It is estimated that about 2/3rd of adults regularly deal with a lack of good quality sleep. Within the expat community numbers may even be higher: frequent travel across the globe, jet lags, late night calls with far away friends or family back home, relocation related stress, overseas office calls at odd times, and busy social lives are some of the characteristics of an expat lifestyle that can contribute to sleep deprivation.
Depending on the consistency and severity of your lack of sleep, it can really impact your health and your life. No surprise if you consider that our body repairs, grows, restores, and regulates itself and that our brain processes memories and emotions as we sleep. Sleep is not a luxury; it is a necessity for optimal function and performance.
Many of my clients report not being satisfied with their sleep during our initial health intake and reasons range from an inability to fall asleep at night, waking up regularly for no particular reason, not feeling well rested in the morning to outright insomnia. Sometimes sleep is a main issue and sometimes there are other, more pressing health concerns but I always like to point out how everything is connected.
It is during our deepest sleep cycles that there is a release of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which plays a role in metabolism, physical and mental performance, tissue repair and growth, increased blood supply to our muscles, and more.
A reduction in HGH, which happens naturally as we age but can additionally be caused by sleep deprivation or disrupted sleep has been linked to weight gain, reduced physical and mental performance, accelerated aging, lower muscle mass, poor immune system functioning, and other health risks such as diabetes, hypertension or heart disease.
There are two sides to the coin: focus on sleeping properly and you will start to see a ripple effect on other areas and focus on improving your diet and lifestyle and you will see an improvement in your sleep.
And this is the reason that a comprehensive and holistic health-building program that addresses all underlying imbalances works. Finding a nutrition approach that is right for the individual, addressing lifestyle factors, optimizing nutrient status, boosting digestive – and immune health, hormonal and neurotransmitter balance and detoxification capacity always results in an improvement in sleep.
To get started with improving your sleep (and your health and happiness!), here are 18 easy tips that will help you sleep better:
1. Head outdoors at some stage during your day to get exposed to natural bright sunlight.
2. Exercise regularly. It has been shown that regular exercise over a longer period of time results in better quality sleep.
3. If you must nap, do so in the early part of the afternoon rather than closer to evening.
4. Avoid caffeine or anything else with caffeine in it post lunch. Caffeine is metabolized in different people in different ways but drinking it in the latter part of the day can disrupt your ability to sleep.
5. Avoid alcohol after 4 pm. It has been shown that even the moderate consumption of alcohol as long as 6 hours before bedtime can affect wakefulness during the second half of sleep. *
6. Keep regular mealtimes with an early dinner.
7. Have a high protein bedtime snack about ½ hour before bedtime to maintain stable blood sugar if this is a problem for you.
8. Dim the lights when it gets dark outside. This is your body’s cue to start winding down. Exposure to bright lights after this will upset your internal clock by tricking it into thinking it is daytime.
9. Wind down after dinner and avoid activities that are highly stimulating or work related.
10. Avoid screens (computers, tablets, smartphones, TVs) at least 1 hour before bedtime. These screens emit blue light that disrupts your melatonin production. Melatonin is the sleep hormone that rises at night getting you ready for bed. Grab a (relaxing) book instead!
11. Install F Lux (www.justgetflux.com) on your computer or laptop. This is an app that automatically adjusts the blue light as well as your screen brightness in the evenings.
12. Keep regular sleep timings. Turn in at about the same time every night (preferably around 10:00 – 10:30 pm) and get up at about the same time every morning.
13. Individual sleep requirements are very personal but most people require a minimum of 7 to 8 hours a night. Remember that most of our deep sleep occurs early on in the night so going to sleep well before midnight is best.
14. Keep your bedroom cool and as quiet and dark as possible. Blackout curtains are best.
15. Reduce your exposure to Electro Magnetic Frequencies by turning off your Wi-Fi, phone, computer, devices and TV plug.
16. Practice some breathing exercises before you go to sleep to activate your relaxation response: Breathe deeply through the nose for 5 minutes, inhaling to the count of 3 and exhaling to the count of 6
17. Or practice left nostril breathing for a few minutes by placing the index and middle finger of your right hand on the space in between your eyebrows and closing the right nostril with your thumb. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you to relax and calm down.
18. Look into BrainWave Binaural Beats: an iPhone app, which has a deep sleep feature that supposedly helps to put your brain into the different states associated with sleep.
These are some tips that, when followed consistently, are going to positively affect your ability to sleep deeply and with that, boost your health and mental and physical performance.
If you feel you need additional support with the deeper underlying imbalances or if you are ready to embark on a holistic health-building program, let’s talk to see if I can help. You can set up a Free Nutrition Breakthrough Session with me here.
Here’s to a good night’s rest and radiant health!