Sleep is the body’s biggest reset button. When we sleep, our digestive systems get a break, our immune systems are revitalized, our brains clean house, and our hormones come back into check.
Consistent, proper sleep (we’re talking 7-9 hours a night without tossing and turning) is imperative for good health. Not to mention, lack of sleep affects the secretion of thyroid-stimulating hormone, increases levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol, and reduces insulin sensitivity, causing weight gain.
Unfortunately, poor sleep is more common than not. In the United States, more than 70 million people suffer from a sleep disorder. Transient insomnia affects up to 80% of the population, and chronic insomnia burdens about 15%. Let’s take a look at what may be messing with your sleep.
A Poor Diet
There is a powerful connection between what you eat and how you sleep. It’s no secret that an upset stomach and indigestion may make it harder to fall asleep. Often times poor digestion can be caused by a poor diet – specifically too much sugar, processed foods and commonly irritating foods like gluten, dairy, soy and peanuts. Sugar is a killer, and not necessarily just white table sugar either. Think about what your body processes like sugar – too much fruit, too many processed carbs, a cup of coffee without any food or healthy fat to blunt the insulin spike. These all lead to unstable blood sugar levels, which send your adrenals and mind into an unsteady zone. Additionally, our bodies need the proper amino acids, vitamins (especially vitamin D), minerals, and fatty acids (shout out to omega-3s) to create the calming neurotransmitters that allow us to sleep.
THE FIX — Eliminate sugar, corn syrup, and refined foods. If you want to take it a step further, eliminate gluten, dairy, soy and peanuts as well. “Close your kitchen” a few hours before bed, so your body can break down your dinner before you go lay down for the rest of the night. It’s always a best practice to give yourself 12 hours in between dinner and breakfast the next morning. Feel free to go a few hours past that too if it feels good in your body. Trust me it’s hard to eliminate sugar but you absolutely can and then reintroduce it back so that it’s not addictive.
Stimulants (caffeine, medications, alcohol, recreational drugs)
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that blocks sleep neurotransmitters, our body’s natural calming signals. It is important however to note that we all metabolize caffeine differently. Some of us a fast-metabolizers, and some of us are slow-metabolizers. The CYP1A2 gene controls an enzyme – also called CYP1A2 – that determines how quickly our bodies break down caffeine.
One variant of the gene causes the liver to metabolize caffeine very quickly. People who inherit two copies of the “fast” variant – one from each parent – are generally referred to as fast metabolizers. People with this gene makeup can actually metabolize caffeine about four times more quickly than people who inherit one or more copies of the slow variant of the gene (slow metabolizers).
According to Sleep Medicine Specialist Dr. Dianne Augelli, alcohol decreases the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that we get, which is important for consolidating memories, optimal cognitive functioning, concentration and learning from the previous day. Personally when I drink to much alcohol, my sleep is almost always ruined – tossing, turning, sweating, and up at 5am, regardless of when I went to bed. Anyone else?
THE FIX — Try omitting caffeine and alcohol from your diet for a month and see what happens. It’s usually easier to replace one habit with another habit. Swap the alcohol for herbal tea after a long day at the office, and the coffee for a hot lemon water, matcha or tea.
Chronic Stress / Over-Stimulated Nervous System
Do you have a mile long to-do list? Are you trying to juggle everything from family to work to school to self-care to social time. It can be hard…and stressful. Too much stress is a common cause of disordered sleeping. While stress can be reduced, it most likely won’t completely go away (and it is actually good in small amounts for certain functions!), so learning how to cope with it is key. Filling the voids in your health with key minerals and nutrients is important, not sure what you need- schedule a time to chat with me.
THE FIX — Do some breathing exercises, restorative yoga or meditation.
Evening Blue Light
Put the phone down! I know you guys, I get it. There are nights where I am aimlessly scrolling through Instagram to take a “brain break”, and there are other nights when you can catch me responding to emails in bed. I totally get it. It can be a tough habit to break. Electronics such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and TVs omit a harsh blue light. This light prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, and reduces alertness the following morning – all a recipe for poor sleep.
