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“Tired but wired”? Five tips to help you sleep when stressed.

Have you ever gotten through a stressful, long and EXHAUSTING day of parenting, flop into bed ready to sleep…and then discover that your MIND WON’T SHUT OFF!?

That’s the WORST! Especially when your young children are sleeping like angels.

Not being able to fall asleep, even though you are exhausted, or waking up in the middle of the night with your brain and body “buzzing” is what I call…”tired but wired”.

This is a hormone issue.

Specifically, it’s a symptom of excessive “cortisol” (the stress hormone) circulating through your body.

Sleep is governed by hormones. In particular we need cortisol to go DOWN and melatonin (the sleep hormone) to RISE to allow us to fall into a deep and restful sleep.

The trouble with sleep comes when cortisol remains high.

Why does this happen?

For a few reasons, but generally it comes down to stress. Internal and external stress.

Internal stress is when our body is physiologically stressed out - it thinks it’s under threat because something isn’t right.

For example:

  • You’re not feeding yourself regular meals

  • You’re blood sugar isn’t balanced throughout the day

  • You’ve got nutrient insufficiencies

  • You're dehydrated

  • You are chronically sleep deprived, etc.

(Yep...sleep deprivation leads to more problems sleeping unfortunately)

There are also external stressors which are perceived threats from our environment outside of our bodies.

For example:

  • Financial worries

  • Relationship issues

  • Overwhelming mental load of managing the home

  • Childcare stress

  • Overstimulating environment

So what can we do about this?

Well disclaimer - a lot of these things are not an easy fix.

We can’t solve nutrient insufficiencies overnight, nor can we quickly solve financial worries, unreliable childcare or the burden of too many household responsibilities. These root cause issues need attention.

But for now - what we CAN do is use a few strategies to help reduce cortisol in the evening to help your body do what it needs to do to make you sleepy.

  1. Try soaking your feet in a basin with Epsom salts for 5-10 minutes. Hint you can do this while your kids are in the bathtub. The magnesium gets absorbed into your body through your skin and helps calm your nervous system before bed. Magnesium = calm.

  2. Drink some calming herbal tea before bed. My favourites are chamomile, valerian root or ashwagandha (or a blend containing them). *Not recommended in pregnancy though. These herbs can help calm your vagus nerve which helps your body relax and prepare for sleep at bedtime.

  3. Do a brain dump. You can do this either in your mind or on paper. Take all the thoughts that are swirling around in your mind and intentionally put them somewhere for safekeeping. Imagine placing each of your worries into a box or treasure chest, locking it up tight and storing it somewhere safe for the night.

  4. Do some deep breathing exercises. Yes really! Science has proven this to be effective in calming your nervous system. Try inhaling for 4 counts, then exhaling for 7 counts. Do this several times while you are lying in bed preparing for sleep.

  5. Try a guided meditation or visualization. Pop in some earbuds, then in your mind take a walk down a beautiful beach by the ocean or down a trail in a forest. You can find lots of these on the app Insight Timer or another meditation app.

Hope these help you sleep!



Your Dietitian Doula

P.S. - Do you struggle with feeling “tired but wired” frequently? Everyone once in a while can be normal but if you’re struggling with this several times a week, then something needs to be addressed on a body level.

I have a program the helps you understand how to support your body back to wellness in the years after birth - whether your a few weeks or a few years after birth.

Join us today ->


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