No matter what your health or performance goal getting enough sleep has to be a top priority. It’s essential to support fat loss, exercise recovery, immune health, healthy hormones, muscle mass and detoxification.
In honour of World Sleep Day we thought we would share our top tips for securing a good nights sleep!
1. Get Outside & Move In The Daytime
A healthy sleep cycle is part of the body’s natural circadian rhythm. This is the sleep-wake pattern regulates various physiological changes across the day including the balance of hormones. Our biological clock is influenced hugely by light and the invention of artificial light has certainly taken it’s toll by disrupting our circadian health.
Getting outside first thing in the day and exposing yourself to bright light will support a healthy circadian rhythm. Hormones like cortisol will respond to light exposure and as this is the hormone that keeps us alert and awake, it should naturally be higher in the morning. Cortisol decreases throughout the day dropping to it’s lowest levels in the evening when it passes the baton to melatonin, our sleep hormone.
Another important aspect of sound sleep is healthy blood sugar regulation, waking randomly in the night could be due to a drop in blood sugar levels. The human body is designed to be active in the day, using muscles and working our cardiovascular system will improve glucose regulation. Obviously exercise is perfect for this but even just doing some household chores, DIY or walking will make a difference to glucose uptake into the cells and muscles and therefore have a positive impact on your sleep.
2. Block The Blue Lights
The light environment within your home is hugely a significant when it comes to securing a good nights sleep because our sleep hormone melatonin is highly light-sensitive. Bright lights and blue lights should ideally be avoided in the evening to increase levels of melatonin and there are several ways to do this including grabbing yourself some blue light blocking glasses or applying blue light filtering apps to your phone or laptop, for example f.lux or Twilight. With these apps the filter is adjusted based on the time of your local sunset and sunrise.
We also have Himalayan salt lamps and candles in our lounge, bedroom and bathroom as these are rooms we use in the evening. It’s also vital that your bedroom is completely dark as the smallest lights from a street lamp or an alarm clock will be picked up by the brain and effect the hormonal output. Blackout blinds and eye masks are useful to have if you are unable to change your sleeping environment.
3. Have A ‘Power Off’ Hour
One the most effective things you can do prior to going to bed is switch off EVERYTHING! Your laptop, tablet, smart phone, TV and your brain. Spending the final hour of your day relaxing, reading, chatting or doing some deep breathing in low lit, calm and relaxing environment will ensure all your senses feedback to the brain it’s almost time to nod off. 10 minutes on a meditation app like Headspace is a great way to encourage your mind to switch off and get out of ‘to do’ mode.
Avoid having any electrical equipment in the bedroom to ensure it’s nothing but a haven of peace and quiet. Maybe use this time to flick through a copy of our book Paleo Primer: A Second Helping where we discuss the role of sleep health, stress management and exercise in amongst all the tasty, healthy recipes!
4. Have A Mini Carb Experiment
As the great carb debate rages on there are a few schools of thought as to whether carbohydrates are best eaten at night or earlier in the day. One theory suggests that having some carbohydrates with dinner will help lower cortisol levels and increase serotonin making you feel calm and relaxed which aids a good night’s sleep. However, there is also research to suggest that carbohydrates at night may cause a drop a in blood sugar causing some people to wake up and experience greater levels of hunger during the night or first thing in the morning, coupled with the view we are more insulin sensitive first thing in the morning after our overnight fast, carbohydrates may work better for some people at breakfast.
There are many other factors to consider including your daily routine, metabolic health, stress levels, gut health and the time and nature of your training. The best way to figure this out is conduct an n=1 experiment on yourself. Try having the majority of your carbs with dinner and track the quality of your sleep alongside your appetite and energy levels during the day, or trial a higher carbohydrate breakfast and see what suits you best.
5. Magnesium Supplementation
Magnesium supports the function of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter, that helps the brain to relax and switch off. Taking 200-300mg of chelated magnesium before bed (citrate, ascorbate, glycinate or a mixed of chelates) is a great sleep aid, you can also buy magnesium sprays, moisturisers, bath salts and oils to apply topically.
6. Avoid Caffeine After Midday
Many of our clients comment that they don’t feel caffeine affects them as they have no trouble falling asleep, however, caffeine is highly likely to impact the quality of your sleep. It’s a stimulant and genetically not all of us are that great at metabolising caffeine, meaning it may stay in our system longer than we realise. Caffeine is also a duretic and increased intake may lead to several pee trips during the night.
Try cutting back gradually and limiting caffeinated drinks especially after lunchtime, swap in some naturally decaffeinated coffee or tea, we love Grumpy Mule, Monsoon Estates and Clipper.
7. Stay Cool As a Cucumber
Studies suggest that the optimal temperature for sleep is quite cool around 15-19 degrees celsius. In fact, research indicates that some types of insomnia may be caused by issues regulating body temperature. If your room is too cold or too warm you will struggle to feel comfortable and fall asleep.
A drop in core body temperature helps to make us feel sleepy, so opening the bedroom window half an hour before going to bed and having cotton bed sheets and pyjamas will help to minimise sweating and discomfort.
8. Plugin To Get Sound Asleep
There are somethings we can’t control about our sleep environment and noise might be one of them for you. I’m a light sleeper and often get woken by planes, trains, traffic, foxes squealing or even just Matt’s weird Darth Vader breathing. I use ear plugs most nights and suggest most people have a pair on the bedside table just in case, we always take these when travelling too.
In our experience silicon ones seem to be the most effective at blocking out sound although one night Matt did remove his and start eating them in his sleep so if you’re a cookie monster like him they might not work for you lol!
We hope this is a useful resource. Getting a good night’s kip really is a crucial part of your overall health and wellness. So much so that we’ve devoted a whole week to sleep health on our forthcoming Women’s Health, Hormones and Happiness Retreat.
Sleep therapist Dot Zacharias will be joining us to share lots of important advice and guidance on establishing a personalised sleep routine that works for you and your slumber. There are just two places left and we start Monday 22 March. Find out more here.
Even More Useful Resources:
Lights Out by T.S.Wiley