I have to admit that it’s not something that has ever been hard for me. I’m one of those people that can sleep on a train or plane and it’s never been hard for me to fall quickly to sleep, even on a stressful day. I’m never sleepy but can’t sleep.
But in saying that there have been many periods of time in my life where sleep was extremely low on my priority list. I was one of those people who used to say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” as if sleeping less was something to be proud of. I didn’t understand why sleep matters.
You see I just couldn’t fit it all in.
And so sleep came last.
And this seems to be a common occurrence with the clients I work with. They are neither getting the quantity nor quality of sleep they need to really thrive!
Can you relate?
Do you think you are getting the sleep quantity or quality you need to really feel good and function optimally throughout the day? Are you sleepy but can’t sleep?
If not, keep reading as I’m going to go through some tools and strategies to help you increase sleep quality even when you can’t increase the quantity.
Why Sleep Matters
Well according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), sleep is essential for a persons health and wellbeing. Not getting adequate sleep can lead to:
- lack of energy & fatigue
- sugar cravings
- energy crashes in the afternoon
- overeating & binging
It has also been shown that getting less than 8 hours of sleep per night can lead to cognitive function decline later in life. And for those suffering from insomnia actually have three times the risk of all diseases. That’s right, insomnia triples the risk of death from all diseases.
Numerous other studies also show how sleep can help you increase performance, increase motor speed & a really fascinating article published in the Journal Nature found the following: “Insight denotes a mental restructuring that leads to a sudden gain of explicit knowledge allowing qualitatively changed behaviour. Anecdotal reports on scientific discovery suggest that pivotal insights can be gained through sleep. Sleep consolidates recent memories and, concomitantly, could allow insight by changing their representational structure. Here we show a facilitating role of sleep in a process of insight.”
OK So What Can We Do To Improve Sleep Quality?
Food & Supplements For Improved Sleep Quality
Foods for Great Sleep
To maximize the benefits of your sleep you need to make sure the body has all the right ingredients available for restoration & rejuvenation. No more sleepy but can’t sleep!
Here are some healthy foods that can really help improve sleep quality:
- Healthy fats are great, try coconut oil, organic & pasture raised meats, eggs, avocado and butter.
- Try some high quality protein our bodies can use for muscle repair and immune function. Remember though to finish up eating protein as early as you can before bed (around 4 hours) as it can be a little hard to digest which may affect sleep quality.
- Antioxidants are great for improved hormone production and also help your body remove toxins. So make sure your eating lots of vegetables, fruits such as blueberries and herbal teas to get in those antioxidants.
- Avoid sugars, refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats such as hydrogenated vegetable oils and trans fats.
Good fats however are an awesome source of energy for your brain & body and so are great to add into your diet to help your cells rejuvenate while you sleep. Some great fats are things like avocados, grass fed butter, coconut oil, olive oil and nuts & seeds.
Raw honey can actually be an awesome food for helping increase sleep quality as well. It helps fuel your brain as it keeps on working while you sleep. Make sure its high quality raw honey however and just a little is all you need. According to Honey expert Nathaniel Altman, author of The Honey Prescription, raw honey before bed can actually help you get into deeper states of sleep too.
Reduce caffeine in the afternoon
This sounds obvious but a lot of people don’t make the link between poor sleep and their coffee consumption. Chocolate contains caffeine too so try and stick caffeine beverages and avoid chocolate in the afternoon. The only caveat to this is green tea, which for some people can be a great afternoon substitute for coffee that doesn’t affect your sleep. For others the caffeine may still be too much so experiment and see what works for you.
Green tea can help reduce stress however thanks to the amino acid l-theonine that reduces stress. It also inhibits the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate which enables you to relax more.
Try relaxing teas or supplements
These can also be part of a bedtime routine to maximize sleep quality. Try valerian, passion flower, chamomile tea, or a magnesium supplement and track their effect on your sleep. A high quality fish oil or krill oil supplement can also be beneficial. These days’ people often struggle to get enough Omega 3 fats from their diet and these healthy fats can help to reduce anxiety and depression, optimize brain function, improve insulin sensitivity and increase muscle growth. It also aids in the production of relaxing neurotransmitter production that helps to melt stress off the body, ideal for sleep.
Some other supplements you may like to try include:
- Active PQQ For Optimal Rejuvenation– This is a cousin of coenzyme Q10, which helps the mitochondria in your cells work much better. The active form of PQQ has been shown to have a powerful impact on the quality of your sleep with as little as 10mg per night.
