10 ways to improve your sleep

In today’s work hustle society, sleep is often overlooked. Even as teenagers we often live by “we can sleep when we are dead”. The truth is: sleep is essential for your wellbeing and should be a top priority. Eating nutrition rich food, moving your body and taking care of yourself does not have the same effect if your body isn´t getting enough rest. The guidelines often say around 8 hours of sleep is enough, but the truth is how many hours plays little role if the quality of the sleep you are getting is poor. There are different stages in your sleep and if you are not getting sufficient REM or deep sleep, then the benefits are lost, and you will still waking up feeling groggy.

Lack of sleep is linked to many health issues such as diabetes, leaky gut syndrome, digestive issues, hormone imbalance, unstable blood sugar levels, heart diseases, mental disorders and concentration problems. That´s just to mention a few but crazy how much impact it has to your body right? During the night your body is resting, repairing, storing, detoxifying and cleansing itself. It is at nighttime your body is processing the day that was, and getting ready for a new day tomorrow. New studies also show at night your brain is “taking out the trash”, meaning there is an occurring process that flashes your brain during sleep and basically cleaning it. Similar processes are happening in your stomach and intestine. Your liver is doing most of its work at nighttime and detoxifying itself. Heart and lungs are slowing down and getting the rest they need to stay healthy for longer. I hope that has given you many valid reasons to start looking into your rest. If you currently are not focusing on getting enough quality sleep, let´s change that starting today, shall we?  

What do you need to know about sleep? One of the rhythms of your body is called the circadian rhythm. This is an internal process that functioning like a sleep and awake clock. In this rhythm hormones such as melatonin, cortisol and serotonin are produced. In the morning when the sun is rising your serotonin levels go up and melatonin levels decrease. At night it’s the other way around, melatonin goes up and making you sleepy. If you find yourself having a hard time waking up in the morning and need a cup of coffee to get going, then your circadian rhythm needs some TLC. Also, at night if you struggle to wind down and fall asleep there are some work to be done. If you have experienced jetlag or waking up feeling nauseous after a long nap, then that is your circadian rhythm getting out of balance.

Some signs that you are not getting enough rest at night, is craving high sugar, carb rich and fatty foods during the day. This is food that gives you quick energy and exactly what you body needs when deficient. Trouble concentrating and memory difficulties is also a side effect of lack of sleep. This is the main job of the REM stage. Because sleep affects your brain the mood gets affected. Being grumpy, snapping easily and lack of patience is some side effects. Your reaction abilities are also linked to this. Generally, not feeling rested when waken up or restless at night means you should look into your sleep. 

So, how do you improve your sleep? Firstly, there are many things that can affect your sleep such as gut health, nutrients and vitamins, hormone balance, stress and so on. Before diving into the heavy stuff, start with the simple steps listed below. Trust me when I say, they will have a huge impact for the beginner.

  1. Turn off screens 1-2 hrs. before going to bed. Computers, phones, tv, tables etc. have a blue light that increases your serotonin levels (remember the wakeup hormone mentioned earlier) which is the opposite of what you want. For every exposure to blue light this hormone increases for around 20 min. If you are watching an exciting movie on top of that your body will be fully awake and wired up. Instead, turn all screens off and dim the lights in your home too. Aim for that campfire, cozy vibe instead.

  2. Avoid eating 3 hrs. prior to going to bed. Digesting food is a process that requires lots of energy and attention from your body. When we sleep, the body is slowing down. Eating before bedtime or a heavy meal late at night, the stomach ends up full while everything is slowing down. This means that food will lay as a lump, weighing you down, and it doesn´t get digested improperly. This affects both the absorption of the nutrition in that food and steals the attention away from healing at rest. The end results are that you don’t get enough deep sleep.

  3. Expose yourself to light in the morning. To boost the production of serotonin the body needs bright light, ideally natural sunlight. This is one of the best tricks to wake you up in the morning and increase your energy. By exposing your eyes to daytime, first thing in the morning, you will naturally set the circadian rhythm up for success. Turn up the lights in your home and even better if you can get outside for 20-30 min.

  4. Move your body during the day. Movement has many benefits to your health and improving your sleep is one of them. The more energy your body is creating during the day, the sleepier you will be at night. Not only do you use up the energy that is created but also the byproduct of your energy system makes you tired.

  5. No coffee afternoon. The benefits of caffeine are not a secret, it wakes us up. However, the truth is that caffeine blocks the natural way for your brain to get tired not giving you energy as many thinks. Interrupting this process in your brain affects the circadian rhythm and that is why you don´t want to consume caffeine after 12pm. Remember there is also caffeine in tea, and these too should be cut down on at the same time – try herbal teas instead.

  6. Pay attention to your breathing during the day. Not only do you need to breathe to stay alive, but your breath is also setting the state of your body. It controls your nervous system and can take your body from rest to stress. Take a couple of minutes during the day and focus on deep belly breathing. In through the nose, hold it at the top and exhale out through your nose.

  7. Make your room pitch black and cut out sounds. As mentioned before, this plays a role on the production of your hormones. Think back to the early days of humans living in caves. That´s what you are after. Don´t give your body excuses to interrupt your sleep.

  8. Nutrition during the day. The food you eat also plays a role in your sleep. Your gut health plays a huge role in general over your wellbeing but also it affects your hormones and blood sugar level. Which affects your energy level during the day and the body’s rhythms. The right vitamins and minerals are essential for the production of your sleep hormones as well as right balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, healthy fat and proteins) during the day which controls you blood sugar levels.

  9. Clean your space. Your bedroom is meant for sleeping yet many of us also use it as a cinema room or office. The effect of various digital waves has been proven to have a huge effect on us, especially during the night. Leave phones, computers and TV devices in another room. If you need your phone as alarm clock, then turn it to flight mode. Also, the space itself should be tidy and decluttered, look up Feng Shui for more about this.

  10. Control your stress levels. Stress is currently a worldwide issue and too many of us live in a stage of fight-or-flight. In this stage your bodies main job is to keep you safe and alive. Which means going into a peaceful sleep is not on the list. More like keeping the senses aware of danger. Watching wild movies at night raises your stress level and does not benefit you when it’s time to head to bed. You might be aware its just a movie, but your body still has the same response as if you were in the scene.

To sum it up: your sleep plays a huge role in your wellbeing, internally and how you interact during the day. Improving the quality of your sleep will be a game changer, more than you can imagine. Following these simple tips has helped so many of my clients and myself included. If you have any questions or want guidelines during your journey, let me know. Together we can improve your sleep and your overall wellbeing.



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