Sleep is essential for health. Not only does it massively impact your mood (I’m sure you’ve experienced grouchiness and moodiness from sleep deprivation), but it can also have a serious impact on other avenues of your well-being.
A researcher from John Hopkins University has identified that sleep deprivation makes you
- 3x more likely to catch a cold
- 33% increased the risk of dementia
- 48% increased the risk of developing heart disease
- 36% increased risk of colorectal cancer
- Ages your brain 3-5 years
- 50% increased risk of getting obesity when you sleep less than 5 hours per night
…and so many more.
You need regular, good quality sleep to help your cells heal and restore themselves. Without sleep, the quality of your work, concentration and motivation in the following days will be impeded. Like little Zelda featured in the photo above, you need all that goodness sleep can provide to function at your best each and every single day.
So, do you suffer from a lack of sleep or poor quality sleep?
Try my three top tips below to curb the lurking insomnia and feel amazing again!
1. REDUCE BLUE LIGHT
There’s a reason you’re tired when it’s dark at night, but alert during the daytime, and it’s all to do with melatonin.
Melatonin is your sleepy hormone. It works in sync with your circadian rhythm (your sleep-wake cycle), and is low during the day and starts to rise in the evening to induce that sleepy feeling ready for bed, and is at its highest at midnight.
The issue with melatonin: it responds to light. During the hours when the sun is shining, melatonin is inhibited. And when there is no light to detect, melatonin is stimulated to increase and do its job.
This worked wonderfully when technology didn’t exist and our bodies were in tune with the natural cycle of the earth. These days we come home and relax by looking at our phone screens, watching TV and flooding the house with bright light from LED or fluorescent globes. (Think back to when you’ve gone camping – you start to get drowsy a few hours after the sun has set, right?)
These pieces of technology emit a blue light, which has been proven to inhibit melatonin. Research shows that those exposed to blue light after sunset took longer to fall asleep due to being more alert, had less REM sleep (we dream in REM), and felt drowsier and took longer to wake up in the morning.
Try installing a blue light inhibiting app or program on your computer (F.lux) and phone (Blue Light Filter – Night; or Night Shift), stop watching TV 2hrs before bed, and dim your lights or use incandescent globes (red/orange globes) in the rooms you occupy after sunset, or turn off all ceiling lights and only use lamps with red globes.
2. EAT A GOOD DINNER
Sounds simple, right? But it can often be the missing key to that amazing night’s sleep, especially if you wake during the night with the munchies.
And it all relates to blood glucose.
Glucose is a prime energy source for your cells, so that they can carry on with their daily tasks in keeping you alive and healthy. Maintaining a steady blood glucose level is important.
The main way to get glucose is via your food. Simple carbohydrates (sweets, desserts, soft drinks, etc) can produce a quick spike in blood glucose which gives you an abundance of energy short term….and then an energy crash soon after. Protein, fibre and fats in combination with a good carbohydrate source can steady the rise in blood glucose to provide you with sustainable energy for longer.
Because you’re not eating while you’re asleep, your body must maintain a steady blood glucose level so that your cells have the adequate fuel to keep you alive. If you don’t have this adequate level when you go to bed, mid-way through the night your cells start to scream out for more and your body responds by releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
Cortisol and adrenaline are the mighty heroes when it comes to flooding your blood with that much needed glucose to keep your cells and you alive. The problem is, they become the dreaded villains when they’re released at 1am because they enhance your alertness and wake you up prematurely.
Have a good dinner that combines starchy complex carbohydrates, protein, fat and fibre so that your blood glucose is stable throughout the entire night & your munchies are kept at bay.
3. SEE THAT EARLY MORNING SUNSHINE
Lastly, a real easy one.
Get outside and expose your skin and eyes to early morning sunshine.
Research has shown that the earlier your melanopsin-containing ganglion cells (science speak for the photoreceptors in your eyes that respond to light and regulate your melatonin), are exposed to sunshine, the earlier your circadian rhythm is set.
This means, your circadian rhythm cycle starts earlier, and therefore your rise in melatonin at night will occur earlier – leaving you sleepy and craving your bed at a decent hour.
So when you wake in the morning and the sun is shining, go outside without your sunglasses and enjoy those first warming rays. You’ll naturally start to naturally feel drowsier in the evening. (This is a double whammy to help promote serotonin, linked to supporting depression & anxiety!)
If you’re still struggling with getting off to sleep at night (too many thoughts in your head, staring at the empty ceiling), waking up during the night or struggling to fall asleep again once waking, then it may be time to seek out some help.
A Naturopath can help you with the right nutrients to help you sleep, lifestyle tips unique to you, and herbals to kick-start your body back into rhythm.
You don’t deserve to suffer any longer.