It’s a new year and recent studies have shown that sleep has finally managed to creep its way back on the priority ladder over the last 15 years.
But what if despite great new year’s resolutions you just can’t make it happen?
What if despite your greatest efforts and wishes sleep just keeps eluding you and you are dreading another year of sleepless nights and foggy days?
Because 12 expert brains are better than 1 I have gathered a group of top health experts to share their best tips on sleep that they are sharing with their patients and clients all in one place. Namely this article for you.
Let's start with nutrition.
1) Here is what Kendra Perry, Functional Nutritionist & Female Hormone Expert is suggesting: “Good sleep starts with breakfast that morning. One of the main causes of the inability to stay asleep is blood sugar crashes which spike cortisol, aka your stress hormone. This can interrupt you sleep, wake you up and make it a lot harder to fall back asleep. Good blood sugar stabilization starts with a healthy, wholefoods breakfast that is high in protein, healthy fat and low in sugar and refined carbohydrates. “ To get great ideas on healthy breakfast recipes CLICK HERE
2) "Follow the 1-2-3 rule" says Lisa Jacobsen - Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. A good way to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep is to cycle your carbohydrates. Contrary to popular opinion, the right kind of carbohydrate can help you sleep.
It increases the amount of tryptophan available to the pineal gland. Tryptophan is needed for the synthesis of melatonin from serotonin. Melatonin in turn is the hormone that tells our body to get tired and get ready to sleep. Here’s how carb cycling works: have one non-starchy, non-processed carbohydrate for breakfast, two at lunch and three at dinner.
Try to focus on getting your carbs primarily from vegetables. Starchy vegetables (e.g., carrots, squash, turnips, white potatoes, corn) have higher amounts of carbs and should be eaten in smaller amounts – particularly if you are trying to lose or maintain your weight. Eliminate foods made with processed sugar and flour until you get your sleep rhythm under control. Then, you can experiment with them to see how and if they affect your quality of sleep.
Ready to change your diet that way and Sleep Yourself Skinny in 7 Days? Just as important and easy to implement is sleep hygiene.
3) Mary Wallace, CHHC, PMP is recommending to create a personal, sleep-prep routine that signals to your body, “we’re going to sleep now”. And do it just before bed. Every. Single. Night. A simple, repeatable and easy routine helps you power down from a busy day and tells your brain, sleep time is near. (Your dentist will love you too!) For example:
- wash your face,
- brush and floss your teeth,
- change into sleeping clothes (not the same sweats from your casual time),
- then climb into bed with the intention of sleep.
This means no extra time multi-tasking, running around in pajamas, working in bed (ugh!), surfing social media on blue-light generating electronic devices such as your phone or tablet that actually will keep you awake!
4) And as we looking at phones or tablets Andrew Sartory, M.Ed., Body and Mind Transformation Expert goes even further by explaining exactly why blue light is such an important factor:
"Stop using all screens at least one hour before bed. TV, computer, phone, etc.
- This decreases blue light exposure, which tells your brain it's daytime and slows down deep sleeping phases.
- It causes you to wind down more quickly. (Scrolling down the phone, watching TV, browsing the internet are all sources that stimulate the 'fight or flight' response and make it difficult to calm down and truly relax).
- It increases the likelihood that you'll go to bed earlier, at a healthier time, and wake up more rested.
BONUS: It also encourages you to be more mindful present in the moment and connected to yourself, which is always helpful to a healthy, fulfilling life. This is a great time to connect with a good book, journal, connect with your partner, and more!"
Use this one hour, or more in a way that feels great to you, and you can experience a mini-vacation or paradise every evening!
Karen Bernstein Shoshana, FDN-P, CHHC agrees by adding: "Melatonin, our hormone that helps us fall asleep, doesn’t like light. Replace your smart phone with an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning." For more ideas on what to include in your bedtime routine you can click here.
Having covered sleep hygiene and nutrition it is obvious that we also need to look at our physical body.
5) Pilates has lots of hidden benefits and one of them is helping reduce insomnia, by relieving anxiety and depression. It will help to calm your mind.
Joseph Pilates himself said “A body free from nervous tension and fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind, fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living”.
Whilst most Pilates clients workout to get rid of aches and pains and get a flatter stomach, they also get the benefits of shaking off some of their daily stress, allowing for a much better night’s sleep says Julie Regan – Pilates Teacher and Life Coach
After, and possibly during a Pilates session, you end up with a mental calmness and because Pilates takes great concentration, this means that you pretty much wipe out all other thoughts. What could be a better solution to addressing everyday stresses in this day and age?
6) "On top of that in order to attain optimal sleep, it is important to exercise regularly.
Careers are such now that many people spend the majority of their day on their duff. And while they may be mentally exhausted at the end of their shift, their physical body has essentially been resting all day. Our bodies were built to move, and the more physical work we perform during the day, the more our body will be ready for rest at night.
I recommend high-intensity-interval-training that incorporates weights, so you get more bang for your buck. You can benefit from cardio and strength training in the same short (as little as 15 minutes) session, making it easy to consistently incorporate exercise into any busy schedule". advises Danielle Theis, FDN-P, CTNC, CPFT .
