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Body Clock

How can I reset my body clock?

Question

I recently returned to a five-week shift pattern of night so afternoons and earlier after almost five years on regular days. I'm exhausted and my body clock is all over the place, My exercise and eating regime has fallen by the wayside. I take fish oils and a mineral supplement and drink green tea. What do you advise?

Answer

You're not alone, in the UK nearly nine million people work shifts. Many more suffer similar -though occasional - problems with jetlag. If your day/night (diurnal) cycle gets topsy-turvy for any reason, it leads to the results you describe. As well as fatigue and insomnia, your energy levels are probably low, you may have digestive problems such as constipation and your brain may feel fuzzy.

Humans evolved to be awake in the daylight and asleep at night in the dark. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is switched on by darkness and off by light. Interestingly, people who stuffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or are very stressed also experience changes in sleep patterns because melatonin is not produced in sufficient quantity at night so the brain doesn't calm down. Such minds judder into wakefulness between 3am and 4am when the adrenal glands begin releasing the day hormone cortisol.

Whatever the cause, my experience is that the more energy you have the, better you cope. It's vital to keep to a routine of good dietary and exercise habits, and to develop away of stilling your mind so that you sleep well.

These are my suggestions:

Keep hydrated

  • Dehydration makes the body sluggish. Try to drink at least two liters of still, pure water daily. If you're in an air-conditioned, hermetically sealed and/or centrally heated environment, including offices, you must be espcially scrupulous about this.

Avoid alcohol

  • Alcohol drains the oxygen supply to the blood and affects the liver, the body's best energy-producing organ. So don't drink any alcohol. (And, of course, don’t smoke!)

Avoid yeast-containing foods

  • Foods such as bread, pizza, Marmite and Bovril should be avoided because they cause fermentation in the gut which in turn produces alcohol.

Avoid sugar

  • Keep away from sugar and all sugary foods, as that feeds the yeast and also pushes up your blood sugar very fast - after which it comes crashing down again.

Avoid caffeine

  • Although coffee and caffeinated drinks give you an initial kick out of tiredness, they leave you more exhausted afterward as the effect wears off.

Make sure you don't get constipated

  • Eat fresh fruit and vegetables, particularly figs and papaya, and juice fresh carrots and celery with a little ginger root.

Eat little and often

  • Keeping your blood sugar levels stable is key to dealing with any hormonal upheaval. Try to eat small amounts every two to three hours of your waking time, with a good breakfast always. Aim to have protein for breakfast and lunch, with some carbohydrates in the evening. Eat light, fresh nutritious meals that are easy on your digestion. Avoid large, rich, fatty meals, particularly before sleeping.

Massage

  • It's vital to keep the pituitary gland in your brain, which controls your hormones, working well. One way of helping this is to massage your shoulders, back and neck right up to the bottom of your skull. Have a professional massage if you can, once a week.

Yoga

  • Practise therapeutic Iyengar yoga with a practitioner or look at Therapeutic Yoga, which I wrote with Jiwan Brar.

Other exercise

  • Regular exercise helps energise your system and mood; exercise shortly after waking and take brisk walks during the day. Exercise before bed, however, wakes your mind. Get out in the light whenever you can.
  • Sleep

  • Aim for seven to eight hours, sleep in 24 hours, in one block or shorter periods, meditating (which turns off your mind) is invaluable. lf you cant get to sleep, or keep waking, lie flat and breathe gently, exhaling slowly.
  • Supplements

    • One capsule of BioEnergy twice daily for three months.
    • Ashwaganda (Indian ginseng) is an adaptogenic that gives your system support whenever it's needed.
    • Or try vitamin B complex, specially formulated to support the adrenal glands.
    • If digestion is a problem, take Stomach Formula.
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