How I Have Improved My Sleep With AxSpa

To kick this blog off, I’ll mention that this journey to improve my sleep came from having a lot of fatigue. Although I could sleep well and still feel fatigue the next day. I 100% feel a strong correlation between getting good quality sleep and fatigue levels.

I found that once I improve my sleep quality my fatigue was a lot lower

Especially working to improve my deep sleep (where a lot of healing happens) helped to reduce fatigue. I was at a point where I thought: “I sleep fine and I still get fatigue.” But actually, I wasn’t taking full ownership. When I really made an effort to improve and optimize my sleep, my fatigue levels did improve by a lot.

This is what I have found has helped me get a good nights sleep

This comes from years of learning for myself what works but also as my experience as a yoga teacher and personal trainer who works with others with AxSpa.

Block out all blue lights after sunset

For this I use blue light blocking glasses, blue light can suppress melatonin, which helps us fall asleep. It’s important to get a good quality pair, like True Dark or Bon Charge. If you don’t have blue light blockers, try to avoid bright lights from overhead. Opt instead for dim lamps and floor lights which are less impactful. This helps me fall asleep quicker and deeper.

Get sunshine early in the day

Getting exposure to sunlight before 10:00am helps reset our body’s internal sleep clock, what’s known as our circadian rhythm. Even if it’s overcast, I try to get outside for 20 minutes. Bonus points if I go outside barefoot, as this grounding helps me feel relaxed and connected. Equally, getting outside around the time the sun is setting, helps to optimize our circadian rhythm.

Take a warm shower or bath before bed

This helps me to drop my core body temperature which helps me to fall asleep quicker and have deeper sleep. I don’t always manage this one but I feel the difference when I do. This also has the added benefit of relaxing the muscles and joints which helps with more comfort.

An add on to this, is trying to keep the room I sleep in both dark as possible and cold. I don’t have blackout curtains but I put blankets over the window frames and that works fine to block out any light. And keeping the room cool can be tricky in summer, but in winter it’s important not to have the room super hot. Keeping it cool helps me fall asleep.

No caffeine after midday

I personally have a sensitivity to caffeine. I usually don’t have any nowadays, but limiting caffeine after 12:00pm I found is helpful. Caffeine has a half life and stays in your system longer than you think. You might have a strong tolerance to caffeine and you might find it doesn’t affect you but if you give it a try you may find a strong benefit. There are good decaf options nowadays if you’re a coffee or a tea lover.

No social media or any form of stimulating media an hour before bed

I especially try to avoid my phone. Social media specifically stimulates my brain in a way that’s not conducive of falling asleep. Imagine you're about to fall asleep, then you suddenly interact with 50 people and quite often the people you interact with are intense and want your attention, then you try and go straight to bed. That’s what social media is, content upon content, developed to get your attention. For me it’s a non-negotiable, turn off the phone! This is by far one of the most simplistic but beneficial things I have done for my sleep.

Some form of deep relaxation practice before bed

This activates my parasympathetic nervous system which stands for "rest and digest." Quite often, especially with AS/axSpA, there  is higher levels of chronic stress, so having a practice that can lower stress in the body can definitely help us rest and fall asleep quicker and deeper. I will briefly outline these practices below.

The first practice is called yoga nidra, which is a practice that involves progressively relaxing the body into a deep state of relaxation. The next is breathwork, (note: not all breathwork is good to do before bed, as some forms of breathwork stimulates the sympathetic nervous system).

Techniques that focus on breathing very slowly, quietly and lightly with an emphasis on extending the exhalation, can very quickly help us to relax at a physiological level. I would not actually recommend mindfulness meditation right before bed, as I have found that it stimulates the mind and makes me more alert.

Avoid high energy movements before bed

We all know how important movement is for AxSpa, but I try to avoid any high energy movements (i.e. going to the gym) 3 hours before sleep as this again can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. That being said, if there is a lot of stiffness, more gentle and slow movement like restorative yoga can be very helpful to relax the muscles and decrease stiffness, which in turn can increase comfort and help us sleep better. I run a weekly online Yoga for AS class called "Stretch and Relax" and many of my students report sleeping better after doing this class before bed.

Don't obsess over sleeping well

This might sound counterintuitive but after implementing all of these protocols, the most important thing is not to obsess over falling asleep or sleeping well, I know that if I have a bad nights sleep, the next day I’ll have a higher sleep drive and be far more likely to sleep well.

I do the protocols, apply the knowledge, and then forget about them. If that makes sense!

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