January 30, 2023
Sleep Hygiene

By Kristy Whyte, MOVATI Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) 

The body repairs and rejuvenates between the hours of 11pm and 3am. During this period, the body gets its deepest and most restorative sleep.  Ensuring that you are getting sufficient shut eye during this time frame will help you stay healthy and functioning optimally.  

Melatonin – a hormone naturally released by the pineal gland in the brain that helps to regulate your 24 hour sleep-wake cycle aka your circadian rhythm.  The release of melatonin is triggered by darkness and gradually rises signalling the body to prepare for sleep.  Once melatonin is released into the bloodstream, physiological changes occur such as decreased body temperature and respiration rate along with drowsiness.  

Melatonin production also correlates with the secretion of Human Growth Hormone that is released during sleep which affects the repair and rejuvenation of your cells and organs.  Therefore, it is essential that melatonin production is optimized if we want to maintain our youthful glow and vigour.  

Taking a melatonin supplement for a brief period to help you regulate your sleep cycle may be necessary during times of high stress when your cycle has been affected or for shift workers on their off days.  Note – this should not be used as a long term solution where your body becomes reliant upon the external source of melatonin to be able to sleep.  

Magnesium – a natural relaxant and sleep aid.  Food sources of magnesium include chlorophyll rich foods (green leafy vegetables), sea vegetables, seafood, meats, nuts, seeds, legumes (including tofu), avocado, and dried apricot.  You may also choose to supplement with magnesium glycinate.  

Looking to improve your sleep? Try some of the following strategies: 

GET TO BED. Aim to get to bed before 11am; this is the period during which the body gets the deepest and most restorative sleep. Preparing for bed at least one hour before is a good habit to create, as this will start the process of melatonin elevation, allowing the body time to unwind for sleep.  Ideally you need at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night to allow your body to fully restore.  

SHUT DOWN ELECTRONICS. Turn off all artificial lights at least 1 hour or more before you plan to go to sleep.  Artificial sources of light will negatively affect the amount of melatonin being produced.  Streetlights, televisions, phones, computers, even the small amount of light from an alarm clock can have a detrimental effect on your ability to sleep.  Use a soft lightbulb to read, relax, or meditate.  

CREATE A COMFORTABLE SLEEP ENVIRONMENT. If you want to have a good sleep, it helps to create a comfortable sleep environment. Make sure that you have a supportive mattress and fresh, comfortable bedding. Also, try to ensure that your room is not too hot or cold, minimize noise, and block out light. 

RELAX. Try doing something to relax your body and mind before going to bed. Try taking a hot bath 90 minutes before you plan to go to bed or try a relaxation exercise such as progressive muscle relaxation or calm breathing, meditation, or listening to calming music. 

HAVE A SNACK. Although a heavy meal late in the evening can disrupt sleep, a healthy light snack in the evening can improve sleep. Try eating a piece of cheese and a few crackers, turkey slices, or an apple and natural peanut butter.  A little bit of healthy fat will have a calming effect on your brain and body.  Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods. 

GET PHYSICAL. People who exercise tend to have more restful sleep. Exercising for at least 30 minutes three to four times a week can improve your sleep. So, get moving! Go for a walk or a run.  Keep in mind however that exercising less than two hours before bedtime can interfere with sleep. 

GET SOME NATURAL LIGHT. Try to spend some time outdoors or in natural light every day. Getting some sunlight early in the day can be helpful for setting your body’s natural wake and sleep cycle

CREATE A BEDTIME ROUTINE. Having a bedtime routine cues your body that it’s time to sleep. So, establish a set routine that you follow every night. For example, have a hot bath, put on your pajamas, brush your teeth, and then listen to soft music and read on the couch until you start to feel sleepy and then go to bed. 

ESTABLISH A WAKE-UP TIME. Try waking up at the same time every day (even on weekends) no matter how well or how poorly you have slept. This way your body will begin to get used to a regular sleep rhythm. 

JUST FOR SLEEPING. Your bed should be used strictly for sleeping (sex is the only exception and can help you sleep like a baby!). Try to avoid reading, watching television, working, or studying in bed, these activities keep your mind active, which gets in the way of sleep. 

GET OUT OF BED. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 to 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring (e.g., read the manual on how to program your clock radio, or try relaxing (e.g., meditate, listen to calm music, have a warm herbal tea). When you start to feel sleepy, try going back to bed. This strategy can feel like you are making things worse, but if you stick with it, it can really help. 

PUT YOUR WORRIES BEHIND YOU. Leave your worries about work, school, health, relationships, etc. out of the bedroom. Try scheduling a “worry time” earlier in the evening to deal with your stressors. If you wake up in the middle of the night worrying, try writing down your worries and tell yourself that you will address them in the morning. Worrying about not sleeping doesn’t help – it just makes it more likely that you won’t sleep. Let go of your belief that you have to get eight hours of sleep, or you can’t function. Stop looking at the clock and stop trying to make yourself fall sleep. It will happen when it happens. 

AVOID CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL.  Avoid consuming caffeine at least six hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, some teas, soft drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it can keep you awake.  Although you may think that alcohol will help you fall asleep, it interferes with sleep later in the evening as your blood glucose levels drop.  Try to avoid consuming alcohol at least four hours before bed. 

Interested in learning more about how to optimize your sleep and nutrition? Speak with your MOVATI Holistic Nutritionist today and schedule a complimentary 30min coaching call. Email Kristy Whyte for more information – kwhyte@movatiprod.redpiston.com