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Health and Wellbeing

A Sleep Expert’s 5-Non-Negotiables for Deeper More Nourishing Sleep

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

25th October, 2022

Lady sleeping in bed

Over 25 years ago, when I started working with people and their sleep problems, I discovered that I had created a unique methodology that was really producing great results. People who were coming to me with exhaustion and/or difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep – the two most common sleep problems – were noticing significant improvements by following my methodology.

I was advising them to follow 5 steps which I call my 5 non-negotiables. The term ‘non-negotiable’ might sound rather severe but I started using this label when, time and again, I noticed with thousands of people that followed these five strategies for at least 7 to 10 days really made a difference to their sleep and energy levels. Adopting these strategies seemed to put them in a more resourceful state which then enabled them to work more deeply on the real source of the sleep problem – the relationship or work problems, or even trauma from their childhood. The 5 non-negotiables appear to work by resetting the person’s nervous system so that they stop running in the adrenaline-fueled survival mode of the sympathetic nervous system and start -

If you are struggling with your sleep, I would recommend that you follow the 5 non-negotiables:

1. Eat a Nutrient-Rich Breakfast Every Day Within 30-45 Minutes of Rising

wooden table with cup of tea, blue plates, bowl with berries and toast with berries on top.

When you have breakfast, your body shifts into the rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system gear. In simple terms, this stops the body from running on adrenaline and cortisol – the stress hormones. Include a source of protein in the breakfast e.g. nuts, eggs or full-fat yoghurt. If you don’t usually eat breakfast or tend to do so much later, this might feel challenging at first. Start small with a banana and a few walnuts, almonds or brazil nuts, and then have another more substantial snack later. Over time, you will notice that it becomes easier to eat breakfast and you may even wake up feeling less tired.

2. Stay Well Hydrated by Drinking 1-2 Litres of Water Per Day

hand pouring bottle of water to a glass with a lemon wedge on.

We all know that keeping hydrated is invaluable for your overall health. When your body is in a state of hydration the brain can function at its optimal rate and produce the hormones and neuropeptides that are essential for good sleep.You can make up this quota with dilute fruit juice or squash but avoid tea and coffee as these are diuretics that will cause you to lose more fluid than you retain.

Aim to hydrate throughout the day rather than drinking in the evenings as doing so will increase the frequency of needing to go to the toilet during the night.

3. Reduce or Abolish Caffeine Completely

hand holding hot drink outside with steam rising from the top

It takes 5 hours for caffeine to completely leave your system and can stop you from getting into a deep sleep as it is a stimulant with similar effects to adrenaline. Wherever possible, don’t drink caffeine after 2:00pm, don’t substitute meals for caffeinated drinks, and ideally, drink no more than two cups of tea or coffee per day.

4. Start the Electronic Sundown an Hour Before Getting Into Bed

book on blue and white striped bed sheets with pair of glasses on top upside down

This might seem a hard thing to do if you are used to being on your phone or tablet while in bed, but the blue light can suppress your ability to produce the sleep hormone, melatonin, making it harder to get to sleep and stay asleep.

If you really do need to have your phone in your bedroom, try to avoid looking at it just before you go to sleep and when you wake up during the night. I recommend that you get an old-fashioned alarm clock if you need to have an alarm and avoid looking at the time when you wake during the night (which is normal) – checking the time will make it harder for you to get back to sleep.

5. Aim to Get an Early Night

alarm clock on window

This means being in bed by 10pm. This doesn’t mean that you have to be asleep at this time, but it’s best practice to turn off electronics by this time. It’s recommended instead that you swap your phone for a book, journaling or meditating. According to research, going to bed earlier has been linked to significant health benefits.According to Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, sleep before midnight has deeply healing and restorative effects.

Avoid falling asleep in front of the TV as this will then stop you from falling asleep easily when you get into bed. Ideally, watch TV in another room, sitting upright to keep you alert, and if you notice that you’re getting tired, then that’s the time to head to bed.

By following these five easy steps from 7 to 10 days, you should begin to notice the different to your energy levels, quality of your sleep and overall health.

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