There’s nothing like the feeling of getting a good night’s sleep: you feel energised, refreshed, clear and ready to take on the day. When we sleep, our bodies repair and recharge, which helps us heal. Good-quality sleep is also very important for weight balance and appetite control. When we’re tired, we’re more likely to make poor food choices and lifestyle choices.
For many people, good-quality sleep isn’t always on the agenda. If you’ve been struggling to get a good night’s kip, here are a few questions to consider: do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you wake up in the middle of the night? Do you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Do you hit ‘snooze’ on your alarm clock repeatedly? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it’s likely that you have disrupted sleep.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand how your habits could be playing a part. These are the diet and lifestyle factors that stimulate the body and brain, which interfere with your body’s ability to switch off at nighttime:
- You’re consuming caffeine in the afternoon – this includes coffee, green tea and black tea.
- You’re drinking alcohol in the lead-up to bedtime – this includes red wine, which revs up the liver.
- You’re eating sugar at night.
- You’re highly stressed and have an overactive mind.
- Your pituitary gland is not functioning as well as it should, meaning your hormones are imbalanced.
- You’re not eating enough protein at dinnertime.
- You’re exercising at night, and going to bed with adrenaline coursing through your veins.
- Your room is located in a noisy area – perhaps a main road, near a bar or close to loud housemates!
- You’re on your phone or watching TV right before bed.
- Your room is too bright or too warm.
- You’re on thyroid medication.
THE JSHEALTH SLEEP GUIDE
1. Prioritise sleep
Many of us sacrifice sleep to tick off other items on our to-do list, and I get it. We’re all busy. But there’s a reason why we sleep for one-third of our lives: it’s essential for our health. Starting now, you need to prioritise sleep. Do whatever you can to get into bed at a decent time (say, 10pm) so that you can sleep for at least seven to eight hours. If you have to wake up early the next day, make an effort to turn the lights off a little earlier than usual the night before. When you prioritise sleep, the rewards are phenomenal; you’ll be able to function better in your day-to-day life. You’ll feel lighter and clearer. You’ll be alert at work, make fewer mistakes, and be less reactive to intense or emotional situations. Moreover, when you’re energised and rested, you’re more likely to think clearly and make healthier food and lifestyle choices.
2. Wind down
At night, you need to relax and unwind your busy mind, signalling to the mind and body that it’s almost time for bed. To do that, set up a nighttime routine full of deliciously sleep-provoking rituals. These are the main points:
- Turn your phone and computer off at 8pm.
- Play some relaxing music.
- Pop your legs up against the wall for 10 minutes.
- Don’t eat after you’ve had dinner.
- Have a bath, read a book or do something to calm the mind.
3. Make your room a peaceful place
The goal is to make your bedroom desirable and to associate it with sleep. In the hour or so before bed, dim the lights, put lavender oil on the pillows, and light a candle or burn essential oils. Keep a notepad on your bedside table, and jot down any pesky thoughts that come into your mind while you’re trying to wind down. Take away any computers and distractions so the room is a technology-free zone, and ensure the room temperature is comfortable. Ideally, your bedroom should be dark and cool.
4. Incorporate yoga into your life
Restorative yoga can do wonders for relaxing the mind (and slowing down that never-ending thought stream). I personally do it once or twice a week. However, if you can’t get to a class, that’s okay – just lay out a mat or towel in your living room and hold a few poses. The best ones for releasing tension are forward folds, hip openers (such as half pigeon) and savasana – a fancy word that means ‘lie still’. Bliss.
5. Tweak your diet
The connection between diet and sleep is real. For better sleep, it’s important to eat protein at night, which helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, consume good fats to balance out your hormones, support your liver with brassica veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale. Pro tip: try my one-pan salmon.
6. Consider your coffee intake
A year ago, I increased my caffeine intake to two coffees a day as an experiment, and my body reacted in a big way; I started waking up at random times during the night. See, that first coffee perked me up for the day, but that afternoon coffee gave me a second wind of energy when I didn’t need it: at night. This is a common scenario, yet many people can’t understand why their sleep is broken. If you’re drinking more than one coffee a day, try cutting back – I bet you’ll notice a difference.
7. Try supplementing
Are you suffering from insomnia? It may be time to take action. Chat to a health practitioner about the following supplements:
- Magnesium citrate or glycinate (500-800mg).
- Zinc (30mg before bed).
- Adrenal tonic with calming herbs – a naturopath can help with this.
- If you still can’t win, discuss a melatonin supplement with your doctor. It’s important you never self-prescribe supplements or medication – speak to your trusted health practitioner first. A great way to find a local doctor or health practitioner in your area is through Whitecoat – it lets you search for naturopaths, GPs, even homoeopaths by postcode and allows you see other patient reviews.
I hope these tips help you to sleep better and longer – and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day! For more health and lifestyle tips, check out my 8-week Program.