Nutritional Therapy is about diet, but that’s not all. When I’m a qualified NT (not too long to go now!) I’ll be looking at ALL aspects of a client’s lifestyle: diet, incorporating exercise (or movement as I prefer to call it), developing stress management techniques, cultivating meaning & purpose – and SLEEP.
With a decade of intermittent insomnia behind me(!) the irony is not lost that it’s me talking about how to sleep well. But like it or not, sleep is a fundamental pillar of good health. Poor sleep on a regular basis puts us at risk of serious conditions including obesity, coronary heart disease and diabetes – and shortens life expectancy.
And if that wasn’t enough, it can negatively impact cognition, mood, hormone balance, blood glucose control, energy, libido & more. Sorry parents of small children (myself included)- let’s just hope it gets better!!
Given today is NATIONAL SLEEP DAY (who knew?!) it seemed fitting to share my NINETEEN TOP TIPS for a BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP
- Initially I thought they were a cosy looking fad, but some initial research is there to support usefulness in anxiety, ADHD, fibromyalgia – and getting a better night’s sleep. Now, I won’t be without my Mela one!
- Lavender oil – on your pillow or in a diffuser. Numerous studies demonstrate a small to medium effect for sleep due to natural sedative and hypnotic properties
- A hot bath or shower before bed – the rise and then drop in core body temperature can reduce time taken to fall asleep, increase the amount of deep sleep and sleep quality
- Reading a book in bed prior to sleep may improve overall sleep quality
- Stay off the screens 2 hours before sleep. Blue light tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime and prevents normal release of melatonin (melatonin is our sleepy hormone and master regulator of our circadian rhythm). If the draw of Netflix is just too great? Invest in some blue light blocking glasses. I love mine by BLUblox. But don’t check your email and avoid doom scrolling at all costs!
- Keep a notebook by your bed to jot down idea, worries and to-do lists which can pop into mind just as you’re drifting off
- Magnesium has a solid evidence base for promoting relaxation and enhancing sleep quality. 60-80% of us are deficient! Magnesium citrate and glycinate are good absorbable forms. An Epsom salts bath or skin spray can be used to absorb Mg trans-dermally
- Check your environment is cool and comfortable. 18-20 deg works well for most people and cotton or linen are breathable for bedding
- Install blackout blinds or wear an eye mask, unless you want to rise with the birds (or my kids)
- Set your circadian rhythm (body clock) with some daylight first thing. Open those curtains/blinds! Better still, a morning walk.
- Have a coffee/tea curfew of 2pm. Caffeine can remain elevated in the blood for 6-8 hours and significantly worsen sleep quality, especially if you’re a genetically slow metaboliser
- Eat dinner earlier in the evening if you can as a late meal can reduce levels of hormones melatonin and human growth hormone, reducing sleep quality
- Exercise is crucial for sleep, with research consistently demonstrating benefits such as reduced time to fall asleep, less nighttime wakefulness, improved restless legs and increased sleep time. Just don’t do it in the evening!
- Stickling to a regular sleep-wake schedule – even at weekends – is important. Consistent routines help align our circadian rhythm with the homeostatic drive (which makes us feel sleepier the longer we’ve been awake)
- Skip the booze (or expect some sleep disturbance!) Alcohol alters melatonin production, exacerbates snoring and disrupts hormones and sleep. Just 1 drink for women/2 for men was found to reduce sleep quality by 24% in one study.
- Give meditation a try. Sleep problems often stem from stress: meditation can calm the mind, promote relaxation and improve control of the autonomic nervous system, reducing night time awakening
- White noise. It’s not just for babies!
- Ask your GP to check your vitamin D and iron levels. A deficiency in either has been linked to sleep difficulties.
- Studies suggest that valerian (a plant) may reduce time taken to fall asleep and help you sleep better. You can buy it as a “sleepy tea” blend or as supplements, but speak to your doctor or consult your healthcare practitioner if you are on any medications