Immune

How to optimise your sleep

A good night’s sleep is vital for optimal health. We all know how bad we feel after a late night or one spent tossing and turning. Continued lack of sleep can make your body  behave in a similar way to being intoxicated.It’s implicated in the development of several health conditions, including obesity, heart problems, type 2 diabetes, depression and inflammation.2-6 Lack of sleep makes us less able to cope with the stresses of daily life.7

The average sleep requirement for an adult is about 7.5 hours.If you’re getting fewer than 6 hours, or are waking frequently it can increase your appetite and hunger levels.If you’re tired, food cravings are more likely and your decision-making is less effective so junk foods become a lot harder to resist.

If you aren’t getting enough sleep: Aim to have a regular sleep habit: go to bed and get up at the same time each day – even at weekends!9

  1. Get outside without wearing sunglasses especially during the morning hours10
  2. Avoid caffeine from the early afternoon onwards9,11
  3. Try exercising earlier in the day – not too close to bedtime9,12
  4. Don’t eat a heavy meal just before sleep: try to leave 3 hours between eating and bedtime13
  5. Don’t be tempted to use alcohol as a sleep aid: evidence shows sleep quality tends to be worse even if you fall asleep quicker after alcohol9
  6. Make sure your bedroom is dark; use blackout lining or blinds and don’t use night lights12
  7. Make sure your bedroom is cool12
  8. Avoid screen-based activities(phones, tablets, laptops, computer or TV) for at least an hour before you go to bed12
  9. If you have to use screens, consider adjusting the display settings (apps are available to do this if your device does not have the option in the settings) to reduce the blue light and increase the red. Our bodies’ natural circadian rhythms take their cues from the light around us with blue light making us alert13
  10. Similarly, if you can choose the colour-balance of your lights in the evening, aim for a reddish hue, and/or keep light levels low13
  11. Don’t use the bedroom for work, hobbies or anything that involves being too mentally active12
  12. Try some meditation techniques14
  13. Supplement with Montmorency Cherries before bed. 

Finally, focus on foods that are sources of nutrients that have been shown to be helpful for good sleep, such as: 

    • Montmorency Cherries are an amazing food, they help the body naturally release the sleep hormone melatonin.
    • Vitamin D (from sunlight and oily fish) is needed to. Help the body convert the amino-acid tryptophan into the sleep hormone, melatonin.
    • Magnesium (dark leafy greens and are some of the richest sources of dietary magnesium, but it is also found in avocados, pumpkin seeds, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans and macadamia nuts) acts in several different ways to improve sleep, but one important mechanism is that it encourages activity in the calming nerve pathways in the brain. 
    • Vitamin B6 (almonds, avocados, fish, tomatoes, spinach, yogurt and eggs) is needed for the correct functioning of the enzyme pathway that makes melatonin from serotonin
    • Vitamin B12 (dairy, eggs, meat, fish and shellfish) seems to be closely involved with regulating our sleep–wake cycles
    • Vitamin C (good sources include peppers, green leafy vegetables, brussel sprouts and strawberries): low intakes of vitamin C are linked with shorter sleep
    • Potassium (found in leafy greens, broccoli, crimini mushrooms, and avocados)
    • Selenium (2 brazil nuts can supply your daily needs)
    • Choline (found mainly in animal foods such as liver, eggs, fish and shellfish, but also in cauliflower, mushrooms, dark leafy greens, asparagus, and brussel sprouts). 
    • All these nutrient-rich foods have benefits beyond improving sleep.16,17

    Deep sleep on our Podcast

     

    Take away points

    Improve your gut health! Without good gut health, you may not be able to absorb the above-mentioned vitamins! See our article on enhancing gut health. Eating a wide range of plant foods (especially those listed above) can alter the balance of your gut bacteria and this can translate to better sleep (see our article on gut health and sleep here). Certain types of prebiotic fibres and probiotic bacteria are especially likely to help sleep,18,19 especially those contained in legumes like lentils and chickpeas and milk (however, note that if you suffer with IBS, you may not be able to tolerate these fibres until you have done significant gut healing).

    Consider taking a supplement to aid good sleep. Our practitioners have formulated our new Sleep Complex with Montmorency Cherries to help you Optimise Your Sleep.

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    Caroline Rees
    Caroline Rees

    Caroline is a a Registered Nutritional Therapist and member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine. She holds a master's level postgraduate diploma in Nutritional Therapy and a PhD in Immunology.