Are you having trouble falling asleep, or you wake up in the night and can’t fall back asleep?
You’re not alone! It’s a common problem, but the good news is, it can be helped with a few diet and lifestyle tweaks, and may not require popping meds.
First, it’s important to address the underlying cause. Most often its related to STRESS and lifestyle (when work, family and social commitments take over!). Some other factors include:
- Melatonin imbalance - Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm of your body, and can be affected by light, stress and diet.
- Cortisol imbalance - Cortisol is hormone that responds to stress and low blood glucose, helping your body produce the energy it needs for the day. It should be highest in the morning and lowest late at night. If this is altered (again usually due to stress/lifestyle/diet factors), it can disrupt your sleep.
- Thyroid imbalance – an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause insomnia, sleep apnea, night sweats and anxiety.
- Medical Conditions, medications and supplements – Many diseases and medications can have an effect on your sleep, but then of course, lack of proper sleep can make your condition worse.
Regardless, it’s important to understand that sleep deprivation will negatively impact the health and quality of your life, and can also be a huge impediment to weight loss. (see last week’s blog). Lack of sleep will lead to decreased energy, mood, performance and overall health.
SO HOW DO YOU AVOID INSOMNIA AND IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP?
You need to focus on changing your eating and lifestyle habits to nourish your adrenals, reduce stress and promote proper melatonin and cortisol balance.
Here are 12 tips:
- Get in sync with your circadian rhythm. Start your day by getting some natural sunlight (open your windows or even better, go for a walk or jog outside, once the sun is out) and after the sun goes down, start getting ready for bed. Try to go to bed around the same time, and wake up around the same time every day. Ideally, go to sleep between 9-11 pm and wake up between 5:30-7:30 am (varying slightly with the seasons).
- Remove/limit caffeine from your diet. If you love your coffee, keep it to one cup in the morning, but none after noon! Switch your afternoon coffee for an herbal tea or green juice.
- Eat foods at night that promote sleep. These include dark leafy greens, whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa, turkey, and potassium-rich fruits.
- Remove bad fats and increase healthy fats in your diet. Avoid trans fats (ex. partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) as they inhibit proper adrenal function, and reduce animal fat, including cheese.
- Reduce the white starches and sugars from your diet. This can alter your blood sugar and hormone levels, ultimately impacting your adrenals and your sleep.
- Don’t eat late at night, especially sweets. If your body is digesting a heavy meal it will impair your sleep, so I suggest finishing your last meal 2-3 hours before bed. Eating sweets at night in particular can alter your blood sugar and make you wake up at night with sugar cravings.
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep, every single night. Even one night of not-enough-sleep can alter your hormones (including cortisol and insulin) which disrupts your adrenals, and can make you gain weight (or stop you from losing weight). So REGULAR sleep is key.
- Build a nightly ritual. Start relaxing your body and mind at least half an hour before bed. Make your to-do list for the next day an hour before bed, and then get into relaxation mode. Avoid checking email and social media in bed; instead, read a book (or do something that disconnects and relaxes you). Go back to old fashioned ways of getting into bed…
- Take a magnesium supplement at night. Magnesium is known as the “relaxation mineral” and lack of magnesium can keep you up at night. Consider taking a magnesium supplement at night; I love Natural Calm. (read my blog about magnesium here)
- Boost your melatonin. Melatonin is triggered by darkness, so first, make sure you’re sleeping in a dark room. Then I personally like to supplement with melatonin when i'm particularly sleep deprived or jet lagged (it’s a natural supplement, but still, talk to your doctor about taking it / the right dosage for you).
- Be careful with alcohol before bed. While a glass or two of booze (especially wine) may initially act as a sedative, it actually disrupts sleep and can make you wake up in the middle of the night while the alcohol is being metabolized. So if you need a glass of wine with dinner, aim to have it at least 3 hours before bed.
- Enjoy a tea of "sleep-inducing" herbs. Look for caffeine-free teas with Valerian root, passionflower and chamomile (both of which have relaxing effects).
Of course everyone is different (depending on your circumstances and cause for sleep deprivation), but regardless, experimenting with some of these habits will help you sleep better, feel more energized, have less cravings, and overall, enjoy a healthier, more balanced life.
Pick one or two of these tips to work on each week, and notice how you feel. Please share with me any results / comments/ feedback!
Love and Sweet Dreams,