Do you have trouble falling asleep, or if you do, can't stay asleep? Lack of restorative sleep is an issue I see a lot of in clinic as well as suffering from insomnia myself. It can lead to feelings of exhaustion or “running on stress hormones” all day. If this sounds like you, rest assured you are not alone. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention one third of US adults get less than six hours sleep per night.
The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and is a growing field of study. We are just beginning
to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.
Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind. People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer; not to mention effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation. Don't forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills.
The 3 Main Purposes of Sleep
To restore our body and mind. Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
To improve our brain's ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
To conserve some energy so we're not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day.
Do you know how much sleep adults need? It's less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it's recommended that all adults get 7 - 9 hours a night! A big ask for most of us, I know.
So how can we try to improve our restorative sleep? I have listed the practices that I use to ensure I have done everything possible, lifestyle wise, to encourage better sleep patterns.
Tips for better sleep
The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Make it a priority and you're more likely to achieve it. This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. Every Day. I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.
Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. Eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fibre). Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavoured snack). Make sure you're getting some protein every time you eat.
Open your blinds first thing in the morning to let the sunshine in. This helps "switch" off melatonin production and increase cortisol production. During the day get some sunshine and exercise. These things tell your body it's daytime; time for being productive, active and alert. By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm. Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it's the “added” sugar we're minimising. Yes, this includes your beloved chai latte. Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be come evening. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you below!).
Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 - 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading a book. I love to make a herbal tea and sit quietly in my room with a book.
Have a hot shower or bath 10 minutes prior to going to bed. A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, and Applied Human Science found that getting HOT close to bedtime (via a bath or foot bath) can significantly improve sleep onset (meaning that you fall asleep faster).There is a rebound effect that your body temperature has to the heat, that will make your core temperature drop even lower and helps to elicit relaxation and sleep onset (as mentioned in the study). This was a very small study but personally, I have found a hot shower before bed helps with my sleep onset.
Create a sanctuary in your bedroom. A calm, clean, uncluttered space that you look forward to sleeping in. I am sure we have all had those times where our rooms become a mess, whether it is work, kids, study, clothes being thrown around because you have nothing to wear (that might just be me....), and we just crawl into bed regardless. But remember those other times........ when your room is clean and tidy, spacious and serene? You wake up feeling happier and focused.
So how many of these tips can you start implementing today?
Caffeine-Free Chai Latte
1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)
2 cups of boiling water
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)
2 dates (optional)
Cover the teabag and dates (if using) with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for a few minutes.
Discard the tea bag & place tea, soaked dates, tahini & almond butter into a blender.
Blend until creamy.
Serve and Enjoy!
Tip: You can try this with other nut or seed butters to see which flavour combination you like the best.
Cashew butter anyone?