Daytime actions affect how you sleep
Dr Libby Weaver is New Zealand’s favourite wellbeing expert, a seven times No 1 best-selling author and a highly sought after international keynote speaker. Now, each week, she’ll be answering readers’ questions about their health and fitness. If you want to join the conversation with Dr Libby, see the end of this article for details of how.
Restorative sleep is an essential pillar to good health and there are a few things you can do to help get a restful night’s sleep.
The first is to eliminate caffeine (coffee, energy drinks and chocolate) from your diet for a four week trial, and notice the difference this makes.
Caffeine can stay in your system for up to eight hours and can affect your ability to fall asleep.
If you do have caffeine, enjoy it in small amounts early in the day.
The second thing to try is to have a consistent bedtime routine.
Waking up and going to bed at the same time each night allows your body to set an internal time that notifies your body about when to start to prepare for sleep.
Enjoy calm activities, like reading or restorative yoga, before bed.
Dim the lights, and limit back-lit devices like iPads and smartphones for up to two hours before bed.
Light affects the body’s ability to make the hormones necessary for sleep, such as melatonin.
Some people find herbal teas very effective. Try a lovely, fresh chamomile tea in the evening.
A combination of stress hormones, caffeine and a blood sugar roller-coaster is often to blame in this situation.
Adrenalin is a stress hormone, which is produced when we perceive that we are in a stressful or urgent situation, or when we consume caffeine.
The production of adrenalin triggers the release of glu- cose into the blood to help fuel us to get away from the supposed danger we are in.
However, for many people today their stress is perceived – they are not in fact being chased – so this glucose is unused and is then stored as fat.
This whole process can leave us feeling tired and reaching for the closest carbohydrate-laden food to satisfy the craving for the sugars we have just used up. This can happen throughout the day and cause highs and lows in blood glucose levels.
With a view to preventing the craving for sugar in the afternoon, the first step is to take a break from the daily coffee, and replace it with herbal tea.
A good breakfast in the morning containing real food fat will also help to satisfy and fuel you through the morning, and then it is important to keep refuelling with real food choices throughout the day to ensure you maintain even blood glucose levels.
Many people find that they are less likely to reach for sweet food in the afternoon if they have a source of wholefood fat at lunch time. Nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut, organic butter, oily fish, and pasture-fed animal meats are all great real food sources of fat.
Try adding them to lunch, or use the plant-based fats in sweet snacks that serve your health, such as brain balls (see the recipe at drlibby.com/ recipes/Brain_Balls).
If you’re having a rough night’s sleep, you should look at what you’re doing during the day.
Email your questions for Dr Libby to ask.drlibby@ fairfaxmedia.co.nz. Please note, only a selection of questions can be answered. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional.