Are you a person who falls asleep fine, but then wakes up at 3 am wide awake?
Or, maybe you struggle to fall asleep at a reasonable time?
The need for good quality sleep is incredibly underestimated. It’s during sleep that your immune system works and your body restores itself. This is when your brain is ‘cleansed’ and rids itself of the regular daily build-up of protein plaques and other waste products.
It’s our number one beauty product. And the best this is that it’s free (!).
Did you know that poor quality sleep may be the reason why you are gaining weight? This is a weird one, right?
As you enter your 40s and 50s your hormones change and this can impact your sleep.
It can become a vicious cycle because many of the menopausal symptoms have a direct impact on sleep, such as night sweats. And because your sleep has been interrupted, your menopausal symptoms may get worse (!). It seems like you can’t win, right?
So, what can you do?
First, you need to understand what is happening, and second how you can make many little tweaks which together will make a big difference.
Why is sleep so important to your hormones?
Your 24-hour clock is run by your hormones. It starts with the peak of cortisol in the early hours of the morning. A good cortisol level at the right time makes you feel awake and alert, ready for the day.
The opposite hormone to cortisol is our sleeping hormone, melatonin. Your body starts producing it around 6 pm and it reaches its peak just after midnight. It makes you feel relaxed and sleepy.
If you are having trouble falling asleep, or if you are waking up too early, it could be that your cortisol and melatonin levels are out of sync. It’s common for people to have too high cortisol and too low melatonin levels in the evening. This needs to be reset, and you can achieve that through lifestyle changes.
"The result of this shift in the hormones is that your appetite will increase."
How does poor sleep affect your hormones?
You have two hormones that regulate hunger and appetite: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin tells the brain that you are full, and ghrelin tells your body to eat.
Guess what happens when you have poor quality sleep? Yep – leptin decreases and ghrelin increases.
The result of this shift is that your appetite will increase.
Also, you may wake up in the middle of the night because your brain is being tricked into thinking that it’s starving! This has the knock-on effect that your body will increase the storage of energy (fat) in case it needs it later.
When leptin is low your thyroid will decrease your metabolism. This means that you will become tired, fatigued, and increase your fat storage (weight).
Poor quality sleep is stressful for the body. Stress will increase cortisol production. As mentioned above, this can create an imbalance with the sleeping hormone melatonin, which will lead to more sleep problems.
What can you do to get better sleep? Here are my 11 top tips;
Get out in the morning and walk for 20 minutes - The light in the morning is full of so called ‘blue light’ which stimulates the production of cortisol. Remember – the cortisol level should be high in the morning.
Stay away from caffeine after 12 pm - Caffeine blocks the ‘sleep pressure’ in your brain. You build up the 'sleep pressure' naturally during the day. When it reaches its peak (in the evening) you should feel sleepy. Caffeine blocks this.
Limit refined carbs - These will create a blood sugar roller coaster that will continue into the night and wake you up. Stay away from refined carbs such as white bread, rice, pasta, pastries, biscuits, and anything with added sugar.
Make sure you are not dehydrated - Spread out water intake over the whole day, sip it. If you are dehydrated your brain will wake you up in the middle of the night because it feels threatened.
Avoid alcohol - Even though alcohol seems relaxing and may help you fall asleep, it will also make you wake up at 3 am thirsty and with low blood sugar.
Switch to ‘night-time mode’ on all your devices to start from 7 pm - This is a setting on your device and you only have to set it once. ‘Night-time mode’ filters out the blue light (which stimulates cortisol), encouraging melatonin production.
Relax your brain properly - At least 1 hour before you go to bed, make sure you switch off. Avoid devices, news, or anything work-related. Your brain needs to de-stress. Do some mindfulness meditation or simple yoga stretches.
Write your worries down - Do a proper brain dump. There is something about writing them down by hand that clears your thoughts.
Have a bath in the evening – Add some magnesium-rich Epsom salts and relax.
Dim the lights in all rooms before bed, and make sure your bedroom is dark. This will stimulate your sleeping hormone melatonin.
Supplement wise, magnesium can help with relaxation. Make sure you get a good quality one, eg Magnesium Citrate or Magnesium Glycinate. If you find that your mind can’t switch off, try some passionflower tea made from loose leaves 1-2hrs before bedtime.
If you have sleep issues it could be a good idea to test your hormones for any imbalances.
Contact me for a chat if you want some more personalised advice.
Hope this helps!
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Consult your doctor or health care practitioner for any health problems, before embarking on any new health regimes, using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications or food programmes.