How have you been sleeping lately? Sleep deprivation is a common issue for those struggling with health conditions, like autoimmune disease, for example. Whether it’s difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or just interrupted sleep, not getting enough quality rest can do a lot more than just make you cranky. Being tired from not sleeping well can make it hard to concentrate, affect your memory, and leave you with no energy. And when you’re exhausted, it can be hard to handle symptoms that come with your condition.
And even worse, poor sleep can actually lead to weight gain! This is because sleep deprivation reduces the hormone leptin which is what helps us regulate hunger and appetite. And not sleeping well increases the hormone ghrelin which triggers feelings of hunger. So more ghrelin and less leptin = weight gain!
The first step to helping improve your sleep is cutting out sugar! Eating refined sugars spikes and drop your blood sugar levels, resulting in energy fluctuations throughout the day. And, the more sugar you eat during the day, the more often you will wake up at night. This is because the sugar in your system can pull you out of a deep sleep, making you feel tired the next day.
In addition to cutting out sugars, here are some more natural tips on how to get better sleep:
1. Watch when and what you eat at night: Focus on lean protein, whole grains, nuts/seeds, and fruits/vegetables for your daily meals and snacks.You can also try eating a high fiber carbohydrate snack such as whole grain toast or crackers, oatmeal, a banana or grapefruit, 1-2 hours before bed, which may help you fall asleep more easily. These foods increase serotonin levels, which promotes relaxation and initiates sleep.
2. Get outside everyday. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by your pineal gland at night which helps to promote a deep sleep. In order to have good quality melatonin, you need to get sunlight on your face during the day. So, get outside! Rain or shine, summer or winter, make an effort to go for a 20 minute walk every day.
3. Sleep in darkness. That hormone melatonin I just mentioned? It really likes darkness. When you go to the bathroom at 3 am and turn on the light, you have now decreased your melatonin production. Make sure you sleep in a pitch black room to pump up your melatonin levels. Get rid of those pretty curtains and invest in some black-out shades that block out those street lights. Keep a dim night light in the hallway or bathroom if you get up in the middle of the night. And turn off all electronics, including your cell phone.
4. Increase your magnesium intake. This essential mineral calms the nervous system and promotes a restful sleep. One sign of a magnesium deficiency is anxiety and poor quality sleep. Try adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet, such as dark green veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts/seeds, bananas, watermelon, figs, potatoes, and green beans. Another option is to drink water with added powdered magnesium before bed.
5. Make a 2 o’clock cut off for caffeine. Research shows that it’s that late-afternoon coffee that causes the most sleep problems. So drink your caffeinated beverages before 2 pm or opt for green tea instead. While green tea is mildly caffeinated, it also contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that promotes a balanced mood and restful sleep.
6. Be smart about your napping. While a short nap can help you rejuvenate, set an alarm and limit it to just 30 minutes. And be warned! If you take a nap too close to bedtime you won’t be able to fall asleep!
7. Stop drinking entirely an hour before bed. Hydrating is great, but if you do it too close to bedtime, your sleep will be interrupted by a mid-slumber bathroom break.
8. Purposely try to relax and wind down before bed. Do something calming before you call it a night. Meditate, take a bath, read a book or have a cup of hot tea or milk an hour before you’re planning to go to sleep. Aim to free your mind and body from stressful thoughts from the day.
9. Stay on schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. If your body knows the routine, it will be easier to get a solid night’s sleep every night.
10. Sleep in darkness. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, likes darkness, and light in the room can decrease its production. Make sure you sleep in a pitch-black room to pump up your melatonin levels. Invest in some black-out shades that block out street lights.
11. Check the temperature. If you’re too hot or too cold, you won’t be able to sleep well. The optimal sleeping temperature is 60-67 degrees, but this is personal to you. Experiment with pajamas, blankets and room temperature until you determine what works best for you.
Don’t go overboard and try to change your whole routine in one fell swoop. Instead, choose just one area where you could alter your habits and see if you catch a better night’s rest. More rest will help you overcome cravings and give you more energy over the course of the day.
And remember to cut out sugar! Removing sugars from your diet will help you sleep better too!
Making these small lifestyle changes can have a big effect on how well you sleep. It may take some time to notice an improvement, but if you’re consistent, you’ll get that quality slumber that will boost your mood, energy and, hopefully, help you feel better on even your toughest of days.
Learn more about better sleep with the help of yoga in the book Optimal Health for a Vibrant Life: A 30-Day Program to Detoxify and Replenish Body and Mind!
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.