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Feeling Eternally Fatigued? 9 Tips for More Restful Sleep.

Updated: Sep 27, 2019

Written & edited by Rebecca Payne & Brandon D'Orazio

woman sleeping

Nothing feels better than waking up after a great night’s sleep, but when’s the last time you experienced that feeling firsthand? Sleeping is something we all do, but many of us struggle to achieve that energized feeling. Read on to gain a deeper understanding of what happens to our bodies during sleep and learn our top tips for a great night’s rest.

When sleeping, the body begins to relax and uses this time for recovery. After you fall asleep, your brain moves through several different stages. All stages of sleep are important for your body’s recovery and for your mindset the following morning. Keep in mind that everyone has a different sleep profile, and you may spend more time in some stages of the sleep cycle than others. Of course, you can exercise some control with the amount of time you dedicate to your daily lifestyle habits including the 4 PEAKS Lifestyle pillars of Movement, Mindset, Nutrition, and Recovery.

So, what are the stages of sleep? In the course of a night, you can expect to experience non-R.E.M. and R.E.M. sleep (R.E.M. stands for “Rapid Eye Movement”). Stage 1 of non-R.E.M. sleep involves transitioning away from wakefulness, and you can expect your heart rate, breathing, and eye movement to slow down, and your muscles to become relaxed. In Stage 2, the above mentioned physiological responses continue to slow down even further. Your body temperature drops and eye movements stop. During sleep it is common to constantly cycle through the different stages of sleep, and Stage 2 is where most people will spend the majority of their time sleeping before moving back to Stage 1 or moving into Stage 3. Stage 3 is what you need in order to feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning. Stage 3 lasts longer in the first couple of hours of being asleep, and you can expect your heart rate and other physiological responses to slow to their lowest levels during this period in time. During this time it may be particularly difficult to be awakened.

R.E.M. sleep typically occurs after 90 minutes of sleep during the night. Expect your eyes to move rapidly from side to side behind closed lids (if you happen to look at someone while they’re in this stage, you can actually see this happening). Breathing becomes faster and more irregular, and physiological responses increase to near waking levels. Most dreaming occurs during this stage of sleep, and your arms and legs become temporarily paralyzed to prevent you from acting out your dreams!

If you’re already familiar with the term “circadian rhythm”, then you probably know that it refers to your natural sleep-wake cycle. To maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene. “Sleep hygiene” is just a fancy term for the practices we engage in before bed. Good sleep hygiene ensures a restful night of sleep, while sleep hygiene that has room for improvement will leave you feeling less-than-rested upon waking. As a general rule, adults need to aim for 7-9 solid hours of sleep every night, and teenagers typically require even more. Need some ideas to help get a better night’s rest? The PEAKS Lifestyle Team has got ‘em!

1) Create a bedtime routine, and aim to practice it every night. A consistent routine signals your brain that it’s time to wind down and makes drifting off to the Land of Nod so much easier. Of course there will be nights when your routine gets derailed, and that’s okay. Just get back to your routine as fast as you can. If you have a late night, try to wake up at your usual time the next day. You’ll probably be exhausted, but one day of exhaustion is better than several days or weeks worth of fatigue resulting from your circadian rhythm being thrown off.

2) Let natural light be your guide. As the day wears on and you begin to wind down, lower the light in your surroundings. And, if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: Turn off your electronics! At bedtime, your phone is not your friend. In 2019’s #FOMO culture (that’s “Fear of Missing Out”, for the uninitiated), many of us can relate to the feeling of being “addicted” to our phones. Set limits on how late you can stay up on your phone or watching Netflix. Your electronics will still be there in the morning.

3) Expose yourself to bright light early in the day. Often, when we feel tired, we default to thinking about our bedtime routines, forgetting all about the “wake” stage of the sleep-wake cycle. Your morning routine is just as important as your bedtime routine, and throwing the curtains open to greet the sun as soon as you can (tricky in Canadian Winters, we know!) will go a long way in helping to regulate your circadian rhythm.

4) Avoid eating or drinking too close to bedtime, and be especially careful to avoid stimulants. Make sure you’re keeping yourself well-nourished and hydrated throughout the day, which will help to prevent urges to snack at bedtime.

5) Set yourself up in the best possible environment for sleep. This means comfortable sleep clothes, cozy bedding, darkened as close to pitch-black as you can possibly make it, and a comfortably cool temperature. Make sure “bedtime” means “sleep time”. If you can’t doze off, get up and spend a few minutes doing something else, then go back to bed and try again. Over time, you’ll train your brain to recognize your bed as a place for sleep and dozing off will become less of a challenge.

6) Stay active throughout the day. It wouldn’t be PEAKS Lifestyle if we weren’t recommending more movement, but our reasoning here is sound: Expend your energy in the day to feel less keyed-up at night.

7) If racing thoughts keep you up at night, try writing down everything that’s on your mind. Your brain never stops working, even when your body is asleep, but it does go into a more diffuse mode of thinking, so you might find that after writing down the problems that are keeping you up at night, you wake up with ideas for solutions, or at least feeling more prepared to take on the issues that are giving you grief. If this sounds like a chore, then there’s always good old fashioned distraction. Find soothing music or guided imagery to listen to at bedtime that will hold your interest enough to distract you from your own thoughts, but not so engrossing that it makes you want to stay awake.

8) If struggling with sleep is an ongoing battle for you, consider keeping a sleep log. Lots of sleep-tracking apps are available for free, and old-school pen and paper can get the job done, too. Over time, patterns will emerge. These patterns can give you the insight you need to make connections you might not have seen before. For example, maybe you decided to cut out caffeine after 3 p.m., but you’re still struggling to sleep through the night. After logging your sleep for a week or two, you might notice that you sleep better on the days you consume your last cup of joe closer to noon, or maybe one cup first thing in the morning is all you really need. Your sleep log can help you identify patterns at play, and if all else fails, it’s a useful tool to bring to your doctor. Speaking of whom...

9) Ask your doctor for help. There are various supplements and medications available to help when nothing else seems to be getting the job done. You may also need to rule out conditions such as sleep apnea, so it’s not over the top to pop by your doctor’s office for some assistance.

Not sure where to start? A free Lifestyle Consultation can give you the insight you need to take the next step in your health and performance! Email to request your free consultation.

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