" Just be careful not to exercise too late in the evening, as it may energize you, pushing bedtime later than optimal."
7) A further secret weapon might be Sudarshan Kriya - A unique powerful breathing technique (patented) that has a profound impact in clearing stress at the physical, mental and emotional levels, relaxing the nervous system that will enable you to have a quality sleep. Effect are immediate after 1st practice, and long lasting, as longitudinal studies show.
This technique combines rhythmic breathing and sound, to re-align us with the core rhythm of our being. Medical literature has backed the effects of SKY practice on our sleep but also our overall physical and mental health. Hence Sudarshan Kriya is also used in clinical set ups to improve clinical depression and help patient recover in oncology departments.
We wouldn't be working holistically though if we didn't incorporate the mind. So here are a few tips and tricks to stop the racing monkey mind:
8) "For my anxious clients that have trouble falling asleep due to worrying, I get them to schedule 10 - 15 minutes in their day for a designated "worry time" explains Tracy Raftl, FDN-P, HC, women's holistic acne expert.
Schedule time to worry?
"Sounds pretty weird, but this cognitive therapy trick is effective and well backed by science. If you schedule time in the day to sit down and have a good ol' worry about all those terrifying 'what ifs', then you can clear your plate of worries for the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day.
So when you're trying to sleep and find yourself dwelling, just tell yourself you can let it go, because you can postpone your worries until the scheduled time. It may take a little persistence at first, and it's important to actually honor your worry time, otherwise your brain will know you're just trying to hoodwink it. Funny though -- when it's finally time for your scheduled worry time, you'll find it's actually pretty hard to make yourself worry on command!"
But as with eveything practice is key. Especially during times when sleep is coming easily so that you are ready for the harder episodes.
9) Kerry Morgan recommends a visualisation as a tool to calm your mind: "To sleep peaceful close your eyes envision your inner being, think of a white shimmering light with gold specks.
Starting at the crown of your head see the light go down your body to your toes as you wash away negative energy through your feet.
Clearing statements could be:
I am free
I am grateful
You prefer something physical to help you sleep? Worry not!
10) "As a herbalist, my goal is to understand the root cause of sleep disturbances for that particular person and then use herbs to help bring their body back into balance… and get some sleep!" says Liane Moccia."Using a herbal formula during the day that helps you manage stress and restore calm energy combined with a nighttime formula that helps clam and sedate can be a winning combination for many people. Daytime combinations might be: Ashwagandha tincture + lemon balm tincture. Evening winners could be: Passionflower + Valerian + Skullcap + Hops combined as a tea or tincture."
11) A further remdy, which I personally also use a lot are essential oils.
"Essential oils are one of the most powerful (proven) natural remedies that can help you get a better night's sleep." explains Dr. Eric Zielinski Bestselling Author & Researcher. "Try putting 2 drops each of lavender, Roman chamomile, and vetiver into your diffuser and turn it on 15 minutes before going to bed. The calming vapors will permeate into the air and create the perfect environment for rest and peaceful sleep."
Woah this is a lot to take in . . . and you know that you might be motivated but old habits are hard to shed. So here is what Evelyn Hitzeman is doing:
12) " I do all the usual sleep routine habits like no caffeine in the afternoon, and I’ve started including bribes! SunMonTues if we’re in bed before 10, my husband gets a massage. WedThurFri if we’re in bed before 10, I get a massage. It’s a fun way to have accountability and keep our sleep schedule regular.”
So oil up and get ready to snooze!
But what if all of this is still not helping? Have you already tried it all? Then here is a KEY piece:
13) "Look into your gut health!" recommends Kylene Terhune, FDNP, CPT "When your mucosal lining is stressed whether from our own mental/emotional stress, food sensitivities, or bacteria imbalances, this causes damage and inflammation. Most of your melatonin, which we commonly recognize as the good sleep hormone, is produced in your gut. When I focused on my own gut health by removing the stressors I discovered, while at the same time healing my gut lining, my melatonin more than doubled and my ability to get to sleep and stay asleep improved dramatically."
And I could not agree more.
Whenever I work with clients we look at hormone balance, gut health and emotional stress at the same time. Because you could be a meditation master but if you have parasites or pathogens creating havoc at 2am you will not be able to sleep. And the same is true the other way around. You might have perfect physical health but when your emotional state is taking a toll on your adrenal glands a hormone imbalance is just around the corner. And with it sleep issues are pre-programmed.
So here are my 2 personal tips for you:
14) Watch your digestion. If you have unstable bowl movement, aka either constipation or diarrhoea, or if you are having a lot of bloating and inability to lose weight then this might very well be tied to your sleep. Have an expert run some lab tests on you to check our your intestinal microbiome and hormonal health.
15) Don't despair! Your body and mind are extremely complex. But they are meant to function perfectly. And the good news is that once your body gets support it will do everything it can to heal itself and get itself back into balance, including sleep. You "just" need to find out where to focus that support step by step. So reach out to a health practitioner with a wider lens and holistic approach once you have taken care of acute health issues with your MD.