Many of us have sleeping issues of one kind or another, and it can be extremely frustrating and detrimental to our day-to-day lives. The impact of poor quality or not enough sleep can be devastating, but often we may not even realise the full extent of the impact. This is something that I am very passionate about, because I have been one of those people.
My journey to better sleep has been a long and difficult one! Who would think something so natural as sleep could be so incredibly difficult to achieve?
I can’t tell you when my ‘sleeping issues’ first began but what I can tell you is that they went on for many years. But, like many, I just accepted it as there was always an excuse – ‘oh, it’s because I’m tired and been working long hours’, ‘it’s because I’m feeling stressed’, ‘it’s because I have not been eating as well as I should’, and so on. However, over time I also started to
develop lower back pain issues and then at some point began experiencing digestive problems as well. But, like many, I just accepted these as they came about and to some extent got used to living with these various issues without investing enough time and energy into figuring out what was going on. There was always an excuse – ‘oh, it’s because I’m tired and been working long hours’, ‘it’s because I’m feeling stressed’, ‘it’s because I have not been eating as well as I should’, and so on.
I finally hit a point about two years ago when I could no longer cope with feeling so exhausted all the time and feeling like I was experiencing ‘brain fog’ pretty much all day every day. That was when I realised I really, really needed to do something about this issue.
My journey in sorting myself out started in 2012 by focusing first on resolving my lower back pain. Finding a good physiotherapist was a very important step in the right direction. As my back got stronger and the pain began to subside I realised just how these issues had been weighing on my wellbeing.
My next focus was then to find a solution for my sleeping problems. In 2013 through sheer desperation and exhaustion I began attending various talks on sleep, trying to get to the bottom of why I was always tired and feeling so foggy. It was at one of these talks I heard Dr Guy Meadows from The Sleep School (www.thesleepschool.org) speaking and I decided to go see Dr Guy for a consultation. During my consultation, Dr Guy asked various questions about lifestyle and sleep. We were about 20 minutes into the consultation when he announced that he didn’t think he was the right person to help me. I was initially devastated that yet another avenue I had tried had resulted in a dead-end. However, that was not the case as Dr Guy referred me to a naturopath explaining that it seemed to him my poor sleep could be a hormone related issue.
So, I booked in to see the naturopath. I was not quite prepared for what would come out of my consultations with the naturopath. As with any consultation, it started with lots of questions around general health, sleep, lifestyle. It was thorough and in-depth, and the conclusion of that first consultation was some pretty dramatic dietary changes. For at least the next 2 months I was off dairy, gluten, sugar, red meat and alcohol. All I could think was what am I going to eat??
That first week was tough. Really tough. I was hungry, and was cranky, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to eat. As I started to pay even more attention to ingredients lists than I had before, it seemed that almost everything contained at least either gluten, dairy or sugar. Even smoked salmon had sugar in it! I would have to pay a premium for the sugar free variety. At this rate it seemed I was going to go broke before I got healthy!
However, as I did more research, and looked up more recipes and changed my approach to food, it became easier. It certainly required an investment of more time, but within a few weeks I began to feel the benefits. The brain fog was definitely lifting – I was starting to see more clearly and with clarity. It was almost like I had just been born and was seeing the world with new eyes. The digestive issues began subsiding, and best of all, my sleep began to slowly improve. I was actually waking up some mornings feeling rested. Why did it never occur to me that my diet was related to my sleep issues and feeling foggy all the time? The experience was completely life changing.
Nine months on, I try to maintain my gluten, dairy, sugar free diet at least 75% of the time. It can be tough, but I definitely feel much better when I can achieve that. My taste in food has changed quite dramatically as a result. I now eat very little dairy, and generally do not even feel like consuming it. Sugar is always a difficult one, but again, the less I have, the less I want. My sleep, while not perfect, is much better than it was a year ago. Yes I will have some bad nights, but they are more stress related now than anything else. Or if I have more than 2 glasses of wine I can feel the sugar coursing through me and I have a restless night.
To help with the sleep, I am fairly strict about having a sleep routine. I generally go to bed and wake up at around the same time most days. I also have a wind down routine before bed – so no phone or tablet for about an hour in the lead up to bedtime. I dim the lights, I do some gentle and relaxing stretches to loosen up my back and calm my mind. I’m also particular about my temperature. I love to be cosy when I go to bed, so for me the Eight Hour Studio PJ Trousers and Blazer Shirt are perfect. They are so comfy and feel luxurious against my skin. I also like my bedroom to be slightly cooler so I can snuggle under the duvet and so I make sure there is some fresh air circulating, and the heating is set at 18 degrees.
So, what can I tell you about what I learned from my journey?
- I learned that everyone is different. What works for me might not work for someone else. Everyone has to have his or her own journey.
- I learned that feeling the way I used to feel is no way to live.
- I learned that you shouldn’t give up trying to get to the bottom of what is going on with your body. You deserve to be well and to be happy.
I would like to emphasise, that I am in no way qualified to offer professional advice. This blog is simply about my story. But hopefully it will inspire you to start or keep going on a journey to wellness, because the benefits far outweigh any of the sacrifices you may have to make. And we all deserve to live a happy and healthy life!