Struggling to get your eight hours a night? From stress to social obligations, a variety of factors can affect the quality and quantity of our sleep. If you’re tired of being tired, then look to these top tips from Hormone Specialist and Nutritional Therapist Nicki Williams, or watch the video below and you’ll soon be sleeping like a baby…
How do we sleep?
We sleep in cycles and the most important of these is deep sleep. You really need five cycles of deep sleep a night to feel refreshed and each lasts one-and-a-half hours so in an ideal world you should aim to get seven-and-a-half hours sleep a night at least. The hours before midnight are the most restorative, so make sure you go to bed before then (say 11pm) to feel your best.
What happens when we sleep?
Sleep physically restores you, regulates your mood, gives you more energy and boosts your immune system. It’s also when you brain puts down information and ‘detoxes’ after a busy day. Nothing else gives you all those benefits for so little effort.
If you routinely don’t sleep well, you’ll have increased hunger hormones, making you reach for carby and sugary snacks. You’ll also have a 23% increased risk of obesity, be twice as likely to develop diabetes, three times more likely to pick up a cold, and be more inclined to get depression.
What stops us from sleeping?
Stress – This can take the form of physical stress on the body, such as injuries or painful joints, and also digestive stresses, like food sensitives, chemical stresses from the environment and, of course, mental stress.
Hormone imbalances – The main four hormones that play up at night include cortisol (your stress hormone), insulin (blood sugar levels that can be spiked by eating sugar-heavy foods), oestrogen (which if unbalanced with progesterone can have a stimulating effect) and melatonin (your sleep hormone) that can be affected by modern-day stimulants such as phones, laptops or even street lighting. Your thyroid, which is a metabolism regulator, can affect sleep too if it’s off kilter.
Diet – Foods with high levels of sugar or salt, ready meals that contain additives and vegetable oils or anything spreadable which usually contains trans-fats can create dips in insulin that wake you up at night. Coffee and tea should be limited to before midday because it hangs around in the body, as does alcohol and no-sugar drinks which often have artificial sweeteners.
Sleep Environment – No laptops, TVs or phones should be allowed in the bedroom!
How do we sleep like babies?
1. Manage your stress – this has to be a daily commitment, even it is only for ten minutes. Try bathing in Epsom salts, deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
2. Balance your hormones – supplement your diet with vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, iron and zinc; all of these nutrients are needed to balance them, and again managing your stress will also aid this.
3. Good nutrition – eat real food that has a low GI and as much organic produce as you can. Pack healthy fats and quality protein into your diet and avoid refined carbs and sugar. Try not to eat too late at night and also remember to stay hydrated. If you suffer from chronic insomnia, try night-time teas that contain lavender, chamomile and valerian.
4. Sleep environment – bring your sleep time forward to 10.30pm and ensure your bedroom is completely dark; buy blackout blinds and check there’s no artificial lighting in the room from gadgets or TVs. Your bedroom should only be for sleep or sex! Write down anything on your mind on a notepad and avoid watching thrillers or the news. Physical exercise is also a great way to tire yourself out before bed.