- Glutathione For Deep Sleeps & All-Day-Energy – Glutathione is a powerful anti-oxidant that can help with deeper more rejuvenating sleeps.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D deficiencies can actually lead to sleep disorders and vitamin D deficiency is becoming more and more common. In fact more than half of the worlds population is Vitamin D deficient! To correct these deficiencies however you need to be careful about the amount of vitamin D that you take and when you take it. Vitamin D is inversely related to Melatonin which is your sleep hormone and therefore you don’t want to be taking vitamin D too late in the day. Taking Vitamin D in the morning has been shown to work best to help you have great nights sleep.
- GABA – Unlike norepinephrine and epinephrine, which are excitatory neurotransmitters, GABA inhibits the function of these neurotransmitters to create more peace and quiet in the body. Hence, why it’s so good for sleep.
- Magnesium – Is a super common micro nutrient deficiency and a magnesium supplement can really help with sleep
(For more information on supplements that may work best for your unique situation PM me or send me an email to book in for a free 30 minute nutrition consultation.)
Get into a Routine
Getting into a routine with the time you go to bed and wake up each day, even on the weekend, can be super beneficial to sleep quality and is really important for your circadian rhythm (Your internal clock). This internal clock affects key hormones within your body that affect your energy levels throughout the day such as cortisol & melatonin.
So even if you can only get 6-7 hours per night make sure it’s the same 6-7 hours every night.
Also developing a routine before you go to bed can really help to improve sleep quality. This could include reading a few pages of your favorite book, doing some stretches or using a foam roller for a few minutes, meditation or journaling.
I love using my foam roller to work into trigger points in my fascia (the fibers surrounding your muscles). I actually have a travel sized one with me in Poland at the moment 🙂 Using a foam roller or tennis ball even works to melt your muscle aches and pains and helps to get your body ready for sleep. Using a foam roller can also help align the body & improve circulation which can be great for those of us that totally spend too much time sitting.
Your routine could also simply include washing your face and thinking of three things you are grateful for before you head to bed. The key is to do the same thing every night so your body gets used to the idea that’s its time for sleep once you start your routine.
Avoid Blue Light Before Bed
Blue light, such as that emitted from your TV or computer screen or phone, tells your brain that it’s still day time and this severely delays melatonin production within your body. Melatonin is an important sleep hormone that helps your cells repair and rejuvenate and so not producing enough melatonin as you sleep can have a serious impact on your sleep quality. So turn off screens at least an hour before bed (ideally more like 2 hours) and make sure that you download a program like f.lux to your computer & phone that blocks the blue light. Or try wearing gunner glasses a few hours before bed. Foods like pumpkin seeds can also help naturally boost melatonin levels which helps with sleep quality.
Reduce Light & Noise Pollution
Light & Noise pollution can have a massive impact on the quality of sleep and can keep you awake, reducing the quantity of sleep you are getting. Try to make your bedroom pitch black. Cover lights and radios and use blackout curtains and maybe try wearing earplugs or having some sort of white noise in the background to block out noise pollution. Or you may just find you’re sleepy but can’t sleep.
Track your sleep
What you measure improves and this totally applies to sleep. I talk a lot about using a food & mood diary to learn how different foods affect your energy levels & your mood and you can bring a similar awareness to what might be affecting your sleep by using an app such as Sleep Cycle to track your sleep. Sleep Cycle also has a really great alarm clock feature that wakes you up super gently leaving you more energized to start the day so check it out and give it a try!
Finish exercise 2 hours before bed
Ever played sport or done a workout late into the evening and then found it really hard to wind down and fall asleep? Strenuous exercise boosts your energy and wakes you up which is awesome during the day but not great for sleep so stick to more gentle forms of exercise such as yoga or stretching within 2 hours of bedtime. Otherwise this can totally contribute to that sleepy but can’t sleep feeling.
A super common reason why I see too many of my clients unable to sleep is stress.
We have all had those nights where we can’t stop thinking about work or our business or another stressful situation from the day. At times like these deep breathing can be super helpful as can meditation to slow down the mind and help you start to relax. Having a routine before you do go to bed that might include a soothing tea or another supplement can also really help.
You could also try and use technology to try and help reduce stress & therefore increase sleep quality. One that I use personally is the HeartMath stress management system that uses the interactions between the heart and the brain to reduce your stress levels. It trains you to optimise your heartbeat to levels that are normally only possible through specific meditation techniques. Let me know if you would like more information on heart math in the comments below and I’ll add a video on it as it’s transformed the way I meditate.
I hope these tips help you sleep a little deeper and have convinced you of the importance of sleep on your health! No more sleepy but can’t sleep!
Got any questions around why sleep matters or any other sleep related question? Let me know in the comments below.