Updated: May 26
My clients often tell me they feel tired, even when they have had a full night's sleep. It's important to understand that the quality of the sleep is just as (if not more!) important than the amount of sleep we have.
Read on to discover more about sleep and 8 ways that you can optimise your sleep, starting from tonight!
What makes us sleepy?
The "Circadian Rhythm", which is an internal clock which determines when we are alert and when we are sleepy. A hormone called melatonin is produced by the body when it starts to get dark, which helps to prepare the body for sleep.
Sleep pressure – the longer we are awake, the more tired we become.
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being. Getting enough quality sleep can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and even safety.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
There are many side-effects to not getting enough sleep, ranging from sleepiness, mood disturbances, increased appetite, weight gain, immune system compromise, headaches, inattention, event to accidents (such as when driving). Some symptoms might even go unnoticed - for example, you might unknowingly reach for more sugary treats on the days that you haven't slept well or had enough sleep.
Sleep and its links to Nutrition
When we don’t get sufficient sleep the hormone Ghrelin that makes us hungry increases, and the hormone Leptin that tells us when we are full decreases.
Lack of sleep increases levels of cortisol (also known as the "stress" hormone), which leads to increased appetite, and cravings for unhealthy foods such as sugar and reduces our metabolic rate (which can lead to weight gain in the longer-term).
Foods and drinks that we can consume can also affect our sleep: Caffeine or high sugar diets can prevent us from sleeping, or reduce the quality of sleep that we can achieve.
Foods like turkey, bananas, eggs, dairy, oats, brown rice, potatoes, walnuts are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan which helps to increase production of our sleepy hormone, melatonin.
Here are 8 Tips for improving your sleep - give some of these a go tonight!
1) Your bedroom should be a quiet, cool and dark environment (16-18 degrees is ideal) and consider using black-out blinds or curtains. Start to dim the lights in the evening, to ready your body and mind for sleep. Light a few candles, and get cozy!
2) Get morning daylight as soon as possible after waking!
3) Use bedroom for sleep only, leaving electronics such as phones and laptops outside of the room. Aim to switch off all electronics 1-2 hours before bedtime.
4) Set in place a consistent bedtime and waking time, by aiming to go to bed and waking up at the same time every day of the week, even at weekends.
5) Avoid day-time napping, especially if you struggle with insomnia
6) Exercise during the daytime, but avoid any form of vigorous activity a few hours before bedtime
7) Avoid caffeine in the evenings, and ideally aim to have your last caffeinated beverage by noon (this includes, coffee, tea, green tea, even dark chocolate if you are sensitive to caffeine).
8) If you are hungry before bed have a small snack before bedtime, such as oats which can help encourage sleepiness.
Why not try a Sleep-inducing Smoothie:
2 Kiwi fruits, ½ Avocado, destoned and peeled, 60ml Apple juice, 20g Spinach (frozen), juice of half a lime, 1cm cube Ginger, peeled.
Place all ingredients into a smoothie maker/blender and blend for 15-30 seconds, pour into a glass and enjoy!
Nutritional nugget: the 'sleep-promoting' kiwi fruit is high in serotonin, and folate and is full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all of which play a role in improving sleep quality.
Now, Let’s get some Zzzzzz