Did you know that sleep occupies a third of our lives? Whilst we still do not understand its function, the fact that we spend so much time in this state shows its importance. When we sleep, our bodies repair and reboot.
Poor immunity, weight gain and hormonal imbalances are all linked to poor sleep. Having difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep, waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to return to sleep are among the most common signs of insomnia. One thing is clear, poor sleep is more likely to lead to poor food choices and poor food choices will definitely lead to poor sleep.
The sleep-wake up cycle follows light and dark; in the evening we release melatonin, a hormone that tells the body it’s time to sleep. We have another hormone called cortisol, (the stress hormone), as melatonin rises, cortisol should decrease, but if you go to bed after midnight, the stress produced by these late evenings increases cortisol production, making us feel tired in the morning and full of beans at night. It becomes a vicious cycle, ultimately interfering with your sleep, if you want to stay awake, your body will keep you awake.
We sleep in cycles of around 90 minutes; the deep sleep is when our bodies repair, this happens usually 30 minutes after we fall asleep. If we send the wrong signals, our bodies will respond by producing the wrong hormones.
Poor sleep is one of the most common issues I encounter in clinic. The usual question is: can what I eat really affect how I sleep? The answer to this is yes. Studies show that poor carbohydrate quality, low intake of vegetables and high sugar intake will increase the prevalence of insomnia, whilst a Mediterranean diet will lead to fewer insomnia symptoms.
Some foods improve sleep quality and reduce symptoms of insomnia due to the presence of tryptophan, melatonin and anti-inflammatory chemicals. Cherry fruit at 140gr per day or cherry juice 140ml per day will improve sleep within 2 weeks. Kiwi fruit also promotes better sleep, 2 kiwis, 1 hour before bedtime for 4 weeks.
When it comes to supplements, magnesium bisglycinate improves sleep by reducing the production of stress hormones. Another one of my wonders in clinic is L-tryptophan, or 5-HTP, depending which one you absorb better. In truth, there are many supplements that will help you with sleep depending on what your body needs, Omega 3, thiamine, GABA or SAMe.
There are things you can do as well to prepare your body for bed, sending the right signals in order for your body to respond to them. Be aware of blue light (from phones and IPADS), I might repeat myself, but it is so important, it disrupts melatonin production, so avoid it at least 2 hours before bed and ban TVs from the bedroom.
Exercising, ideally before noon will benefit your circadian rhythm.
Breathing exercises (Wim Hof techniques) will help you unwind and chill.
Epson salts in a bath (half a cup) will help to absorb magnesium transdermally, acting as a muscle relaxant.
Avoid alcohol before bed, it might make you sleepy but in fact the sleep will be lighter and less restorative.
And lastly caffeine, it takes approximately 6 hours to be excreted completely, so think about this when deciding on tea and coffee after midday.
If you want to know more or to work with me, get in touch, let’s make sure you get those precious ZZZs in.