How sleep impacts your lifestyle, with Sleep Guru Anandi.
Anandi (Alison Francis) was given her spiritual name, which meaning ‘in bliss’, by her guru in India in 2007. She has been in the wellness field for 30 years as an Ayurvedic practitioner, senior yoga teacher, yoga teacher trainer and a certified Chopra meditation teacher. Anandi is the founder of The Sleep Guru, the author of ‘Breathe Better Sleep Better’ which explains how to use the breath as a healing tool and the creator or Sleepology by Anandi®, a new wellbeing process and in-depth enquiry into the causes of stress, exhaustion and sleep issues.
Anandi works with those who are struggling with just about everything and in particular sleep. She knows personally what it’s like to suffer from insomnia. She understands how lack of sleep ruins your creativity, affects your relationships and has serious effects on your health. She also knows that you look and feel awful when you don’t sleep well. Anandi is President of Helping Hands for India Charity which provides a school for underprivileged kids in Northern India.
What is your opinion on the relationship between the modern-day working schedule and the ‘normal’ person’s ability/willingness to get a quality night sleep?
Modern day work life balance has completely gone awry. We’re programmed to be attached to our smart phones. We use them for alarm clocks and as soon as the alarm clock goes off, we’re checking emails and our social channels. This means, we’re in high alert (fight/flight) from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. Habits are hard to break and it takes a strong decision to change a habit that’s accumulated over years. It sometimes takes a health wake up call to make a person change. Sleep disturbance is a sign and an indication that something is out of balance. If we become more sensitive to the signs and calls for help our body gives us, we would have a lot less stress related disease in our society.
Could you briefly explain the physiology of sleep and the roll of melatonin on sleep and the circadian rhythm?
Melatonin is a hormone the body makes from Serotonin. The body makes serotonin from Tryptophan which is in food we eat such as turkey, almonds avocado, cottage cheese. If you eat a varied diet, it’s more than likely that you are eating enough food with Tryptophan in it.
The fundamental thing to understand is that these hormones are light sensitive. When the sun comes up in the morning, melatonin goes down and serotonin levels rise. When the sun goes down, serotonin levels go down, and melatonin levels go up.
Melatonin is the hormone that prepares the body for sleep. It’s responsible for things like lowering the body temperature and slowing down the heart rate.
It’s fundamental not to try and go uphill against the body’s rhythm as this will confuse the body. Going to bed and getting up at the same time is paramount as is getting a good dose of natural daylight during the day.
Along with activity and nutrition, sleep is a key pillar of health and wellness. What are the key drawbacks of a poor night’s sleep?
Not getting enough good quality sleep leaves your body and mind compromised. You NEED to have approximately 20% REM sleep and 12% Deep sleep every night so that the mind can be refreshed and the body healed. People suffer from brain fog, depression and stress related disease when they don’t get enough sleep. If you want to be the best version of yourself, you should make sleep just as much a priority as healthy eating.
Many of us like to ‘wind down’ after a hard day with our favourite TV show or a glass of wine. How could these things effect our sleep?
I understand that people like a glass of wine and a good film, I do too. However, we should remember that alcohol suppresses REM sleep and watching the TV until late is stimulating for the brain and you won’t get as much good quality sleep.
Having alcohol and technology free evenings as part of your wellbeing ritual will help you get a better nights sleep.
Like with many modern-day problems, the answer can be found by looking to ancient practice. How can Meditation improve sleep quality?
The ancients were incredibly wise! Doing meditation or mindful yoga practices help the brain slow down from busy Beta brain waves to mindful and creative Alpha brain waves. The body is able to produce more serotonin when the mind is quieter. Serotonin plays an important part in creativity and happiness, but also in sleep as it is the precursor to the production of melatonin.
Chanting is also desired to zone out negative and low vibrational thought patterns. Sometimes students find chanting weird or difficult, but chanting is just so good for the health of the mind and vibrational energy around us.
What benefits could we expect to see from a more mindful approach to sleep?
Mindfulness is about being present. The more present we become the less time we spend reacting in the fight or flight response. If the mind becomes more present, it will be quieter and experience less fear.
Mindfulness is an excellent life skill for anyone at all, especially for those having sleep issues.
Being mindful of the impact of eating late or having stimulating foods and being on our technology late in the evening is important. Also being mindful about the amount of information mind has to deal with coming in from the five senses. Making sure you get downtime in nature has a very important role in reducing stress.
Yes, learning about mindfulness will definitely help.
What is your top tip to anyone who finds they’re struggling to sleep?
My top tip is look at the root cause. Depending on how long you’re been experiencing it, there WILL be a reason that sleep is disturbed.
Look at your emotions, eating patterns and nutritional value of the food you eat.
I have a specific methodology called Sleepology which is a step by step process of going from the root cause to a better night sleep.
What is one thing you know about sleep, that you wish everybody did?
Sleep is as fundamental to your health as healthy eating. Everyone is paranoid about healthy eating, and rightly so, but I wish everyone would prioritise sleep as much as they do food!