Find yourself running out of energy? Getting broken sleep? You might be stuck in adrenal survival mode. In this reality checking episode, Jen shares her story of burnout and why sleep is the key to recharging your adrenal glands and getting your Qi – your energy and life force – reflowing.

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In Chinese medicine, we say “We are born with a certain amount of Qi, that’s our life force, and when we run out of Qi we die”. Have I got your attention? Because I should have it – this is your reality check. In this episode, I’ll share the single most significant life change I made to my health after burning out in my 20s. 

This was where my health journey started. I was in my 20s, and I had no idea what Qi was. I was all about working hard and playing harder. Eating healthy was not a focus, and I used to say, “you sleep when you die”. I had the best time. I was also a raging alcoholic, but more on that in a future episode. 

My body was telling me that my Qi was being taxed and I wasn’t listening. I had broken sleep when I went to bed, generally waking between 2-4 am and needing a pee. I was always aching in my shoulders. I was living on caffeine to keep my energy up. I had super low blood pressure, I was always tired, I didn’t look healthy, and I was emotionally flat. You know like that lost mojo kind of flat.

I remember my mum saying to me, Jen, can’t you see what you are doing and I was like, what I’m great! I’ve got the right house, the right career, the right everything, life’s grand. But in reality, my body was telling me that I was off track, others were noticing, and I was not listening. I was dying on the inside.

Eventually, I hit the wall. It was a naturopath that helped me and gave me a reboot. In three weeks, I was feeling so well that I had to know how she did it. So, I left my corporate career and went back to school and studied to be a health practitioner, particularly naturopathy, specialising in how day-to-day physical and emotional life stressors sneak up on us and tax our body. So what is a naturopath? For those who don’t know what that is, it’s like an old-time General Practitioner doctor only we do everything naturally, and then we specialise in an area. We study a broad range of natural health modalities everything from herbal medicine, iridology, kinesiology, reflexology – all the ologies in fact.

In my training, I also learned the value of living from a place of prevention and that we are energetic and emotional beings, so we have to look at that side of our life as well.

So let’s jump into one of my favourite topics. What is Qi? Qi is that invisible energy that keeps us alive. I know you think, “well my heart does that”, yes, but what makes the heart pump? It’s our Qi. That Qi lives in your adrenal glands, which are little glands that sit on top of our kidneys. It is where we produce our boy and girl hormones and also our stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. 

The thing is our adrenals recharge between 2-4 am. Now you might think…Oh, that’s when I wake up in the night. Did you know that between 20-30% of Aussies have a problem with sleep? Pretty scary hey, and even scarier is that people think, “well that’s just the way that I sleep”. Let me share with you that it’s not normal and not cool. Let me explain.

We sleep in cycles of approximately 90 minutes, and we have two types of sleep. NONREM and REM sleep. NonREM is divided into three stages – Stages 1 and 2 (also known as light sleep) and Stage 3 often referred to as Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) or deep sleep. 

Stage 1 NREM sleep: This marks the onset of sleep. In this stage, a person is very easily aroused by, for example, calling the person’s name or closing a door, etc. This is a transitional stage, and at sleep, onset lasts for about 1 – 7 minutes.

Stage 2 NREM sleep: In this stage, a more intense stimulus is required to arouse a person. Depending on tiredness, this stage initially lasts for approximately 10 – 25 minutes.

Stage 3 NREM sleep: This stage of sleep is also known as deep sleep or slow-wave sleep (SWS) due to the slow brain waves. This is the deepest stage of sleep and the stage from which it is most difficult to arouse – if awoken from this stage of sleep, the person will likely be highly disorientated. This stage of sleep generally lasts about 20 – 40 minutes during the first sleep cycle of the night and after a brief ascent into a light sleep, usually indicated by a series of body movements, the sleeper will then go into REM sleep.

Our REM sleep is when we dream, and our body is kind of paralysed except for our eye muscles which flutter and our breathing. 

Now we sleep in cycles and REM is the final third of the night and is about 20% to 25% of your sleep time. It’s normal to be awake for about 5% of your total sleep time. 

So, I look at sleep as a naturopath, and we say that your adrenal glands need between 7-9 hours sleep a night to recharge, and the most important part is 10pm – 2am. In that time its kind of prepping the body to recharge in that 2-4am window. 

AND you know that we see the first sign of adrenal tiredness is broken sleep between 2-4am. Did you know that your body wakes you for a pee to take the stress off your heart? If you do wake with the need for a pee, get up and pee. Never hold it. Imagine the energy has to flow, and kidneys and heart work together.

So if you think like I used to, yeah right well I’m a night owl. Please stop doing that you are taking time off your life. Remember when you run out of Qi you die. You may not be noticing it now, but it is real and does impact your health long-term.

If you are the person who knows they have to get up at 7am and then sets the alarm for 6.30am that you can hit the snooze button a few times, please stop it. Remember how I said that we sleep in those 90 min cycles so if you fall back to sleep in that 10 min snooze, the next hour or so you will be groggy.

Set your alarm for the time that you need to be up. You get that extra real sleep and will find that not hitting the snooze button will work way better for you.

Remember that I mentioned that I learned the value of living from a place of prevention? Imagine that’s not waiting to have broken sleep. 

Yes, it is a discipline that is worth creating. It is the single biggest change that I have made in my health for the last 30+ years. 

My friends know that 5-6 nights a week I head to be before 10pm so that I can be asleep in that time frame. Then I wake up fresh naturally around 5am of a morning and jump into my day full of energy, and I’m usually off for a sunrise surf. That is the way it is meant to be guys. Not dragging your butt out of bed feeling like crap.

So, My first Healthy Life Hack is to:

Healthy Life Hack #1 – Create a discipline of heading to be before 10pm five nights a week. Try it on. I promise your body will love you for it.

Healthy Life Hack #2 – Is around the fact that sleep is that broken sleep is generally also a sign of low magnesium which is the first mineral we burn up when we stress out. So either grab a magnesium supplement or eat a small handful of raw almonds a day as they are a rich source of magnesium. Some other foods that are rich in magnesium are super dark green veggies like spinach, blackstrap molasses is good (it contains 10% of your daily need of magnesium), pumpkins seeds. They are more, but they are my favourites.

Healthy Life Hack #3- Adaptogens

Healthy Life Hack #4 – Vetiver essential oil is so grounding on a busy brain. If you have an active mind when you wake in the night, come from a place of prevention, before you head to bed, do what I do and use my Sanity Saver essential oil blend on the soles of my feet at night to ground me out. Why? The main ingredient is Vetiver essential oil. Why my feet? It’s a reflexology principle, being the opposite to the busy mind. 

There is a lot more to sleep and adrenal burnout, so I’ll cover both of these in more detail in future episodes. For now, I don’t want to overwhelm you with information. If you incorporate some of those four Healthy Life Hacks, you will be heading in the right direction with your sleep.

CLICK HERE to check out my Sanity Saver essential blend that I spoke about, containing the awesome Vetiver essential oil. 

Did you enjoy the podcast today? Please let me know by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. Every month I draw one lucky reviewer to have a free one-hour consultation with me. Also, remember to subscribe wherever you’re tuning in from so that you always catch the next episode.

Are you looking for more great resources? Get a free copy of my Feed Your Body ebook here and be sure to explore my blog while you are there.