Sleep is a natural & vital function. Not getting enough sleep has a big impact on our mood, hormone balance - which amongst other things can effect appetite, cognitive ability, attention and concentration - basically all the things we need to go about our daily lives - yet some of us boast about how we can function with very little sleep...
I've know for a long time that sleep dramatically effects my mood, but more recently I'm recognising more nuanced impacts on decision making, tolerance and behavior.
Two hormones that impact our appetite that are effected by sleep habits are Leptin & Ghrelin.
Leptin tells the body how full, or satiated you feel. Poor sleep can lead to lower levels of Leptin and therefore not feeling satiated.
Grehlin levels can increase with poor sleep. Grehlin stimulates the appetite, and the desire to eat.
So this imbalance that is usually restored by a goods nights sleep can quickly impact your diet even when sleep deprived by just a couple of hours.
The science tells us that between 7-9 hours a night is the optimum amount. Despite its importance, good sleep doesn't just happen - especially in the modern world we live in, where everything is designed to keep our attention & our amagdyla fired up.
Here's a few tips to help you maximise your sleep potential.
Our phones, tablets, TV's produce a light at a similar wavelength to the sun - for thousands of years our daily rhythms have been determined by the daylight hours and a number of hormonal triggers happen when we're exposed to light. The artificial light sources that we can't escape now trick these natural responses.
To unwind before bed, switch off electronic devices at least an hour before bed. Avoid watching TV last thing before sleeping, not only is this a source of light exposure, but the TV program or film itself can be a stimulant, getting adrenaline flowing too!
Reading a book in low 'orange' light is a good alternative, or listen to a podcast or audiobook whilst laid in bed in the dark.
Check the settings on your phone, tablet & TV to see if there is a 'night' setting. These will reduce the blue tones & increase the red/orange tones to try & minimise the stimulating light/colour exposure.
When you sleep, the core body temperature wants to drop ever so slightly. Having a bath, shower or even just washing your face in the sink causes an increase in the blood supply to the surface of the skin, this in turn helps the body cool down.
Room temperature is important too, the cooler the better - this allows you to get comfy under the duvet without over heating. This will often take some experimenting with & of course other factors such as seasonality and the preferences of you partner come into play too, but don't be afraid to try something different.
Ventilation and circulating fresh air helps too, open a window slightly and try leaving the door ajar to help get the stale air out and cool fresh air in.
Change your bed sheets regularly and change your duvet with the seasons, being comfy is important!
Traditionally lavender has been used to aid sleep, there has been research into this with some showing positive effects. The difficult nature of sleep monitoring mean that isn't not 100% conclusive. Having said that, trying a lavender scented fabric softener for bedding, or a lavender bubble bath or event an lavender mist spray is inexpensive to see if it works for you!
Cut down on Caffeine
Caffeine is great, at the right times...but before bed probably not!
Caffeine blocks the receptors in the brain that are responsible for detecting the chemicals that would otherwise feedback on tiredness levels. So by taking coffee, we're reducing the bodies ability to understand when its tired!
Caffeine lasts for quite a long time in the body too, sometimes between 6-8 hours...so that means a strong coffee early afternoon could still be in your system at bedtime. Try cutting down (or better still, eliminating altogether) on caffeinated drinks after midday.
Also, be aware of de-caffeinated coffee...this can sometimes still have between 50% - 80% the caffeine content of a non decaf coffee.
Tea has less caffeine per mug, but it still has a fair amount! A cup of coffee can between 90-200mg per cup, tea be between 15-70mg per cup - so a few of cups of tea can be the same if not more than a decent coffee - even Green Tea has up to 45mg
The general recommendation on caffeine intake is unto 400mg a day. The emphasis being on upto! - and half that if you're pregnant.
Camomile tea before bed help some, as well as range of other sleep teas, but see what if any work for you in your wind down routine.
Write it down
There are many benefits to journalling, and doing it at the end of the day covers a few bases; it allows you to brain dump & draw a line under things that may otherwise keep you awake, or cause you to wake in the night.
It also means you're more likely to switch the TV off, be off you phone and start the unwinding process.
I've blogged before about routine, if you haven't read that one, click this button.
Your body naturally loves routine! Things that we do regularly & consistently become hardwired into our central nervous system and means that the brain doesn't need to spend time & energy thinking about them, they just happen. If you don't believe, think of something that you do everyday, or even multiple times a day, say making. cup of tea...now imagine the havoc that occurs if someone has put the teabags in the wrong cupboard! Not only is it frustrating, but you've been forced to use a different neural pathway to make the cup of tea.
Now apply that to your evenings...do you follow a similar routine, most likely you do. The trick here is to make sure that the routine is one that's conducive to a good restful nights sleep.
What that routine is likely to be different for everyone, but building on some of the points mentioned already, it might involve switching TV's/Phones off an hour before bed, getting things prepared for the morning (reducing items left on your mental to do list), take a shower, journalling, lights off, podcast with a sleep timer. This is often referred to as sleep hygiene.
The benefits of exercise are massive in so many different areas of life, most times are the day are great. However exercise right before bed can cause you to be in a fired up state when you should be winding down. This doesn't last for a long time though, so evening exercise is often not a problem & if its a case of exercising late at night or not at all, then obviously its best to get the exercise done.
Just as reducing light exposure before is a good idea, get out into the day light early in the morning is good for the circadian rhythm too & can even help the wind down at the end of the day & will help with vitamin D levels especially in the darker months.
Ditch the snooze! If you have an alarm to wake you up, switch off the snooze function - it's pure evil!
Try this - when the alarm goes off, count to 5 then get up.
Carbs before bed.
Digesting & processing food requires energy, I'm sure you've felt the afternoon slump? A small carry snack before meal can help induce sleep. A slice of toast, or some cereals might be a good place to start.
Obviously nothing too big that's may cause you to be uncomfortable in bed.
What if I wake up in the night?
This is common, so don't worry. The first thing to remember is don't pickup your phone! This instinct will likely blast your eyes with the wake stimulating light. If you can avoid checking the time too this also helps, I know if I wake up in the night & check the time, my mind is then occupied by how much time I've got left in bed before the alarm goes off!
To get back to sleep, repeat some or all of your evening routine, there's no harm in brushing your teeth again and splashing some water on your face to prompt the cool down we discussed earlier.
There are times we wake in the night unintentionally, and a midnight hypo is one of them - its possibly one of the worst types of hypo for me!
That's why understanding & managing you glucose is so important to minimise the likelihood of a midnight hypo. Bolus & Basal both have a part to play here, as does exercise, activity, stress, meals times & foods. This is big one to get right!
I hope you found these insights useful & there's something there you can try out.
Sleep is a metric that I track with my clients, because the impacts and benefits are so wide reaching. Improving sleep can have a massive benefit to most other factors such as weight management, energy levels, exercise performance, mood, and relationships.
If you'd like to work with me one-to-one on your exercise & activity, food & nutrition, mindset, or glucose management then use the button below to book a call with me.