Bye Bye, Sleeping Through the Night

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Have night sweats and monkey brain made you say “bye bye” to sleeping through the night?

Are you feeling exhausted or “running on stress hormones” all day?

Do not fear, I have some great tips (and an amazing recipe) for you!

The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and growing.

Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we’re just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.

As if the hormonal changes we expect to go through from puberty to menopause weren’t enough to deal with.

Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind. People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for so many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer; not to mention effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation. And don’t forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills.

Lack of sleep also plays a HUGE role in how and what you eat.  Here is an example of how this works.  Tell me if you can relate.

Your meals are planned and portioned for the week to match your busy schedule.  You just need to grab and go.

A last minute invitation to go to an event or play that is once in a lifetime.  Obviously you go.  Your meals are ready, nothing to worry about.

However, you get home later than you expected (easy to keep going when you are enjoying yourself) and fall into bed, only to drag your ass back out only a few hours later.

What words best describe this feeling:  fuzzy, cold, hangry, dizzy, heavy, irritable, anti-social and of course, tired.

Do you really feel like eating the power bowl/wrap/salad that you prepared ahead of time?  I know I don’t.  What I want when I feel like this is comfort food.  I want pasta with a creamy alfredo sauce, I want pizza, I want cheesecake.

This is the brain in your head talking.   Not the brain in your gut.  The brain in your head wants instant gratification, the dopamine hit.  Comfort food is the instant gratification.  Your comfort food is probably different from mine, but the end result is the same.

Your eyes light up, your mouth waters, you may even make a small groan on the first bite.  This hit gives your brain just enough umph to keep going.

If this is a one time deal, you can easily move on; if lack of sleep is normal for you, this could turn into steady weight gain, diabetes and heart disease to name a few.

Are you working out for nothing?

Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? (Gasp!)  This has to do with your circadian rhythm and the stages of sleep.  Your body is prewired to perform different tasks at different stages of sleep.  If you are not getting enough sleep, your circadian rhythm does not have time to go through all stages.  Hint: Building and repairing muscle is a part of one stage.

OMG – What aspect of health does sleep not affect???

Knowing this it’s easy to see the three main purposes of sleep:
● To restore our body and mind. Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
● To improve our brain’s ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
● To conserve some energy so we’re not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day.

Do you know how much sleep adults need? It’s less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it’s recommended that all adults get 7 – 9 hours a night. For real!

Try not to skimp!

(Don’t worry, I have you covered with a bunch of actionable tips below.)

Tips for better sleep

● The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Make it a priority and you’re more likely to achieve it. This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. Seven. Days. A. Week. I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.

● Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. You know, eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fiber). Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavoured snack). Make sure you’re getting some protein every time you eat.

● During the day get some sunshine and exercise. These things tell your body it’s daytime; time for being productive, active and alert. By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.

● Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm. Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it’s the “added” sugar we’re minimizing. Yes, this includes your beloved chai latte. Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be come evening. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you below!).

● Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 – 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading an (actual, not “e”) book or having a bath.

So how many of these tips can you start implementing today?

*I know that not everyone has the luxury of a standard 9-5 so here is an article I wrote with tips for sleeping while doing shift work.

Recipe (Caffeine-free latte for your afternoon “coffee break”): Caffeine-Free Chai Latte

Serves 1-2

1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)

2 cups of boiling water

1 tablespoon tahini

1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)

2 dates (optional)

Cover the teabag and dates (if using) with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for a few minutes.

Discard the tea bag & place tea, soaked dates, tahini & almond butter into a blender.

Blend until creamy.

Serve and Enjoy!

Tip: You can try this with other nut or seed butters to see which flavour combination you like the best. Cashew butter anyone?

 

References:

http://www.thepaleomom.com/gotobed/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/hacking-sleep

 

 

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