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Wake Up to Prioritising Sleep & Rest

World Mental Health Day 2023.

I hope this message finds you well and rested. If not, likely you’re putting on a brave face and getting on with it, well done, but whether you’ve heard this many times before, could seriously focusing on a few adjustments make a big difference to you?

Sleep is essential for physical tissue repair so in order to maximise your training to build and repair your muscles after the physical stress of resistance training, sleep (and good nutrition) are key.

I love to sleep! And (perhaps quite unfortunately) seem to need more than most people. (I do a lot of activity of course!) but being a natural night owl, early mornings with insufficient rest are what leave my head in a muddle with poor cognitive function, anxiety, increased hunger and fighting through the day longing to sleep. I’m sure you can relate. It can be challenging to switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic (the ‘fight or flight’ and the ‘rest & digest’ which are two branches of the autonomic nervous system). But now I'm well practised and I believe a little more focus on these could really help you too.

My top tip…

Set a sleep timer: If falling asleep can be challenging for you, listening to a podcast, story or calm music can be a fantastic aid. Ensure you set a sleep timer to switch off the device after 20-30 minutes or so. You're likely to drop off when the audio goes off, regardless of being semi-engaged. ‘Send Me To Sleep’ podcasts can be helpful too as they use soft tone voices with gaps between stories. The dialogue can prevent your busy mind from wandering and the clever pauses let you nod-off.

I’ve put together some playlists here which include calm music, NSDR & Yoga Nidra (read on) and an example of ‘Send Me To Sleep’ stories. If you have any other recommendations, please send them my way.

A good night's sleep starts in the morning…

View sunlight:

Within an hour of waking, get outside to view sunlight (while moving eg. walking) and without sunglasses for 10 - 20 minutes. If cloudy, a little longer would be beneficial.

Avoiding caffeine within the first 90 minutes of waking could help you feel more alert during the day. However if starting your day with high-intensity or resistance training, go ahead with the brew!

Avoid caffeine within 8 - 10 hours of end of day sleep time.

If you’re fortunate enough to get a power nap in, put a timer on it. I’d nap every day if I could and swear by it to significantly improve cognitive function and mood of the day, usually napping for 20 - 30 minutes or 45 at a maximum. When setting an alarm for 45 minutes, I more often than not wake up naturally after 20 or so (power nap queen here!) Of course this doesn’t work for everyone but if like me, it's a strategic method for productivity and mental health, don’t fight it.

Non Sleep Deep Rest & Yoga Nidra

Daytime napping impossible? Busy work environment, far from home?…..Non Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) and Yoga Nidra can do the trick to beat feelings of severe tiredness and switch your brain to function mode again. These practices involve being still and resting without going to sleep. Benefits can be incredible and could be done sitting at a desk or park bench with headphones on regardless of how busy the surroundings. Try asking permission for this short time out if necessary (from boss or family) or simply allow yourself.

The Wind Down:

Decide what time you want to be asleep by. (7- 8 hours is recommended) then work backwards. Aim to be in bed half an hour before this time.

Plan dinner for 2 - 3 hours before sleep. Avoid alcohol.

Turn off all screens (eliminate blue light) at least an hour before. Read a book.

Dim the lights, create a calming atmosphere in the house.

Wear an eye mask.

Take a warm bath. This will aid cooling your core temperature for a good rest. Sleep in a cool room.

Tart cherry juice (non sweet, tart cherry) increases melatonin and when avoiding a large quantity to save needing a pee waking you up, this can be an effective aid.

Sleep and getting sufficient rest is paramount for not only good mental health but for long term brain health. A body and mind well rested makes life clearer

Being well rested improves our emotions and cognitive function, reduces the risk of disease, and makes us a better person to be around!

The falling asleep aids above can help when sleep is interrupted whether due to menopause symptoms, children or simply the unknown. While often life takes over our minds when first waking, pulling your focus back to something calming will help with more hours of rest. Headphones can be useful here to avoid disturbing someone else's rest.


Menopause symptoms such as night sweats and restless legs to name a few are a likely disturbance of rest. Adaptogens are herbs, roots and other plant substances (like mushrooms) that help our bodies manage stress and restore balance after a stressful situation. Adaptogens such as ashwagandha and holy basil are used for calming where others such as schisandra can improve mental focus and performance. Note that while all adaptogens work as a temporary bandage, they aren’t the solution to long-term stress.

A must read:

For more NSDR & Yoga Nidra aids, try these via youtube but remember, pre-plan & no screens before bed.

Understanding your training:

Although some physical exercise can shake us from an afternoon slump, knowing when to take a rest is really helpful. When planning physical activity for my movers, I very often plan ‘rest’ as a priority and for some, reduce the amount of physical activity they’re doing or switch things around in order to enhance progress and reduce fatigue.

Coaching: Fitness, Wellbeing & Movement

Some of the things we consider when structuring activity are patterns & symptoms in menstrual cycle (or phantom cycle if post menopause), work/life commitments, training goals, upcoming events and other symptoms depending on life stage (pre/perimenopause/post menopause).

Physical activity is a stress so adding this on top of an unrested body & mind could be doing more harm than good. So my no.1……. Prioritise methods for good sleep.

For more information on how to improve fitness, wellbeing and movement, give me a shout.

Sleep well.

Théa Zzzzzzz

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