When was the last time you woke up without an alarm, refreshed and didn’t need a few cups of coffee to get going in the morning?
There’s no question that we all want better sleep! But, with all of the distractions, and stresses of daily life – it’s a wonder how any of us sleep at all…ever!
I blame it on today’s culture of “we’ve got to rise and grind!” in order to succeed – where we’re in a constant state of digital stimulation, hustle and bustle. So much to do and so little time left to work on adequate sleep.
Truth is, not getting enough sleep impacts our brain health and memory long term, and even our body’s ability to detoxify and renew itself through cellular turnover and repair. Poor quality and quantity of sleep is a BIG area of stress for the body. And stress is often one of the root causes for many of our chronic diseases and health problems.
So, it’s really no wonder that we’re seeing an exponential increase in diseases like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disorders, thyroid issues and adrenal dysregulation. In fact, lack of sleep messes with many of our hormones – and you know what happens when our hormones aren’t happy! Hello symptoms like PMS, weight gain, acne, irregular periods, fatigue, hair loss, and even anxiety.
Speaking of hormones – did you know that we have 400 times more MELATONIN (the body’s natural “sleep hormone”) in our gut than in our brains? That’s reason enough to focus on gut health as part of a healthy sleep routine! When working with clients we always address the gut and often start with a comprehensive stool test.
Little known facts about what happens to our hormones when you don’t get enough zzz’s:
- GHRELIN – your hunger hormone increases by 15% after just one night of poor sleep. And, it can also dramatically affect your LEPTIN – the hormone of satiety. It’s no wonder we want to eat a big pile of sugar and carbs when we’re tired – we’re looking for a big fat energy fix (2)!
- Chronic sleep deprivation correlates with elevated nighttime CORTISOL – your stress hormone. When cortisol is elevated, you’re not only more hungry, but you tend to store more visceral fat in the abdominal area = dreaded belly fat (3)!
- The production of HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE (HGH – dubbed the fountain of youth hormone) is at its peak during the first half of our sleep. This is what’s known as the Delta sleep stage – when we get into our deepest sleep and restoration takes place.It protects muscle from breaking down, aids in building new lean muscle tissue, and gives you energy. This means you’re able to lose weight more efficiently and maintain lean body mass…but only when you sleep well!
Here are 6 ways you can help improve your sleep naturally:
- KEY NUTRIENTS: Eat a diet rich in both prebiotic & probiotic foods as the bacteria in your gut can interfere with Melatonin. Probiotics include things like raw sauerkraut or coconut kefir. Prebiotic rich foods include things like asparagus, plantains, greener bananas, apples, onions, and garlic. Also, eating foods that are high in “sleep nutrients” is essential. For example, potassium helps us stay asleep and can be found in bananas, coconut water and avocados (1). Magnesium is a relaxant, and helps us to fall asleep, but 80% of us are believed to be deficient in this multi-tasking mineral.
- BALANCED DINNER: Pay special attention to the last meal of the day – a balanced dinner should include an ample amount of protein, veggies, good fats, and a small amount of “slow, low” complex carbs like sweet potatoes, butternut squash or plantains. Meals like this can help support healthy blood sugars which are imperative for proper sleep. If you are having adrenal or blood sugar issues then it may even be a good idea to have a bedtime snack to prevent nightly sugar drops. If your blood sugar dips in the middle of the night then cortisol kicks in and can cause you to wake up. Even just a handful of nuts or a spoonful of coconut oil can be helpful before bed.
- LIMIT ALCOHOL: Alcohol inhibits deep REM sleep – this is when we dream as well as when our memories get solidified from short to long-term.Even just one glass of our beloved vino can affect REM sleep. Enough said – limit alcohol, especially right before bed.
- PRACTICE GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE: the environment you create, and the rituals and routines you follow around sleep = sleep hygiene. So, an earlier bedtime (by 10pm) + practicing good sleep hygiene = better sleep! I personally love a cup of Organic India Tulsi Sleep tea, a few minutes of meditation, and making sure I am off my phone at least two hours before bed. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it!
- DITCH THE DEVICES! This cannot be understated and falls into practicing good sleep hygiene. Set a screen curfew for at least an hour before bed. The blue light emitted from our devices lowers melatonin production by up to 50%. Wow!
- ESSENTIAL OILS: adding a few drops of calming essential oils’s like lavender, vetiver, frankincense, sandalwood & Roman chamomile in a diffuser, in a hot bath with epsom salt before bed or on your pillow can work wonders to help you drift off to sleep.
There’s absolutely no question that getting enough quality sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health! It does take some practice, and perhaps a few biological “hacks” to balance your body’s natural circadian rhythm, but a better night’s sleep can be achieved naturally! If these techniques don’t help you then it may be time to work with something that can help you dig deeper. Things like gut infections, hormone imbalances, mineral imbalances, or even heavy metals are just a few areas that might need to be investigated further.