Most of us don’t give much thought to our sleep, it just kind of happens, doesn’t it… unless you’re not getting enough, and then oh my do you really know about it!
Insomnia not only disrupts your life in the immediate future because your ‘effin exhausted and your brain can’t function properly, but over time it actually wreaks havoc with your health, effecting your hormones, nervous system, cardiovascular health, and it also can lead to weight gain.
For me, when my body is tired, I get headaches, and my productivity becomes, frustratingly, nil.
If you are suffering with insomnia, you definitely do not need more to worry about, so let’s focus on some positive actions you can implement to help you fall asleep, prevent night time waking and improve your quality of sleep.
A few may be obvious, but ask yourself honestly… are you doing them?
My Top 10 Sleep Supporters
1. Balance your blood sugar.
Waking up with stressed or anxious thoughts at 3am and can’t get back to sleep? The most likely reason is that your blood sugar has dropped too low. When this happens stress hormones kick in (your fight and flight response) to stimulate stored glucose to be dumped into the blood.
Work on balancing your blood sugar during the day.
Main principles – reduce sugar, caffeine and refined carbohydrates and increase protein and quality fats.
My Tip:: Try having a tryptophan rich snack before bed and even when you wake in the night – a spoonful of nut butter, a boiled egg, an oat cake with banana and nut butter, (more on tryptophan below).
2. Reduce caffeine – even better cut it out completely!
Seriously, if you are not sleeping, just get rid of the caffeine, at the very least keep it to before 12pm. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and can prevent you from falling asleep, it also disrupts blood sugar, so even drunk earlier in the day, it’s not helpful.
Try some alternatives such as dandelion or chicory coffee.. try THIS!
3. Keep regular bedtimes and wake times
Going to bed and rising at the same time each day helps to reset your body clock and is one of the most effective ways to regulate sleep.
Create a relaxing bedtime routine – we are creatures of habit and our bodies quickly learn what time it is when we repeat specific actions. So do the same thing each night in the same order and then get to bed before 10pm.
My Tip: It’s a simple one, but reading in bed in a dim light really does help tire your eyes out!
4. Meditation ..or at least relaxation!
10 minutes of meditation would be an ideal part of your evening routine. Even if you just sit quietly and listen to a guided meditation, or relaxing piece of music which you love, with no pressure on yourself to ‘do it properly’ it would help to wind down your nervous system and prepare your body for sleep. No matter how busy we are, we can ALL find 10 minutes, if we choose to.
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes each day – unless your to busy, the you should sit for an hour” – old zen saying.
My Tip:: If you feel impatient and stressed at the mere thought of meditation try this productive version instead:
‘The daily brain dump’ sit quietly and away from screens and distractions. Get all your ‘to dos’ or ‘thoughts to come back to’ down on paper so that when they urgently pop into your mind at 3am, you can simply thank yourself for the reminder, and know that you will come back to it because it’s safely written down. Simple but so so effective.
5. Reduce melatonin suppressive ‘Blue Light‘ exposure
Artificial light after dark disrupts melatonin, the hormone produced by the pineal gland which regulates the sleep wake cycle. Melatonin should be low during the day and rise as it gets dark, helping us to fall asleep and stay asleep, but it can become disrupted, especially if you are regularly spending time in artificial light long after dark, which let’s face it, winter in the UK.. we ALL are!
However research shows that short wave lengths, or ‘blue light’ given out by computers, smart phones and TV screens, are the most suppressive to melatonin.
So what can you do? My advice is to switch off all screens an hour before bed, do something else, read, meditate, ‘brain dump’ do something creative, make your pack lunch or just prepare for the next day so that it is as stress free as possible.
Here is a great article I found which discuses a couple of tools used to reduce ‘Blue Light’ exposure including amber goggles!
6. Eat Tryptophan rich foods
Tryptophan is the amino acid precursor to serotonin, which plays a very important role in sleep regulation.
Food sources include: Eggs, tahini, pumpkin seeds, cod, turkey, lamp, chicken, banana, fermented soy
An oatcake with some tahini and banana, or a slice of turkey or egg before bed will help stablise blood sugar and provide some Tryptophan to the body.
*If you are really struggling, find a practitioner who can guide you with supplementation with L-Tryptophan.
7. Increase Magnesium
Magnesium, natures relaxation mineral. It supports and soothes the nervous system by increasing GABA, our inhibitory neurotransmitter which has a calming effect on the brain and body. It also helps the muscles to relax.
Food sources include: Pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, tahini, almonds, cashews, beans – especially, mung, yellow and lima, quinoa, amaranth, dark green leafy vegetables
Find out if your body is lacking Magnesium by checking these 6 signs of deficiency.
8. Eat and drink cherries for melatonin
Cherries contain melatonin, and who doesn’t love cherries?? Ok they’re a bit pricy, but now you have a perfect excuse – it’s medicinal, Hurray!!
So how many cherries? Well, studies show that drinking 230ml of tart cherry juice twice a day gave people an average of 1 and a half hours more sleep a night, a significant increase but that’s a lot of cherries and a lot of juicing. It may be more cost efficient and convenient to use Cherry Active, whose products I am a big fan of.
9. Drink soothing sleepy teas
Lemon balm, chamomile, velerian, passion flower – all soothe the nervous system and have a mildly sedative effect helping the body to get restful sleep. Avoid drinking half an hour before going to bed so that you are not waking to use the loo in the night.
10. Try Bach Flower Essences
Impatiens: If you feel irritated and impatient when you can fall asleep.
White Chestnut: for repeated unwanted or circulating thoughts that keep the mind from being calm.
Star of Bethlehem: If trauma is the reason you can’t sleep.
Vervain: If excitement about a project is keeping you awake or if you feel like sleep is impossible.
Mimulus: When you fear going to bed and being unable to sleep.
~ The Round Up ~
Now I would love to hear from you.
Are you getting enough quality sleep?
What 3 things can you put into action this week to improve your sleep?
Have you already found some of these things helpful? Or maybe by something I have not mentioned? If so please do share in the comment below!
Much love to you, xo
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/elevensounds/6211342801/”>AgustinBrtz</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>