Tuesday 21 March, 2017 0 Comments

This week we’re looking at the importance of sleep in all areas of our health. Lack of sleep is a problem many of us face. However, a persistent lack of sleep can signal other things are happening in our bodies.

Often there are simple solutions, such as timing your exercise throughout your day or limiting caffeine.

One of the most common scenarios I see with clients who experience persistent sleep problems is nutrient deficiencies in zinc and magnesium.  

If you’re someone who struggles with sleep, or even with a consistent bedtime routine, try troubleshooting your sleep with the tips below.

Troubleshooting your sleep

We know that a consistent bedtime routine helps to promote good sleep hygiene.  For some of us, going through the motions of winding down before bed simply isn’t enough. So, what else could be going on?

Other factors to consider

  • Avoid napping during the day as it can disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.  The exception is if you are a sick, recovering from adrenal fatigue or a new parent. In these situations sleeping when and where you can is essential.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime. Alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, however as your body begins to metabolise it the second half of your REM cycle is disrupted causing wakefulness. As a general rule stick to 1-2 cups of coffee a day before midday.
  • Exercise can promote good sleep. But the time of day you do it matters. Do Vigorous exercise in the morning or late afternoon. To help initiate a restful night’s sleep try a relaxing exercise, like yoga, before bed.
  • Food can be disruptive right before sleep. Eating within 2-3 hours of going bedtime will affect the REM cycle of your sleep. If you're a shift worker or eat late consider playing with the meal structure of your day. Have your largest meal at lunchtime and something lighter in the evening. Stay away from large meals close to bedtime.
  • Ensure adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for older people who may not venture outside as frequently as children and adults. Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
  • Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Try to avoid emotionally charged conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep. Don't dwell on, or bring your problems to bed.
  • Associate your bed with sleep. It's not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or use laptop computers.

Your current situation may make sleep difficult

If you have young kids who demand your attention or wake up, disrupting your bedtime routine, there are a few things you can do.

  • Eat with your children earlier so that once they are in bed you can unwind with your partner or loved one, or take a bath. This also means you’ll have digested your meal before sleep.
  • When you have a young family, the hours of 4-8pm are incredibly busy. Delegate some of the nightly chores or learn to let go of perfection.
  • I find when the little kids are finally down I get stuck into chores to make the next day easier. Get your partner or older children involved!
  • My wife and I tag team bedtime. One of us will read stories while the other tackles the dishes. My eldest daughter helps by clearing the table after dinner. That way once the kids are in bed we can both sit down to unwind with a cup of tea. 
  • Have a ‘shortened’ version of your bedtime routine. We won’t always have time for a bath - nor the energy. As a parent learning to take effective shortcuts is a vital skill. When I’m tired, my bedtime routine shortens to switching off technology, spending time with my wife and a cup of tea. The core elements are still there. I’m reducing stimulation but it takes much less time. Find your non-negotiable items that help you sleep and construct a shorter bedtime routine around those factors.

What your sleep could be telling you

You have a nutrient deficiency. The first thing we do with clients at the BePure clinic experiencing sleep issues is to check their zinc and magnesium levels.

Zinc is involved in over 200 enzymatic reactions within the body. One of these interactions is supporting the body's natural cortisol rhythms. Cortisol naturally peaks in the morning and declines to prepare the body for sleep. Testing for zinc deficiency is easy and can be done with a functional taste test. 

Magnesium is vital for promoting sleep. It’s one of the reasons taking an Epsom salts bath before bed is effective. Epsom salts are rich in magnesium and the warm water raises your core temperature before you lie down in a cooler room. Ensuring you take your essential nutrients (containing a good dose of magnesium) daily, can help support healthy sleep patterns.

Your circadian rhythm is out of sync. We’ve talked about the natural cycle of your internal circadian rhythm previously. One of the reasons for this is because work goes against the natural rhythms of day and night. We often aren’t out in nature enough during the day. While after nightfall we use harsh synthetic devices such as our phones, laptops and TV’s.

To get back in sync, I recommend spending 20 minutes per day outside at lunchtime. This allows your body to get its daily dose of vitamin D and register that it is daytime.

At nighttime, I recommend limiting your electronic use after dusk. Turn your phone or iPad on to flight mode to prevent notifications. Software like f.lux, mimics your natural soundings. It makes the colour of your computer display warm at night and bright during the day. This allows your body to wind down in the evenings.

Your liver needs support. Another common scenario we see at the BePure clinic is people who frequently wake at 3am and struggle to get back to sleep.  This is often a sign that your liver is struggling to clear toxins and hormones.

You can improve the health of your liver through your diet. Reduce liver loaders such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol, while increasing foods that help the liver to detoxify; citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables and cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage.

If you do have issues with sleep and your liver I recommend working with a health professional to who can provide detox support, essential nutrients and lifestyle strategies to help.


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