Our sleep and circadian rhythms are involved in nearly every process, system and function in our body. That includes our immune system, cognitive behavior, nervous system resiliency, muscle growth and recovery, and our metabolic system.

But when we push our boundaries of proper rest and restoration (like when you pull an all-nighter or are suffering from jet lag) it sends conflicting messages to the part of our brain and the hormones that help to prepare our body for sleep, leaving our body wondering, “Am I trying to produce hormones needed for sleep, or do you need me to keep producing cortisol to help stay awake?”

You know that feeling when you are so exhausted but your hamster wheel won’t stop turning with the day’s events, and your never-ending to-do list? That’s the “tired-but-wired” side effect of chronically depriving your body of an adequate sleep routine. Keep this pattern up for too long and you will soon begin to feel changes in other areas as well, like increased appetite, more cravings, decreased muscle tone, less efficient training sessions and poor muscle recovery, plus a lowered immune system.

Here are a few simple tips to get off the hamster wheel and hop on the train to Sleepytown:

1. Create total darkness. If there is any level of light in the room, your body receives signals from your brain to stay alert and continue “working” while you sleep. Even the slightest bit of light can disrupt your biological clock and your pineal gland’s melatonin production.

Tip: Try blackout curtains or a sleep mask to create the best sleep-inducing environment.

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2. Sleep naked. Or in as few clothes as possible to help keep your core temperature down at night. You want to climb into bed a bit on the cool side as your body will naturally work to increase its temp while you rest and restore from the day. If you bundle up for sleep you will end up with higher cortisol levels.
3. Use an old school alarm clock. Not your cellphone. Put your cell away from your pillow and set it to airplane mode while you sleep to help reduce EMFs (electromagnetic fields), which can disrupt melatonin production. You’ll also be less likely to be disturbed by a late-night text or notification.
4. Get the best pillow money can buy. A good quality, chemical-free pillow can make a world of difference to your night’s slumber. Look for one that’s 100% cruelty-free and fully washable.
5. Eat a solid breakfast. Starting your day with simple carbs like sugary cereal, a bagel with jam, or fruit juice will spike your blood sugar, causing it to crash an hour later, leaving you craving more sugar and stimulants to keep you going. Instead, choose slow-digesting carbs, a bit of protein, and healthy fats for sustained energy throughout the day.

Tip: Try this recipe for Oatmeal Pancakes!

• 1 tsp coconut oil
• 1/2 cup oats
• 4 egg whites
• 1/4 tsp cinnamon and nutmeg
• 1 Tbsp ground flax seed

1. Heat coconut oil in a small skillet.
2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour onto the heated skillet.
3. Cook about 4 minutes and test the edges to see how firm your pancake is;
when ready, flip and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
4. Top with your choice of nut butter, a tiny drizzle of pure maple syrup and fresh berries.

6. Pop a Supplement. If you’re still struggling to drift off, talk to your doc or naturopath about natural supplements that could help, such as magnesium. Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant, and therefore may benefit people for whom body tension is the cause of poor sleep. For those with overactive brains, Passion Flower supplements can help by calming the mind and allowing the body to fall asleep naturally. A high-dose tablet works within 30 minutes.

Jenn Pike is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bestselling author of The Simplicity Project:
A Simple, No-Nonsense Approach To Losing Weight & Changing Your Body Forever!