Tracey Loughran, Naturopath & Nutritionist
We’re hearing from loads of our clients that their sleep cycle has really been all over the place since they have been on lockdown for Covid-19. From essential workers to those of us working from home, the combination of stress, uncertainty, changed routines and dietary influences have really been challenging to restful sleep.
So in today’s article, I’m going to share with you my top 5 healthy sleep shortcuts (from my seminars and clinical consultations – things that really work).
#1: Routine, routine, routine
As boring as it is, this is one of the cornerstones for healthy sleep. Your brain is a very routine-based organ, and responds to cues very rapidly. Set a bed time. Stick to it. Also, set a “bed preparation time” i.e. at least half an hour before going to bed, start getting ready.
Set a wake-up and get-up time and stick with it. If you are feeling tired (common in Autumn, as the body prepares for rest in winter), set an afternoon rest time too, but keep to the routine and make it the same time of day. It won’t take long for your body to adjust to this, and benefit from it. Very good for stress levels.
#2: Love your liver
If you choose foods and beverages that are detrimental to your liver; or take prescription medications; or have a hormone imbalance, then your liver function may be less than optimal. Your liver is most active between the hours of 1am – 10am. If you find yourself waking in the early hours of the morning, it may be due to the burden on your liver, which may wake you. Can you remove caffeine and alcohol for a week or so to lighten the load? It may seem hard, but it won’t take long for your sleep to benefit from this.
#3: Even out your blood sugar level
Have a high protein snack about half an hour before bed. Something easily digestible, like an egg is great. This helps your brain form L-Tryptophan, Serotonin and Melatonin – all assist with healthy sleep cycles. Also have a small slice of fruit – this helps carry tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier.
#4: Eat some oats
If you’re not coeliac, then try adding oats to your diet (or even your bath inside in a muslin bag – very good for soothing the skin and soul!). Eating a couple of Oatcakes later in the evening may help with sleep, as Oat are good for the nervous system.
Add some hummus if you like this (here’s one of my favourite recipes):
#5: Remove artificial light
Remove artificial light sources for an hour before bed (or dim the lights at least). Turn off all devices an hour at least before bed. Light is one of the most important external factors that can affect sleep. It does so both directly, by making it difficult for people to fall asleep, and indirectly, by influencing the timing of our internal clock and thereby affecting our preferred time to sleep.
Light influences our internal clock through specialized "light sensitive" cells in the retina of our eyes. These cells, which occupy the same space as the rods and cones that make vision possible, tell the brain whether it is daytime or night time, and our sleep patterns are set accordingly.
Due to the invention of the electric lightbulb in the late 19th century, we are now exposed to much more light at night than we had been exposed to throughout our evolution. This relatively new pattern of light exposure is almost certain to have affected our patterns of sleep. Exposure to light in the late evening tends to delay the phase of our internal clock and lead us to prefer later sleep times.
Here's to a more restful night’s sleep everyone!
Tracey Loughran, Naturopath & Nutritionist
Now that you know what inflammation is and a few tips on how to reduce it, let’s get specific about food.
Author and early natural health advocate Ann Wigmore really said it best:
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
Unfortunately, our standard Western diet is definitely geared towards the latter.
Let’s look at my top three foods that you should include to keep chronic inflammation out of your life, and how they affect the body’s inflammatory processes.
ADD THEM IN:
1. Healthy Fats
Wrongly demonised for far too long now, most of us know that some fat is good, healthy, and vital.
Extra virgin olive oil, avocados, and nuts and seeds all provide excellent sources of good fats.
Omega-3 fats deserve special mention. They are found in oily, cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel, and also in plant sources such as algae and flaxseed. Omega-3s have been found to be specifically anti-inflammatory.
These fats are part of a biochemical pathway which produce chemicals such as anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. These prostaglandins are also important in keeping blood pressure regulated and reducing the risk of blood clotting.
These fats are termed Essential Fatty Acids because we need to ingest them regularly.
Get at least 2-3 servings of omega-3 fats each week, or talk to me about a high-quality supplement.
2. More Plants
While the NZ Ministry of Health has been talking about “5 a day”, to really bring inflammation down, you should aim for 7-10 servings daily. Aim to include a wide variety of dark and brightly coloured mostly-vegetables-and-some fruit daily.
A good way to ensure that you are getting your required servings without counting, is to try and make at least half your plate veggies and fruit at each meal and snack.
Some of my favourite anti-inflammatory plant foods include kale, spinach, blueberries and other dark berries, red, orange, and yellow capsicum, and green tea.
The colours present in plant foods indicate different phytochemicals (plant chemicals), many of which are anti-inflammatory. Some that you may have heard of include anthocyanidins, found in blue and purple foods, lycopene, found in red foods such as tomatoes, and carotenoids, found in orange and yellow foods.
3. Herbs and Spices
Many culinary herbs and spices which have been used for centuries to flavour our food also have a secondary purpose. While many of these are herbal medicines which I use in my clinic with clients, adding them to your daily diet can have a profound ability to prevent and reduce your inflammatory load.
Turmeric, ginger, and cardamom, prevalent in Indian and Asian cooking, have all shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin, one phytochemical found in turmeric, has had a huge amount of research on it recently. Studies show that its anti-inflammatory actions may be protective against stomach ulcers, IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, allergies, autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Ginger, that pungent root which we know as being good for nausea, contains potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory compounds that make it especially suited to inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract.
And cardamom, found mainly in Indian deserts, has been shown to have protective effects against cancer, inhibiting the proliferation and invasion of cancer cells. It is also protective against bone loss, making it a great spice to add in to any menopausal woman’s daily diet.
Tip- One new recipe each week
A great way to add in these foods without feeling overwhelmed is to add in one new recipe each week, using one (or all!) of the ingredients above.
Try Pumpkin Dahl Soup or a new Smoothie recipe
Stay tuned for the next installment on the Top 3 Worst Foods for Inflammation.
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Want to do something more about it now? Concerned about an inflammatory condition that is affecting your life? Book now for a one-on-one session with me to get to the root of your issues, and to guide you back to optimal health so that you can live your best life.