This treat helps with things like muscle pain and restless legs which can keep you up.
With a little planning ahead and a few smart choices, we can all set ourselves up for what we know the body really needs, a great night of rest to heal. It’s one incredibly important step on the journey to overall health and wellness.
Lavender Chamomile Golden Milk
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup coconut milk, full fat
- 2 tbsp dried chamomile or 2 chamomile tea sachets
- ½ tsp lavender buds
- 1 tsp cold-pressed coconut oil or grass-fed ghee
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- Pinch or grind of fresh black pepper
- Honey or maple syrup to taste
- ½ tsp ashwagandha (optional)
- Heat the water and milk.
- Add the tea and lavender buds, allow to steep for 5 -10 minutes.
- Add spices and oil.
- Use a blender or a hand held frother to combine.
- Strain and enjoy
Potassium N’ice Cream
- 1 frozen banana
- 1-2 tbsp kefir or non-dairy milk
- Optional Add-ins & Toppings:
Ground cinnamon, fresh grated ginger, nut butter, maple syrup or honey, frozen berries, cacao powder, toasted nuts and seeds
- Line a sheet with parchment paper. Choose a sheet pan that will fit in your freezer.
- Slice the banana into 1'' sections
- Place the banana slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
- Put it in the freezer
- Once frozen, place the frozen banana slices in a blender or food processor, blend the banana until creamy, adding a splash of liquid only as needed. Too much liquid will create a runny ice cream.
- Add additional toppings as preferred.