“Once you tap into your natural energy cycle, you will be more aware of those things that trigger your adrenal response.” Photo: Ann Danilina/Unsplash

“Once you tap into your natural energy cycle, you will be more aware of those things that trigger your adrenal response.” Photo: Ann Danilina/Unsplash

Column: Getting back to your natural sleep cycle

Peri Best is an independent health, wellness and fitness professional living in the Boundary.

When it comes to getting a natural sleep, remember that our bodies’ parasympathetic system is the rest, digest and healing system and the sympathetic is the fight or flight system.

If one system is turned on the other is turned off.

The sympathetic, fight or flight system is tied to the adrenal response.

Adrenaline gets pumped into the system when the brain gets an emergency message and all digesting and healing stops. All kinds of things can activate our adrenaline response: A fight with your kids or partner, disturbing stories on the news, even a cup of coffee.

As we all know, coffee contains caffeine, which is a stimulant.

It sends a message to the brain that says “Get up right now and get going.”

That’s what most people use it for.

But as soon as your brain gets the “Hurry up!” signal from the caffeine, the adrenaline starts pumping and your digestive system shuts down. So, coffee after food just means that your food sits in your stomach and turns sour.

No wonder so many people have heartburn, acid reflux or stomach ulcers — they don’t allow digestion time.

Now, picture a horizontal line that represents your natural energy.

It moves up and down a little during the course of a day and a night. Add the influence of caffeine and see how a spike of energy shoots up above the line then drops suddenly way below.

When the energy drops, we give the body another jolt of caffeine and it bounces back above the ‘normal’ line.

This stimulation of the adrenal system and the depletion reaction that follows create a syndrome that results in the body never being truly at rest, never able to digest or heal.

Chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and many other stress-related disorders can be linked to a lack of real rest.

I find that caffeine stays in my system for about three days.

People who say that they just have a coffee in the morning and can’t figure out why they can’t sleep are likely to be feeling the effects of the caffeine. If you want to sleep well, stay away from caffeine, entirely.

Caffeine is highly addictive.

If your system is used to it, cutting it out of your routine will not be easy.

Headaches are a common response to caffeine withdrawal.

If you want something that gives you that full flavour in your mouth, try Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice tea or make your own. I use cinnamon sticks, freshly sliced ginger, rooibos or chicory, a few whole cloves and a few peppercorns.

Boil for a few minutes then warm-up whenever you want a warm, comforting cuppa.

In summer, I find mint leaves, fresh or dried mixed with nettles tastes refreshing (pick nettles with full armour on).

Ginger and mint both stimulate the digestive system.

Try these alternatives if you want to reduce your stress level and get a good night’s sleep.

Once you tap into your natural energy cycle, you will be more aware of those things that trigger your adrenal response. With that awareness, you will begin to have some control over your responses instead of being jerked around by them.

And if you haven’t already, please check out my ebook, Belonging: Exploring Healing and Spirituality.

Peri Best is an independent health, wellness and fitness professional living in the Boundary.

Health and wellnessOpinion