If you are like many people, you’ve experienced trouble sleeping at one point or another. Sleep is the ultimate reset button. It’s a time to rest, renew and refresh. When we sleep our digestive systems gets a break, our immune system is revitalized, and our hormones and metabolism are balanced. Our 21-day Clean Program is a guided and supported way to do this, for a longer time. As you can only imagine, consistent, proper sleep (we’re talking 7-9 hours a night without tossing and turning) is imperative for good health.
Lack of sleep affects the secretion of thyroid-stimulating hormones, increases levels of the “stress hormone,” cortisol and reduces insulin sensitivity, therefore causing weight gain. If you are having trouble sleeping, you are not alone. In the United States, more than 70 million people suffer from a sleep disorder. Here are some things that could be messing up your sleep.
POOR DIET + DIGESTIVE DISTRESS
It’s no secret that an upset stomach and indigestion may make it harder to fall asleep. Often times poor digestion can be caused by a poor diet – specifically too much sugar, processed foods and commonly irritating foods like gluten, dairy, soy, and peanuts. Sugar is a killer, and not necessarily just white table sugar either. Think about what your body processes like sugar – too much fruit, too many processed carbs, a cup of coffee without any food. These all lead to unstable blood sugar levels, which send your adrenals and mind into an unsteady zone. Additionally, our bodies need the proper amino acids, vitamins (especially vitamin D), minerals, and fatty acids (shout out to omega-3s) to create the calming neurotransmitters that allow us to sleep.
TIP — Follow the Clean Elimination Diet. Eat your largest meal for lunch, when digestive function peaks. Also, try your best to adhere to the twelve-hour window – taking twelve hours between eating dinner and breakfast.
EVENING BLUE LIGHT
Do you check your social media before bed? Reply to the last few emails while catching up on Big Little Lies? Electronics such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and TVs emit a harsh blue light. This light prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, and reduces alertness the following morning. Most phones come equipped with a “night mode” now which may help.
TIP — Switch off all electronic devices by 10pm. This can seem daunting initially, but the detachment can be incredibly freeing … and help you sleep.
What constitutes a stimulant? It can be a variety of things such as caffeine, medications, alcohol, and recreational drugs. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that blocks sleep neurotransmitters, our body’s natural calming signals. Some medications can actually cause caffeine’s effects to last longer than normal. It is important however to note that we all metabolize caffeine differently. According to Sleep Medicine Specialist Dr. Dianne Augelli, alcohol decreases the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that we get, which is important for consolidating memories, optimal cognitive functioning, concentration and learning from the previous day.
TIP — If you can’t commit to a 21-Day Program, try omitting caffeine and alcohol from your diet for a month and see what happens. Ditch your morning coffee and replace it with one of these delicious alternatives instead.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that up to 70 percent of the population is deficient in – our nutrient-poor diets and stressful lifestyles eat it away. This mineral is directly involved in over 300 different bodily functions. Many important uses include muscle, brain, and nervous system function. It also supports healthy bowel movements, reduces stress and improves sleep. Don’t skip this one!
TIP — Take a magnesium supplement. Magnesium citrate or glycinate typically absorbs better.
CHRONIC STRESS/OVER-STIMULATED NERVOUS SYSTEM
Your mind races, your breathing speeds up, and your to-do list seems miles long – we get it. Too much stress is a common cause of disordered sleeping. While stress can be reduced, it most likely won’t completely go away, so learning how to cope with it is key.
TIP — Do some breathing exercises, restorative yoga or meditation.
NO EVENING ROUTINE
Wind down and set yourself up. Just like we wouldn’t hop on the treadmill without lacing up our tennis shoes, we shouldn’t try to go from 100 to 0 when it comes to sleep. Ease into it and set the mood. Make sure the bedroom is being used for just sleep and romance.
TIP — Take a warm bath or shower, light a candle, listen to soft music, read a few pages of a good book, do legs up the wall, whatever helps get your mind and body relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep.
Many of us sit inside at desks all day, workout indoors, and take the subway, which has us avoiding sunlight exposure without even knowing it. Before the invention of artificial light, we were somewhat forced to go to bed when the sun went down and wake up when the sun came up. Our bodies have natural circadian rhythms. Sunlight exposure is very important for our sleep cycles. Light serves as the major synchronizer of your “master clock”, or a group of cells in your brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). This clock, along with a few others, triggers the body to release specific chemicals and hormones that are important to healthy sleep, mood, and aging.
TIP — Try to get at least half an hour of regular exposure to natural sunlight a day – best if first thing in the morning!
Written by Hannah Aylward
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