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Is sleep really that important? + how to improve your sleep tonight

Monday, September 11, 2017

Is sleep really that important? How to get a good night's rest + my tips for developing healthy sleep habits. 

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As a nutritionist and naturopath I have studied in-depth and seen the profound effects of how sleep (or lack of) can affect your body and health. As a mum to a very active toddler (who has never liked sleeping- her not me!), I understand (more than you know) how important sleep is and how a lack of restorative sleep can affect you physically, mentally and emotionally.  Trust me on this, I have experienced chronic sleep deprivation first hand! 

So how important is sleep really?

Really important! It influences so much within your body and directly impacts how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally throughout your day. There are many issues that we can experience with our sleep from trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, waking up tired and wired, not getting enough (this has been my biggest hurdle as a mum) and being out of sync with our body's natural circadian rhythm, to name a few. 

It's endless really as to how sleep can affect your body. Here are a few of the common effects of lack of adequate restorative sleep: 
  • Waking up tired and not feeling refreshed - sometimes even after 8 hours sleep, 
  • Feeling tired  - needing to rely on 'pick-me-ups' such a sugar or caffeine to keep you going,
  • Feeling irritable and grumpy, 
  • Effects your appetite and cravings  - which can easily lead to weight gain, 
  • Foggy thinking and not being able to concentrate,   
  • Hormonal imbalances,  
  • Effect your gut health,
  • Increases stress levels and lowers libido, 
  • Feeling emotional or down  - there's a strong link between insomnia and depression,  
  • Tired, dull or ageing skin,    
  • Reduced immunity - prolonged lack of sleep can disrupt your immune function, 
  • and there's more!
Whilst we might be able to get away with a late night or sleepless night here and there, having good sleep habits on a regular basis is really important for your body and for you to feel your best and healthiest self

How to improve your sleep

I share with you my guide for restorative and restful sleep in my 8 Week Program (with practical tips that I know really work!) and here's a few really important tips that can help you to set healthy sleep habits for increased energy, better moods, reduced cravings (especially for carbohydrates and sugar), balanced weight, promoting a strong immune system and supporting happy hormones. 
  • Sleep at regular time (when you can) so your body falls into a good routine. Honour nature's cycles. When the sun goes down this is your cue to start slowing down too and reducing stimulation. 

  • Wind down before bed. Make an effort to reduce stimulation after dark to support your body to relax as you head towards a restful night's sleep. Establish a good night time routine that works well for you (with minimal screen time).

  • Switch off electronics 2 hours before bed (including social media). Try to avoid blue light (such as from your phone or laptop) before bed as this can disrupt your body's circadian rhythm and production of melatonin (the sleep hormone). 

  • Have social media boundaries. I switch off my phone before during my winding-down time. Your sleep is more important! Waking up feeling refreshed will be more rewarding than late night social media scrolling. 

  • What you eat can affect how well you sleep. Avoid heavy meals or overeating at night. Avoid stimulating foods late in your day/evening (such as caffeine, sugar, too many natural sweeteners, cacao/chocolate). 

  • Certain foods can actually promote sleep. Foods rich in tryptophan such as turkey, salmon, chicken, eggs, seeds, beef and lamb to name a few promote good sleep. Complex whole-food carbohydrates may also help you to sleep when consumed later in the day (such as sweet potato/ roasted root veggies or quinoa and buckwheat) as they too help to increase levels of tryptophan. 

  • Make sure your bedroom is 'sleep friendly'. Your bedroom should be relaxing and at a comfortable temperature. 

  • Make sure you bed is really comfortable and supports your body! I recently changed to a new king-sized Koala mattress and it has made a big difference to how well we are sleeping. Not too firm, not too soft and breathable.

  • Include your favourite rituals in your evening routine that promote relaxation. I like to use lavender essential oils, sip on a calming chamomile tea, read stories and snuggle with my toddler or you can enjoy an epsom salts bath.

Sweet dreams x 

What are some of your favourite tips for better sleep?

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