Nutritionist Top Hacks For A Better Night’s Sleep
What’s the one secret to a perfect night’s sleep? If only it were that simple.
Just think about all the elements that can interfere with a good night’s kip, from work pressure and family responsibilities to unexpected challenges and stressors, such as illnesses. It’s no wonder that quality sleep is often elusive.
This March for World Sleep Day, I am sharing my top hacks that will hopefully get you into that deep slumber.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in various bodily functions, such as muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and protein synthesis. But today, let’s focus on its important role of promoting sleep and relaxation.
Magnesium can help with sleep by:
- Promotes relaxation: Magnesium can help to relax the body and mind, which can be helpful in preparing for sleep. It does this by binding to and activating GABA receptors in the brain, which are responsible for calming the nervous system.
- Stress reduction: Stress can be a major cause of sleep disturbances, and magnesium has been shown to have a calming effect on the body, helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Regulates melatonin: Magnesium is involved in the production and regulation of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate sleep-wake cycles.
- Improves sleep quality: Studies have shown that magnesium supplementation can improve the quality of sleep by increasing the amount of time spent in deep sleep, reducing nighttime awakenings, and decreasing the time it takes to fall asleep. (1)
BUT there are at least 11 different types of magnesium – so which one do we choose?
Magnesium glycinate is a form of magnesium that is bound to the amino acid glycine. Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that has calming effects on the brain and may help to promote relaxation and sleep.
Studies have shown that magnesium glycinate supplementation can help improve sleep quality, reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, and increase the total amount of sleep time (1). Magnesium glycinate is also believed to have fewer gastrointestinal side effects than other forms of magnesium, such as Magnesium citrate.
My favourite Magnesium Glycinate by Pure Encapsulations is available here.
CHERRY AND CHERRY EXTRACT
The iconic fruit of the English summer, cherries, are also believed to have potential sleep-promoting properties due to their natural melatonin content.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle, and is produced by the body in response to darkness. Numerous studies have suggested that consuming foods or supplements that contain melatonin, such as cherries, can help promote sleep in as little as two weeks. (2)
Tart cherries have additional powerful effects as they also contain tryptophan and anthocyanins, two key compounds that may help the body to produce melatonin and lengthen its effects. Research has shown that taking tart cherry juice may increase levels of melatonin and help improve overall sleep quality and duration. (3)
What’s the best way to get in these juicy, sleepy fruits? Well you can absolutely consume them raw, from frozen, in baking (such as my cherry and almond crumble recipe here) or for potency, in a liquid concentrate format.
GET NATURAL LIGHT FIRST THING
Getting natural light exposure first thing in the morning can be helpful for regulating your body’s internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm. Exposure to sunlight in the morning can help suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy, and signal to your body that it’s time to be awake and alert, ready for the day ahead.
This natural light first thing can also be helpful for regulating sleep, as it trains your circadian rhythm that outside darkness = bedtime, and that it’s time to wind down and get into a sleepy state.
Get out into light as soon as you can after waking up, even for just five minutes. If you have no time, open up the windows whilst you have your breakfast/ morning coffee and consider a lunch time walk.
AVOID LARGE MEALS BEFORE SLEEPING
Those who eat late, generally tend to sleep late, too. This can result in a cycle of disturbed sleep which can impact mood, productivity and appetite the next day.
When your food does not have enough time to fully digest, it can result in excessive acid secretion in the abdomen. This can cause uncomfortable gut symptoms such as bloating, excess gas, acid reflux and stomach pain.
Giving your food time to thoroughly digest before bed can help alleviate uncomfortable gut symptoms and will help you get a better quality nights sleep without your body working overtime. Aim to finish large meals 2-3 hours before bed.
However, going to bed hungry is not the answer! A rumbling stomach can also disrupt sleep quality and quantity.
If you do find yourself lying in bed with a rumbling tummy, try:
- 1 tbsp of almond butter- almonds are a good source of magnesium, which can support sleep and relaxation with the healthy fats keeping you full.
- A small handful of pistachios- these contain the highest amount of melatonin when it comes to nuts, whilst also packing in a punch of tryptophan, the amino acid that is related to sleep quality.
PRE BED BATH
Temperature can have a significant impact on sleep quality, and research suggests that a change in temperature from hot to cold can be particularly beneficial for promoting better sleep.(4)
As we fall asleep, our body temperature naturally drops. This drop in temperature is thought to help promote relaxation and signal to the body that it’s time to rest. By going from a warm bath to a cooler sleep environment, we can help facilitate this drop in body temperature and support better sleep.
Try adding 1-2 scoops of epsom salts to your bath, to help ease any muscle soreness and to further help promote better sleep quality. My number one bath salts are available here.
SET A DIGITAL CURFEW
Curfews aren’t just for the kids. Implementing a sleep curfew can help set those boundaries and prevent late night scrolling or before-bed emailers!
For tech-free zzz’s, disconnect an hour before bed. Turn your phone off or on aeroplane mode and put any tech on an out-of-reach dresser or in another room so you won’t be able to grab it if you get the late-night urge. Worried about missing your morning alarm? It now sounds ancient, but…. invest in a real alarm clock! It will prevent you from reaching for your tech first thing upon waking.
INVEST IN BLUE-LIGHT BLOCKING
The blue light emitted from screens, phones, computers, TVs, etc. interrupt the secretion of melatonin, our sleep hormone, and can artificially trick our bodies and minds into thinking that it is still day-time!
To avoid this, make sure you set your screens to automatically switch onto a warm tint after 9pm, and ideally, switch off all screens at least 1 hour before bed. There are some great apps you can download on your devices that will change your light setting automatically. Check out F.lux free app for your computers here, and invest in my favourite blue light blocking glasses (using the code CLARISSA for discount) here.
CREATE A BED-TIME ROUTINE
A bedtime routine can help many of us get in the mood and ready for deep, quality sleep. However it doesn’t need to be long-winded or complex. Whether you enjoy lighting a candle, having a 20-minute bath or making a cup of my favourite herbal sleepy tea available here, this can all become part of a bedtime routine. Begin with one thing that you know promotes relaxation and incorporate more as you begin to reap the rewards of self-care.
Also try investing in a good quality sleep mask to block out any natural or occurring light, my must try sleep mask is available here.
TIME YOUR WORKOUT
Cortisol, our ‘stress’ hormone, is naturally produced in response to exercise – but hold up, don’t stop exercising right away, cortisol isn’t always a bad thing, and it is essential for our survival too.
A normal pattern of cortisol production looks like this: at around 6am cortisol is released which helps us get up and get going for the day, and it begins to dip around 10pm which may help us start to fall asleep.
If you are struggling with your sleep, it may be a good idea to try to work with your natural cortisol curve, and schedule exercise in the morning rather than in the evenings. If you do want to move in the evenings, opt for yoga, a light stroll or Pilates. An added bonus, more mindful movement can incorporate breathwork and meditation which can help promote relaxation, right before bed-time.
FIND YOUR MOMENT OF MINDFULNESS
Being mindful is about focused attention. For some people this is meditation, for others this is focusing on the present or just listening to your thoughts. Everyone is mindfully unique, which is why it is such an essential practice for each person.
Practising mindfulness can help you get into a state of relaxation which will not only help you fall into a deep slumber, but will also help reduce stress and quieten the thoughts and feelings from your day. If you suffer from a racing mind before bed, being mindful over time will help you control this.
But if you are like me and really struggle to meditate or relax, consider getting your hands on a SENSATE – a device that emits infrasonic waves through the chest, to reach the vagus nerve, all alongside synchronised sounds. It has been a game changer for my meditation practice! Use the code CLARISSA for £30 off here.