One of the most important aspects of improving your health and longevity of life is to get good quality, adequate sleep. But that is often easier said than done.
Here are a few tips on how to improve your sleep to help you:
- Feel more rested
- Increase your energy
- Improve fat loss
- Grow more muscle
- Improve brain function
- Increase longevity of life
- ….to name a few benefits
- Limit sugar and processed carbohydrate intake
Excess sugar and processed carbohydrates (simple carbs), increases inflammation in the body. It excessively spikes insulin levels, has the liver working harder than it needs to and creates an imbalance in the gut flora which can lead to digestive issues.
All of this interrupts the quality of your sleep. This is because your body is too busy trying to combat the excess sugar problem rather than resting.
But how much is ‘excess’? The reality is anything more than 5g of sugar in the blood at any given time can be fatal. Which is why you secrete so much insulin when you consume sugar and carbohydrates; its job is to remove the sugar from the blood.
If you consume sugar in fruit or complex carbohydrates such as rice, quinoa or potatoes, these contain soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber counterbalances the sugar response.
Processed carbohydrates and sugars such as any form of granulated sugar, bread, pastries, pastas, candy, chips, etc. are excess. You will already be consuming natural sugar and carbohydrates from your fruit and vegetables.
If you are waking between 2:00-3:00am check your sugar and carbohydrate intake throughout the day. This time intakes excess stress and your liver overworking. (Can also be excess lifestyle stress which we will cover shortly.)
For best practice for sleep improvement purposes, keep the excess sugars as random treats, rather than a daily occurrence.
- Avoid spicy and garlicy food for at least 2 hours before bed
Spicy food and/or garlic can really flare up your digestion, having your liver and kidneys working in overdrive. These can impact how quickly you fall asleep, and how long you stay asleep.
Your body doesn’t want to be working too hard in the evening when it is supposed to be resting.
- Manage your stress
Sugar is stored in all cells in the form of glycogen. When you are stress, your body has the ‘fight or flight’ response. This triggers the release of adrenalin and cortisol (your stress hormones) and your body to convert the glycogen to glucose (sugar) which it then secretes into your blood as instant energy. It does this to give you the ability to fight or flee. It thinks you are being chased by a tiger. However, if you don’t have a tiger in your life, there’s a good chance you are just experiencing life stresses.
Once in the blood the sugar is suppose to be used as energy. If you are not running towards or away from a tiger and you are just experiencing life stresses, you will not burn that sugar off. If it builds up it can be fatal, as we have already discussed. As such, insulin transports it to the liver for metabolism. The liver will then consider how much glycogen is required in the cells. If the glycogen that was converted to glucose and secreted in the blood, has now been replenished (usually because you’ve eaten), it cannot convert the sugar back to glycogen. Therefore the liver converts that sugar to fat, usually visceral fat, the dangerous fat that is stored around the organs. That’s because it is easier to just store it close to the liver, since if you are constantly stressed, you will be creating lots of this fat.
When all of this is happening, your liver tends to be working too hard, the excess stored fat is highly inflammatory, the constant cortisol then keeps you wired and unable to produce adequate levels of melatonin, our sleepy hormone. So the more stressed you are, the less you will be able to sleep.
You can’t always remove stresses in your life, so it is good to do things to counterbalance those stresses. Anything that triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, the system that helps you relax, will help here. Here are a few suggestions:
- Have a warm bath before bed
- Turn off all social media and electronics at least an hour before bed. The blue light omitted from electronics can impact your sleep, but also, your excitement or anxiety caused by social media, ads to your stress response.
- Breathing exercises
- Color in
- Crafts of any sort
- Walking in sunshine
- Walking bare foot on grass, soil or sand
- Reading fiction
- Basically anything that helps you relax
- Create a wind down ritual before bed to get you sleepy and relaxed
Turn off the overhead light and switch on a lamp. The overhead light represents the sun, wake time. The side lamp represents the moon, sleep time. When the light is dim and coming from the side, the brain thinks the moon is out and so secrete melatonin the sleep-inducing hormone.
Put your pajamas on ready for bed so you don’t wake up trying to get changed when going to bed.
Turn off all electronics and read instead or do something from your list in point 3, that will help you relax and unwind. Drink a warm cup of herbal tea such as liquorice, chamomile or lavender which also ignites sleepiness.
- Sleep in pitch black
In our natural habitats of the past we would be sleeping outdoors in the dark, perhaps in a cave. As such, our bodies require the darkness to be able to re-set everything and obtain complete rest. So ensure you have no lights in your room. Block out windows to block out street lights or wear a sleep mask.
- Sleep in a silent room
Remove any noise such as ticking clocks etc. as these sorts of noises can interrupt sleep quality. White noise usually helps relax and settle.
- Ensure room temperature is not too hot or too cold
The ideal temperature for sleeping is around 20° Celsius. If you are too warm or too cold it can interrupt your sleep quality and length.
- Aim for 7-8 hours each night
8 hours sleep is the recommended average however some people do need more. So if you wake feeling tired, you might be one of those people that need a bit extra.
Look at what time you need to wake up in the morning and set an alarm in the evening, 8 hours prior to the time you need to get up, to remind you it’s bedtime.
- Coach Terri