Written by Toni Baker, Balanced Living Naturopath
Sleep – that precious commodity that evades so many of us at certain times in our lives. For some, they can’t get enough and for others every night may feel like a struggle. We continually strive for that perfect balance!
What we do know is, that sleep affects every part of our life, but the good news is, you can turn it around! It won’t magically happen but there are many ways to help.
Let’s start with our circadian rhythm, our natural internal process that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Did you know that your body is literally preparing for your nights’ sleep with everything you do during the day.
Your body is closely connected to the environment to produce hormones and neurotransmitters needed to either help you fall and stay asleep at night or help you wake and stay motivated during the day.
Melatonin (made from Serotonin) is our ‘golden’ sleep hormone to help us rest and digest whilst cortisol (released by our adrenals) is our get up and go hormone, giving us the energy to carry out our daily lives.
Let’s look at some key areas that may be affecting your journey into peaceful slumber;
The Gut and Sleep
You may have heard the term ‘hangry’ often referred to people whose blood sugar regulation is up and down. Our mood throughout the day will rely on what we are eating and what is happening to our blood sugars. Low blood sugar increases cortisol and adrenaline making us jittery and anxious and can often be responsible for that 3am wake up call. Did you know that just one bad nights’ sleep results in a 40% reduction in the body’s handling of glucose.
Giving your body the fuel it needs to keep your blood sugars balanced throughout the day, will not only help you gain a better sleep at night but also will help you concentrate and stay focused during the day.
Eat regularly throughout the day, food rich in protein and fatty acids. Food such as avocado, nuts, a palm-sized portion of protein and lots of non-starchy vegetables. Stay away from carb-rich food that can cause your blood sugar levels to spike because your body digests carbs very quickly and can send a huge wave of glucose into your bloodstream.
We love Healthforce Nopal Blood Sugar which contains prickly pear cactus which time releases blood sugars into the bloodstream and can also help support normal cholesterol levels and creates a feeling of satiety. Also Mother Earth liquid Chromium – Chromium deficiencies have long been associated with low blood sugars and pre-diabetics.
Hormones and Sleep
Our hormones control everything within our body from stress, metabolic function, muscle tone, sexual behaviour, the ageing process and most of all sleep!
When looking for hormonal changes causing sleep issues, we would always look in the areas of the thyroid hormones in which melatonin is needed to convert the hormones be to be metabolically active, blood sugar hormones, Leptin and Grehlin which control our fat stores and satiety and Human Growth Hormone which is released in your first slow-wave of sleep and has an important restorative effect on the body.
Our sex hormones, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone play a huge part in both men and women on our sleep cycle, with low progesterone which is our ‘chill pill hormone’ causing many a sleepless night for peri and menopausal women and low testosterone in men which has a close association with sleep apnoea.
If you suspect any of these hormone imbalances, I would recommend you see a doctor for some blood tests for thyroid, blood sugars and HGH and for any sex hormone issues, we can arrange a ‘DUTCH Test’ which is a dried urine test for sex and adrenal hormones through the Balanced Living Clinic.
Immunity and Sleep
It’s in the light sleep stage where the detox pathways become the most active. Toxin overload and lack of sleep can really weaken the immune system often causing the body to wake (1-3am) if the burden is too high.
The aim here is to reduce the toxic load on the body and support your detoxification pathways.
Common toxins include alcohol, BPA (plastics), Triclosan (hand sanitisers), parabens (skincare products), EMF’s (phones, laptops), pesticides and mould.
One of the best places to start is by drinking clean filtered water (we love Epic Water Filters) and to slowly start to replace your cookware and skincare. Sweating is a great way to rid those toxins by exercise and it’s a good idea to increase your Vitamin D levels either by spending 15 minutes in the sun or supporting with a supplement (Premier Research Labs Vitamin D Serum). Premier Research Labs also has great Glutathione Complex which can really help support your liver.
It’s when we go to sleep that the immune system really starts to work, so by removing some of these toxins and supporting our immune system with a good diet, clean water and some good nutrients we will really start to benefit with improve sleep patterns.
Stress and Sleep
We all know by now that some form of stress can be good for us giving us energy, strength and alertness, but over time if the body is constantly under stress in that ‘fight or flight’ mode, the body begins to shut down and this is where it starts to affect our sleep.
When under stress, the body releases cortisol and norepinephrine to stimulate the ‘fight or flight’ response which can often result in an unwelcome 2am wakeup call. A second wind of alertness can also happen at 10.45pm-11pm making it difficult to get to sleep.
There is also huge link between low serotonin and depression which can also be brought on by lack of sleep or the other way around. Here we could look at supplementing with some GABA or 5-HTP but I would seek advice with your practitioner before beginning any of these.
Why not try to clear your mind by writing down your thoughts before bed. Also turn off any social media at least 30 minutes before bed and make sure your room is cool and dark.
Supporting your body with a good B Vitamin like PRL Complete B and Magnesium (Pure Encapsulations – Mg Glycinate) is great basis to start with. Try adding some adaptogenic support such as Quantum Stress Support.
Our go to natural sleep aids are Quantum Sleep a great blend of Passiflora and Zizyphus. We also have Quantum Melatonin which can be very beneficial when combined with Magnesium at night time.
Why not try a meditation app like Headspace to help you drift off to sleep along with some essential oils such as lavender and bergamot?
We would always advise that you speak to your doctor or naturopathic practitioner if you have been experiencing sleep issues for a while but we hope some the tips in this article will help you along the way.
And remember, a good laugh and a long sleep are said the be the best medicine we can have. With good lifestyle habits and good sleep hygiene, there’s no reason why you can’t be sleeping the whole night through.
To speak in further detail about any sleep issues, feel free to contact us in the clinic to speak to one of our natural healthcare practitioners.