STRESS DOCTOR: Sleep

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Good sleep is our first line of defence against the negative effects of stress because deep rest allows the body to re-balance and purify.

When we are well rested we are healthier, we don't age so quickly, and we are less likely to feel overwhelmed by everything on our to-do list. Quality sleep is an important part of staying well and being effective.

Unfortunately, when we are under pressure and unable to deal with the demands of a day, we accumulate stress: a balanced sleep pattern is often the first thing to get disrupted.

A few simple changes in your routine can go a long way to getting good zzzz every night.

· No screens one hour before bedtime (and that includes your BlackBerry!).

The bright light of TV, computers and even the BlackBerry stimulates the brain, leaving us excited and wakeful just when we are trying to quiet down the mind.

· Allow two hours after eating before going to bed.

Firing up the digestive system late at night tends to keep us awake as our metabolism kicks into gear to digest our food. We don't digest properly late at night, either, which causes weight gain and leaves us feeling sluggish the next morning.

· They call them stimulants for a reason....

Caffeine, energy drinks and that triple chocolate pudding all over-excite the nervous system. Try limiting tea and coffee consumption to before midday.

· The hours before midnight are worth twice the hours after.

If you are feeling sleep deprived, catch up on those extra hours by going to bed early rather than sleeping in till midday. The fastest way to re-balance the system and re-energise is to get an early night (and that means before 10.30pm).

Jillian Lavender is director of London Meditation Centre (www.LondonMeditationCentre.com) and writes regularly about the effects of stress on the mind and body. She teaches a natural, scientifically validated technique to eliminate stress and fatigue.

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