Written by Rachel Hawkins, Accredited Practicing Dietitian & Nutritionist
Sleep is a vital, often neglected, component of our overall health, helping the body to repair, regenerate and recover. Adequate sleep is associated with a plethora of health benefits including weight management, reduced inflammation and heart disease risk, improved mental health and immunity and greater athletic performance1-11. Whilst, sleep deprivation is equally linked to a number of negative health outcomes.
In our quest to help you achieve a good night’s sleep, we spoke to five health experts and asked them for their number one sleep tip - the results may surprise you.
Limit caffeine or caffeine containing items in the afternoon. Little to no caffeine after midday is ideal, however sometimes unrealistic, therefore being aware of your caffeine intake in the afternoon is a good place to start. Caffeine is a stimulant which can keep us awake and aroused which is good for certain times, however not when we should be producing sleep-chemicals including melatonin in the late afternoon. There are many food and beverages which may have a sneaky caffeine hit, such as: BCAA's (branch chain amino acids), pre-workouts, coffee and chocolate so keep this in mind if you are wanting that optimal snooze.
Performing some exercise prior to bed may also assist in helping you achieve a good night’s sleep. Strenuous exercise increases our heart rate and general alertness which is not ideal when it comes to getting to sleep. However, performing a more gentle and calming form of movement such as yin yoga, walking or stretching may assist in slowing the mind and body down while shifting into the parasympathetic nervous system and releasing feel-good chemicals. Using trial and error with the type, intensity and length of exercise may be needed to get that perfect mix.
Establish a regular sleep schedule. If you are consistently going to bed and waking up around the same time each day, your body will get used to this routine and you will get much better sleep than if your bedtime is sporadic. Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible, keep the temperature cool and have some white noise either from a fan or noise machine. You may even like to consider a weighted blanket if you are someone who regularly has trouble sleeping.
Eat a balanced and wholesome dinner! Make sure your dinner contains protein, fat and a complex carbohydrate source to ensure you are full and satisfied during the night. Protein containing foods are rich in the amino acid tryptophan and when paired with complex carbohydrates such as brown rice and sweet potatoes, can improve the transport of tryptophan to the brain! Tryptophan produces the feel-good hormone serotonin and reduces stress hormones like cortisol. Adding some healthy fats like avocado can slow the absorption of your meal and keep your blood sugar stable. So, eating a balanced dinner will help you feel chilled out, relaxed and hopefully a little sleepy.
Cater your bedroom to your needs: if you're a light sleeper, get a noise machine. If you need darkness, get blackout curtains. If your mind races & makes it difficult for you to fall asleep, try reading a book or meditating before bed.
Bernert, R. A., et al.(2014). Association of poor subjective sleep quality with risk for death by suicide during a 10-year period: A longitudinal, population-based study of late life. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25133759
Hayley, A. C., et al.(2015). The relationships between insomnia, sleep apnoea and depression: Findings from the American National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005–2008. [Abstract]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25128225/
Disclaimer: The information provided on Nuzest is for educational and informational purposes only. The information provided on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice or care. Please speak to your qualified healthcare professional in the event that something you have read here raises questions or concerns regarding your health.