How to Improve Your Sleep Habits

Poor sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, and many other health problems. Think about it, the more tired you are the more you try to make up for it with caffeine, sugary snacks, or food to keep you awake and functioning. Sleep is important for recovery, hormone secretion, and is also where memories are formed. You cannot adapt properly to stressors without quality sleep.

Research has shown when you are lacking sleep late night snacks increases, you’re more likely to choose sugary snacks and you might even eat twice as much fat than those who are getting their 8 hours. Cravings and bigger portions are also observed side effects.

Your brain needs proper rest to function and lack of sleep can cause your hormones to go array. Deprivation can trigger a cortisol increase signaling your body to store energy and can even impact your insulin sensitivity! Sleep is a critical factor metabolic health.

A few strategies:

  • Avoid heavy meals before bed or foods that cause GI symptoms (bloating, gas, cramps, etc)
  • Don’t drink excessive amounts of fluid before bed
  • If you like hot baths or showers try to lower the temperature
  • Avoid caffeine or sugary foods within a few hours before bed
  • Don’t drink alcohol, smoke or use other drugs before bed
  • Don’t exercise right before bed
  • Make your sleep environment comfortable, upgrade pillows, sheets, and comforter
  • Schedule morning wake up time and bedtime
  • Gentle yoga, foam rolling or stretching
  • Try reading or praying
  • Have a hot soothing decaffeinated tea (I like chamomile or peppermint)
  • Try a sleep mask
  • Eliminate light, try black out curtains and any clocks or electronics that light up
  • Diffuse lavender or use an essential oil roller
  • Focus on relaxing your body and mind “not forcing yourself to fall asleep”.

Developing a Regular Daily Routine

Your body operates better with a cycle of activity and rest periods. Pick a regular waking time and bedtime. Slow down activity in the evening. Try to avoid high stress or stimulating activities including electronics.

Possible Foods and Supplementation (always speak to your physician before starting supplementation, try food sources and follow a balanced diet):

Magnesium- calms the nervous system and relaxes muscles, easing you into sleep. It also regulates melatonin. Insufficient intake for magnesium has been linked to sleep disorders.

Foods High in Magnesium:

Dark Chocolate (also contains caffeine)

Tofu

Beans/Legumes

Avocados

Nuts or Nut Butter: Cashews, Almonds, Brazil Nuts

Pumpkin Seeds

Whole Grains

Valerian Root and Melatonin supplements appear to be safe when used for short periods of time, but not much is known about long-term safety yet.

 

What about winding down with a drink or two?

Alcohol and Sleep

Unfortunately, alcohol is a drug that interferes with your sleep cycle so you may not be getting the most restful sleep. It also may be suppresses your dreams especially when blood alcohol levels are dropping. It’s important to assess alcohol and other sedating drugs when treating poor sleep or insomnia. Alcohol can also become an addiction and you may experience withdrawal symptoms, which could also be impacting your sleep.

Research:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27933574

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12030424

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23969766

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23853635

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3227713/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3767932/