THE FIX — Switch off all electronic devices by 10pm, or 2 hours before you go to bed. This will free up your headspace AND help you sleep soundly.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that up to 70 percent of the population is deficient in – our nutrient poor diets and stressful lifestyles eat it away. This mineral is directly involved in over 300 different bodily functions. Many important uses include muscle, brain and nervous system function. It also supports healthy bowel movements, reduces stress and improves sleep. Make sure it’s bioavailability whatever you take- this won’t be easy to find and it’s not on Amazon or in GNC.
THE FIX — Take a magnesium supplement. Look for magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate, and try taking when winding down for bed. Everyone reacts a little differently, so see what works best for you. Please make sure it’s bioavailability otherwise it’s a waste of time and money and you are further polluting your body.
No Evening Routine
Many of us don’t have proper evening routines. We go about our days running full speed ahead, with our minds racing and tasks growing. Wind down and set yourself up. Ease into it and set the mood. Make sure the bedroom is being used for just sleep and romance, not email writing like I mentioned above.
THE FIX — Take a warm bath or shower, light a candle, listen to soft music, read a few pages of a good book, practice legs up the wall (a personal favorite), whatever it is for you to get your mind and body relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep. Do this consistently so your body knows what is coming each and every evening.
Not Enough Time in Nature
Many of us sit inside at desks all day, workout in gym, commute in cars/trains/buses, and then get home from our day and sit on our comfy couches until it is bedtime. We are avoiding sunlight exposure without even knowing it. Before the invention of artificial light, we were somewhat forced to go to bed when the sun went down and wake up when the sun came up. Our bodies still have natural circadian rhythms. Sunlight exposure is very important for our sleep cycles. Light serves as the major synchronizer of your “master clock”, or a group of cells in your brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). This clock, along with a few others, triggers the body to release specific chemicals and hormones that are important to healthy sleep, mood, and aging.
THE FIX — Try to get at least half an hour of regular exposure to natural sunlight a day – best if first thing in the morning! Hit the pavement instead of the treadmill. Take a brisk walk to wake up in the morning. Walk with coworkers to grab lunch, and maybe even take that lunch break outside. Soak up that vitamin D. If you are a woman of color you simply can’t get vitamin D from the sun so make sure you have a bioavailability supplement to ensure you get what your body is craving.
Environmental Toxin Exposure
Exposure to chemicals in personal care products may contribute to menopause-related sleep woes, and insomnia, study suggests. A new study adds another potential factor to the mix: endocrine-disrupting environmental chemicals (EDCs), especially phthalates.
“This study is important because endocrine-disrupting chemicals are everywhere,” says Stephanie Faubion, MD, a women’s health physician at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, and the medical director for the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). “It provides additional evidence of potential sex differences in endocrine disrupting chemical exposure (in this case, phthalates) and impact on health.”
THE FIX — Reduce the toxins in your environment, we can’t do it all but there are things we can do. When we’re in the realm of personal care products. I think it’s really, really important to consider the quality of the products that we’re using and being careful of a lot of the ingredients that are found in there because we’re applying them to our skin and our skin is an organ we don’t really think of our skin is an organ but it is and it doesn’t absorb everything, but it does absorb a lot of things and a lot of the chemicals that we put on our body do enter into the bloodstream and the problem With that, and this is also true for any chemicals that we inhaled, so the fragrances and scented candles and air fresheners, all those things that we’re breathing in, is they actually can go right into our bloodstream, straight from our lungs and straight from being absorbed through our skin. So when we eat something, and when we drink something, those substances have the benefit of going through our digestive system into our liver. And they benefit from what’s called first pass metabolism, which is the first pass at metabolizing. Something very aptly named, when we absorb things, whether topically through our skin, or sublingually, meaning under your tongue. Or if we breathe something in, they actually, those substances bypass the benefit, they miss that miss out on that benefit of first pass metabolism. And they instead go straight into the bloodstream where then they can kind of do their damage. And eventually, they’ll make their way back to the body to the liver to be metabolized if possible. But they can be more toxic because of that. So putting things on our skin matters. I could go more in depth and I will in a masterclass actually. But we have to stop giving companies a pass because we are willingly unwillingly killing ourselves and allowing things like sleep, diabetes, obesity, a fupa, migraines, heart disease to take center stage beverage we aren’t protecting ourselves and making the necessary changes. If you are needing help don’t hesitate to message me.