Have you given up on sleeping through the night? Are you feeling exhausted or “running on stress hormones” all day? If getting a good nights sleep is one of your personal priorities then you are in the right place. I have some great tips that I’ve tried (and an amazing recipe) for you that can make a big difference to the quality of sleep you are getting!
You might be at the point where you think waking up all night is a normal part of aging. You either wake up to go the bathroom, your ever active brain won’t quiet down, you wake up in a hot sweat, or maybe those aches and pains you never used to have wake you up in the night. Although all of these things may be true- waking up all night is not normal and quite often, having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep is the result of a series of lifestyle choices that can snowball together to give you a poor sleep.
Let’s dive into sleep a little more and find out what things we have control over can work in our favor to improve our sleep.
The science of sleep: fascinating, complicated and growing.
Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we’re 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 so many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer; not to mention effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation. And don’t forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills. Especially when it comes to food choices!
Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program?
OMG – What aspect of health does sleep not affect???
Knowing this it’s easy to see the three 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. For real.
So try not to skimp!
Tips for better sleep
1. 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. Seven. Days. A. Week. 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.
2. Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. You know this but I’ll say it again. Eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fiber). Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavoured snack). Make sure you’re getting some protein every time you eat.
3. 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.
In a Mental Health and Physical Activity study of more than 2,600 men and women ages 18 to 85, getting 150 minutes of exercise per week yielded a 65% improvement in sleep quality compared to those who worked out less or not at all. The exercisers reported less daytime sleepiness, too. Just one more reason to stay active 🙂
And by the way. You might think that working out in the morning is a must, since exercising after work could amp you up and make it harder to fall asleep. But that doesn’t pan out in the research.
4. Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12 pm. Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it’s the “added” sugar we’re minimizing. 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!)
5. 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 an (actual, not “e”) book or having a bath.
6. Turn off your screens. This is a hot topic right now . Our cell phones, tablets, and computers have become such a huge part of our daily lives that it’s often hard to put them down—even at bedtime. Not to mention the hours of watching t.v. that can add up. Keeping your phone on your nightstand may not seem like a big deal, but technology affects your sleep in more ways than you realize.
- They Suppress Melatonin.
The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.
- They Keep Your Brain Alert.
It may seem harmless to knock out a few emails before bed or unwind with a favorite movie, but by keeping your mind engaged, technology can trick your brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake. And if you’re surfing the web, seeing something exciting on Facebook, or reading a negative email, those experiences can make it hard to relax and settle into slumber. After spending an entire day surrounded by technology, your mind needs time to unwind.
Now I’m not saying you have to give up your favorite tv series at night, but pay attention to what it is you are watching or doing on screen. A comedy that has you laughing and releasing endorphins will affect you differently than say the news will. And just like sugar, caffeine, or alcohol, our bodies all react differently and it’s up to us to figure this out.
- They Wake You Up.
Just because you’re not using your cell phone before bed doesn’t mean that it can’t harm your sleep: Keeping a mobile within reach can still disturb slumber, thanks to the chimes of late night texts, emails, calls, or calendar reminders. About 72 percent of children ages six to 17 sleep with at least one electronic device in their bedroom, which leads to getting less sleep on school nights compared with other kids without a device. The difference adds up to almost an hour per night, and the quality of snoozing is negatively affected too. To get a better night’s slumber, parents can limit their kids’ technology use in the bedroom, and mom and dad should be solid role models and set the tone by doing the same 🙂
Healthy Foods That Can Help You Sleep:
So how many of these tips can you start implementing today? Focus on “adding in” rather than taking away or depriving yourself. Here’s a new recipe I bet you would never have thought of!
Rooibos tea (pronounced ROY-boss) is native to South Africa and touts benefit ranging from healthy bones to cancer prevention to weight loss. It contains highly effective antioxidants that fight a large range of diseases. In fact, there is almost no part of your body that doesn’t benefit from rooibos.
From your skin, to your heart, to your bones, this high-antioxidant tea is nothing short of extraordinary.
Recipe (Caffeine-free latte for your afternoon “coffee break”): 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.
And if you want some help with what to eat and how to workout for a leaner, stronger you, check out my 30 Day Slim & Sculpt Program. You’ll be amazed at the difference 30 days can make!