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!
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