Over the years, our lives have become more hectic and fast-paced than ever before. We are working to earn a living, taking care of our homes, raising children, trying to socialize and still have time for ourselves. Our list of things to do and places to be seems unending. We are constantly being bombarded with external stimuli, from television and computers, to phones and tablets. Many of us are so accustomed to giving and receiving information instantly that we forget to slow down and reflect on ourselves.
Our diets are full of sugar, caffeine and processed foods, and more and more, our emotional health and physical activity seem to take a back seat. We are left feeling exhausted before bed, while not waking feeling refreshed.
Sleep is required for repair and rejuvenation. Allowing our bodies to shut down and rebuild on a nightly basis enables us to begin each day with energy and enthusiasm. Making an effort to improve your sleep habits can enhance your quality of life and give you the motivation you need to achieve to stay on track with a healthy lifestyle.
Unhealthy sleep habits can have a harmful impact on carbohydrate metabolism and hormonal balance not to mention overall immune function and mental health.
Here are my top 5 dietary and lifestyle tips to help you improve your sleep patterns.
- Try to sleep a minimum of seven to a maximum of nine hours of sleep per night. Oversleeping can be as detrimental as sleep deprivation.
- Establish regular sleep hours. Try to go to bed and wake up in the morning around the same time every day, even on the weekends. Go to bed before 11:00 pm, preferably by 10:00 pm. Our stress glands, the adrenals, do their best recharging between the hours of 11:00 pm-1:00 am.
- Avoid raising your blood sugar levels at night. Try not to eat in the two hour period before going to bed. If you’re feeling hungry, choose a snack that contains protein because it is a source of the amino acid, tryptophan. We convert tryptophan into serotonin and melatonin, which are the hormones important for sleep. The sugars from fruit may also help tryptophan reach the brain more easily. Also, a cup of calming tea such as chamomile can help you get a little extra sleepy right at bed time.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. These are all stimulating and result in increased heart rate, rapid breathing, increased brain activity and higher levels of stress hormones. Even though that glass of wine seems like it is helping you relax, you are more likely to wake in the middle of the night because of it.
- Have a steamy bath with Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender. The magnesium from the Epsom salts will help you relax and the calming lavender will bring sweet dreams your way. You could even try dropping a drop or two of lavender essential oil on your pillow before bed. Keep the bedroom free of technology and completely dark. Light from night lights and even alarm clocks disrupts our sleep patterns. (Exercise caution with lavender essential oil and hot water temperatures when pregnant.)
Sweet dreams my friends!