So many of our clients tell me they don’t sleep well, whether it's;
- trouble falling asleep (too much on their mind)
- getting less than 7 hours sleep each night
- waking up at 3 or 4am (early hours insomnia)
- constant interruption – including night sweats
- sleeping 7 hours but not waking up refreshed
It seems as if it’s a national epidemic. 10 million prescriptions for sleeping pills were issued last year alone in the UK!
The trouble is that sleep is so darn important!
And not just for the obvious reasons in that it helps your energy levels and mood the next day, it has so many other health benefits. It’s the time when your body repairs and regenerates. It’s also the time your brain detoxifies and gets rid of waste products.
Lack of sleep and poor quality sleep has been shown to increase the risk of all chronic disease, and it doesn’t help with your weight or your hormones either!
What does poor sleep do to your hormones?
- Increases your HUNGER hormones – we have 2 important hormones that regulate our appetite; leptin which tells the brain that we’re full, and ghrelin which tells the body to eat. Guess what happens when we don’t get enough sleep? Leptin decreases and ghrelin increases. So your body thinks you are starving, and either wakes you up to eat in the middle of the night, stores fat just in case you need it for energy, or makes you eat like crazy the next day. Here’s a great article by Dr John Briffa about the effect of poor sleep on obesity.
- When leptin levels are low, your thyroid slows down your metabolism, making you tired and increasing fat storage.
- Lack of sleep can increase insulin resistance, the condition leading up to diabetes
- Poor sleep stresses out the body, increasing cortisol (which stops you sleeping, aaarrghh!).
So how can we all get better sleep? Here are my top 10 sleeping tips;
- Keep it dark – any artificial light can reduce the production of your sleep hormone melatonin, which can make it really hard to get good quality sleep. Try making your bedroom pitch black (black out blinds are great). Switch off electronic lights (alarm clocks, phones, TV).
- Nice and early to bed – that first cycle of sleep can be the most restorative so try to get to bed by 10.30pm. If that’s not possible for you, then try to fix your bed time and keep to it as much as possible.
- Ban the gadgets– try to keep your room gadget free. Charge your phone or laptop in a different room if you can. Or if you can't do that, keep them away from your head, shut them down or put them on Airplane mode (this will reduce the EMF’s, Electro Magnetic Frequencies, that can interfere with your sleep).
- Relax your brain – stress is one of the biggest factors behind poor sleep. Give yourself time to switch off from your day before trying to get to sleep. Write down any worries so they are out of your head. Avoid the news or scary thrillers! Try listening to relaxing music, reading a book or a mindfulness App like Headspace.
- Relax your body – physical exercise helps with sleep and try a relaxing Epsom Salts bath before bed. Epsom salts are rich in Magnesium Sulphate, a known muscle relaxant and detoxifier.
- Avoid alcohol– that glass or two of wine at night can help with de-stressing and getting you off to sleep initially, but it won't help when you wake up at 3am, dehydrated, with low blood sugar or an over-taxed liver! Alcohol also messes with your production of serotonin (the precursor to melatonin).
- Limit caffeine – caffeine is a stimulant, which is why it can cause the jitters, so avoid if you are struggling with sleep or have palpitations or anxiety.
- Avoid refined carbs – if you're on the Blood Sugar roller coaster all day, it can continue into the night and wake you up. Avoid this by avoiding refined carbohydrates (eg bread, white rice, pasta, pastry, sugar, processed foods).
- Hydrate – your sleep can be interrupted if you’re dehydrated as this stimulates cortisol, which wakes you up.
- Supplements – Tryptophan is a protein that helps make melatonin. Food sources include protein, meat, fish, dairy, nuts and seeds. L-theanine is a calming nutrient found in tea (black and green), Magnesium helps to relax the body and increase GABA (a calming neurotransmitter). Valerian is a herb that has long been used for sleep issues. Calming herbal teas are sometimes helpful. Always check any supplement programme with your doctor or health practitioner.
As well as these sleeping tips, you can also try one of the many Sleep Apps now available (although this one competes with the ‘no gadget' rule!). One of my favourites is Pzizz.
Or get your hormones tested for any imbalances that are causing your sleep issues.
Hope these sleeping tips help – let me know in the comments, or contact us for a Discovery Call if you’d like more personalised advice.
You can listen to the podcast episode here;