It happens to us all at some stage - disrupted sleep that seems to come out of absolutely nowwhere.
Poor sleep is far more serious than we sometimes realise - it can lead to fat gain, an increase in stress hormones, oxidative stress (an upsurge in free radicals), poor concentration, decreases in lean muscle mass and chronic fatigue, to name but a few.
So what can we do about it?
Well the first thing to do is establish your particular sleep disorder. Do you get to sleep and then wake up in the middle of the night, or do you sleep really well, but take ages getting off to sleep?
Maybe you only get up to answer the call of nature - that is still a disturbed nights sleep - we are designed to go to sleep and not wake up till it is time. Even 5 seconds waking time is considered disrupted sleep!
Well help is at hand - with the Biosignature system taught by Charles Poliquin, I am delighted to say that I have had huge success in addressing poor quality sleep.
I have attached a sleep questionnaire at the end of this article, but I will be unable to respond to individual requests for analysis, you will have to book in for a consultation for that. However by the end of this article you should have a good idea about what is causing you to wake and some practical suggestions to counter it.
First off, I'd urge you to realign yourself with your circadian rhythms.
This would require you to get to bed by10:30 p.m. at the latest, gradually dimming the lights throughout the evening in order to prepare the body for rest.
Avoid working on the computer, watching TV, or reading anything work-related prior to sleep.Also try to avoid having any electrical items in the room, and if you do, ensure that they're unplugged.Your bedroom should be pitch dark and quiet. If it isn't, think about fitting blackout blinds, and in the event you do wake up in the middle of the night, don't switch on the light.Why? Because this sends a message to the hypothalamus to produce cortisol as it associates that light with morning,and the need to produce an energizing hormone. This surge of cortisol will also stop the production of melatonin and other growth and repair hormones.
Getting a full night's sleep allows your body the necessary time to repair itself physically (10 p.m to 2 a.m.) and psychologically (2 a.m. to 6 p.m.).Waking up during the night is a classic symptom of oxidative stress.
The Chinese believe that the body's internal organs respond to "watches:" natural biorhythms that work in waves, drawing energy to a particular organ at a certain time. Indeed, martial artists became so adept in their skills that they could time a blow to an acupressure point when that organ was at its "fullest," therefore maximizing damage and ensuring death through serious internal injury! Of course, the aim of this article is not to teach you how to dim mak "death touch" someone into permanent sleep, it's to give you the necessary tools to relax the body and harmonize the internal mechanisms. Here's a list I've drawn up: It lists various times when you're most likely to wake up and the accompanying exercises to deal with the problem.
Time 1 a.m. to 3 a.m
Exercise: Sit cross-legged in bed (or whatever is comfortable for you), looking at the tip of your nose, with your thumbs tucked into your fists. Hold this for 5 to 30 minutes
Time: 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Exercise: Interlace your fingers behind your head, drawing your elbows back. Look at the tip of your nose and click your teeth together. Do this for 5 to 30 minutes
Time: 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Exercise:Place your palms over your ears, and with your index finger, tap the back of your skull 36 times. Then inhale and count "one", exhale and count "two." Do this up to the count of 9.
Another brilliant technique taught to me by Dr Mark Atkinson at a recent stress seminar is 4-7 breathing. This automatically initiates the parasympathetic nervous system. All you do is relax and take a deep breath in for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 7. This automatically downgrades your sympathetic nervous system and initiates the relaxation response.
However, there are times when even these techniques don't work - and this is where supplementation can be absolutely invaluable. The first supplement that I cannot recommend highly enough is magnesium. Magnesium calms the nervous system, relaxes the muscles and is invaluable for both cardiovascular health and blood sugar management (so if you are borderline diabetic or have high blood pressure -get some!). It is effectively "natures tranquilizer".
The problem is, what type?
Avoid magnesium oxide, it is cheap and poorly absorbed, more likely than not giving rise to digestive upsets. The best type of magnesium is magnesium glycinate as it is very well tolerated on delicate stomachs. However the time you wake up guides me as to the type of magnesium you are best suited to - there are good general ones, some specifically for individuals who experience anxiety when they wake in the middle of the night, those who wake up in the 1am-3am window - so as you can see even magnesium prescription is a specialised field that require further enquiry of the client.
For those who struggle with getting to sleep, magnesium can help dramatically, but when this form of sleep disruption occurs it may also be a product of what the Chinese call the chattering "Monkey Mind" - a whirlwind of thoughts about what you need to do tomorrow, how many emails you need to respond to, deadlines you need to keep,what time you need to drop the kids off... etc etc etc
For this kind of issue I tend to favour Chinese herbal formulas, fundamentally for their non-drowsy, calm, serene yet focused effect. They insure that you are fully functioning the next day, but will still the galloping mind when the thought process runs out of control.
I personally feel sleep is one of the least emphasized yet most important aspects of physical fitness - it is key for recovery and for the hormonal cascades that occur throughout the night and and a good nights sleep will definitely push you significantly forward in your fitness goals, so do ensure you are getting adequate rest and recovery.