We all have nights we don't sleep well; however, if you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep or want to maximise your sleep quality, keep reading.
The Importance of Sleep
So, if you feel like you’re running on fumes, constantly juggling the demands of your job, family and social life? You are not alone. In today's fast-paced world, sleep often takes a backseat, leaving us groggy and irritable.
Researchers highlight the critical role that sleep plays in our health, such as enhanced memory, mood regulation, blood sugar regulation, and cardiovascular health, and it can even impact our waistline.
And if you have always been a great sleeper, this might have changed during perimenopause. Hormonal fluctuations during this stage of life often result in disrupted sleep patterns due to hot flashes and night sweats.
Most people thrive on 7-9 hours of sleep, and when you sleep, you cycle through two sleep phases of about 90 minutes, composed of one rapid eye movement, REM sleep stage and three stages of non-REM sleep.
During these cycles, it's normal to wake up briefly to turn position. We usually go through four to six cycles per night. All these different stages perform different functions for your brain and health.
How to improve your sleep?
There are many reasons why we don’t fall asleep quickly or stay asleep through the night. Constant worrying and even worrying that we can’t sleep can have a significant impact on our sleep and make us feel anxious and exhausted.
A healthy bedtime routine is the most effective way to improve your preparation for the night and your sleep. Keeping a pen and paper beside your bed to write something down so you don’t forget to take action the next day can also be helpful. Instead of your worried thoughts, can you replace them with thoughts of gratitude?
Focusing on our environment might be an accessible first area to make the necessary changes to improve sleep.
Ensure your bedroom temperature is about 18 degrees or 65 Fahrenheit. Blackout curtains could be a good option, or an eye mask can also be helpful. Earplugs might make it easier to block out your partner's snoring.
Dim your lights in your house and preferably use soft light bulbs, or you can use red light blockers in the evening. Reduce the blue light exposure of your devices.
Ensure you hydrate your body; however, reduce your intake in the evening to reduce nighttime awakening to use the bathroom.
Alcohol negatively impacts our REM sleep. We might fall asleep quickly, but alcohol also relaxes the muscles in our throat, which causes snoring, and in the long term, this can lead to sleep apnea. Replace alcohol with herbal tea infusion with passionflower, camomile, lavender, lemon balm, and hops to support a good night's rest.
Gentle exercise can be a powerful tool and can have a positive impact on your rest; for example, yin yoga and yoga nidra are both progressive muscle relaxation forms of yoga. Meditation and deep breathwork can also help to quiet the mind and reduce anxiety.
We all know caffeine is a stimulant, and reducing your caffeine intake or only consuming it in the early part of the day might be a game changer.
Avoid eating no more than three hours before bedtime to lower your digestive activity, allow your body temperature to drop, and increase the critical sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin.
Elevating Melatonin, our sleep hormone, with nutrition
Melatonin is essential for good sleep. It’s made by the pineal gland, in the brain's centre, and depends on our light exposure.
That’s why it's essential to expose your eyes, without your sunglasses, to early morning light and, at night, minimise the amount of artificial light, like ceiling and blue lights on your devices.
We can also increase melatonin production through nutrition. Balanced meals with carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats promote better sleep, especially in peri-menopause.
Here is an overview of food that stimulates sleep through their high melatonin levels:
Kiwi fruit is high in serotonin, the precursor of melatonin.
Bananas are high in melatonin, tryptophan and magnesium, which produce serotonin, a potent neurotransmitter and a precursor of melatonin.
Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, which increases melatonin
Rice is high in melatonin and tryptophan. The high carbohydrate content also induces sleep.
Fatty fish doesn't have melatonin; however, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids support relaxation.
Tart cherry is a sour cherry. In juice form, it works like a miracle as it is high in melatonin.
Supplements for better sleep
A synthetic version of Melatonin might have caught your eye, but it hasn’t been proven effective for insomnia. Often, the dosage on the bottle is unregulated and can cause drowsiness during the day. If these nutrition tips don't improve your sleep, then consider supplementing for a short period with glycine, which can restore a healthy sleep cycle.
Alternatively, magnesium and zinc have been shown to improve sleep quality, so always select a high-quality branded supplement.
Supplements can interfere with medication, so you should always check with your doctor or nutritionist if it’s safe and necessary to go down this route.
Remember, better sleep leads to a better life. Start implementing these tips and reach out for a personalised appointment to take the next step to improved sleep and well-being.