Updated: Nov 8, 2020
8 hours quality sleep a night is merely a dream for some - imagine waking up fully refreshed and ready to go!
Unfortunately life gets in the way - work, family, responsibility, illness, stress, actually i could on a little too much here...so a combination of factors can easily disrupt our beauty sleep.
Those that struggle to sleep on a regular basis are more prone to weight gain, and if your anxiety levels soar at the thought of bedtime then this can also lead to chronic stress among other health issues (see our other articles)
If your having trouble getting to sleep then try these helpful tips
Be consistent, try going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day
Light helps us to wake up by suppressing the production of the sleeeeeeep hormone melatonin. Turn on a bright light in the morning along with the alarm to help us to wake up and and be more alert faster.
Try to finish all your screen time about an hour before bed and leave them outside the door. Remember that light surpresses melatonin - well there's a light on your screen and it tricks the body into thinking its daylight.
Turn the lights down during the evening - set the mood for sleep and relaxation... about an hour before bed, turn them down more if you can.
Do you like a bath in the evening? a warm milky drink? A good book? any of these before bed is a very simple and effective wind-down activity.
Try to stay calm, if you have a conversation that needs attention then keep it away from the bedtime routine to some other time. Bedtime bliss is the objective, to be positive and relaxed for better health.
About 60 mins before bed time seems to be the golden hour to prepare us for sleep. This time is spent unwinding, relaxing and reducing stimuli to boost the production of melatonin and so aid restful sleep.
Stress can effect a persons ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, which can lead to inflammation and poor health outcomes, over eating (see our other articles), apathy, and a lack of focus and a significant reduction in concentration.
The uncertainty over the Covid pandemic has further impacted peoples lives on a global scale. Spending time with others as one antidote to stress relief has been thwarted due to social distancing and isolating, having a significant, negative impact on our mental health.
Answer the questions below to assess your stress levels
Are you irritable with friends/family/work colleagues?
Do you have trouble sleeping?
Do you ever feel like you’re not in control?
Do you suffer from minor coughs, colds, aches and pains etc?
Do you feel tired all the time?
Do you ever experience lack of appetite?
Do you feel unable to make decisions?
Do you use alcohol or nicotine to help you cope?
Do you make time for exercise?
Are you under pressure at work?
If you answered yes to a number of these questions designed by the sleepcouncil.org.uk then you may need to consider some strategies to reduce your stress levels to promote restful sleep.
Tips to reduce stress during isolation.
Learn a new skill
Pick up that hobby you've not had time for in months or years
Spend quality time with the ones in your bubble
Try to talk about something positive
Subscribe to a "good news" channel
Join online exercise groups
Stay in a routine - get up, get dressed, get moving
Try not to overeat
Healthy eating for good sleeping
A consistent, healthy balanced diet is of course - the number 1 recommendation for good health and vitality, including a good nights sleep, depending on the other factors that affect a person ability to sleep mentioned above.
A balanced diet provides a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals, including those that can induce sleep - although this is not an exact science, anecdotal evidence shows improvement to length and quality of sleep.
General tips for avoiding sleep disruptions
Limit caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon or evening when its stimulant effects can keep you up at night.
Moderate alcohol consumption since it can throw off your sleep cycles even if it makes you sleepy at first.
Avoid eating spicy or fatty food during the late evening
Keep your bedroom cool and avoid being too hot
Food tips for good sleep
Several studies have shown that increasing tryptophan in the diet can improve sleep by increasing melatonin. One study found that eating tryptophan-enriched food at breakfast and dinner helped adults fall asleep faster and sleep longer, compared to those that did not.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid with several important roles in the body. One of those functions is to create the 'feel good' hormone serotonin.
There are a number of health benefits from the naturally occurring tryptophan found in foods. Most of these health benefits come from the potential increase of niacin and thus serotonin. The benefits from more serotonin include:
promoting healthier and better quality sleep
relief from depression and anxiety
increased emotional well-being
managing pain tolerance
Interestingly, serotonin deficiency is often a major factor in depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and weight gain, to name a few.
Naturally occurring tryptophan food list
Tryptophan can be found in some foods, especially those high in protein. Foods known to be high in tryptophan include:
pumpkin and sesame seeds
tofu and soy
dark chocolate 85% cacao
Studies found that taking magnesium supplements helps some people with insomnia to sleep better and increases the number of rapid-eye-movement (REM) cycles.
· Green leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach, kale).
· Fruit (e.g., figs, avocado, banana, raspberries).
· Nuts and seeds.
Vitamin C is an essential compound involved in numerous reactions in the body. We need to have sufficient amounts daily in the diet because our body is unable to make it.
Unfortunately, not many people get enough vitamin C through their diet, which is why a supplement is sometimes needed to meet requirements.
In a 2015 paper, vitamin C was shown to reduce the secretion of cortisol (primary stress hormone), which eventually improves sleep quality.
· Citrus fruits, pomegranates.
· Cranberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
Ashwagandha is an herb that originated in the Asian continent and has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
In a 2019 randomised study, scientists found that taking 300 mg of Ashwagandha twice a day improves sleep quality and sleep onset latency.
The exact mechanism that led to these results is still unclear. However, another study demonstrated the positive effects of Ashwagandha in patients with anxiety and chronic stress.
Sleep and nutrition are closely intertwined with one another, and what you do to improve you diet and stress levels can positively effect your quality of life.