Sleep is so important, it’s where we recover, repair and rejuvenate every night.
I see a lot of clients who don’t sleep well for various reasons such as hormonal issues, parasitic infections, stress related issues and babies waking during the night.
People who sleep less are more likely to have a chronic disease later in life.
Many of us are relatively familiar with the lymphatic system; it performs a number of roles, one of which is clearing metabolic waste from the gaps between cells, referred to as the interstitial space.
However, the central nervous system (CNS), which comprises the brain and spinal cord, does not have any true lymphatic vessels.
Because the CNS is highly active, metabolic waste can build up quickly. The CNS is also very sensitive to fluctuations in its environment, so the body needs to remove cellular garbage somehow, and that’s where the glymphatic system comes in.
New research shows how the depth of sleep can impact our brain’s ability to efficiently wash away waste and toxic proteins. Because sleep often becomes increasingly lighter and more disrupted as we become older, the study reinforces and potentially explains the links between aging, sleep deprivation, and heightened risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Here are six tips for better quality sleep from a Functional Nutritionist perspective.
- No Screens at least 30 minutes before bed.
Bright blue-white light blasting in your face at night isn’t so great for your sleep or general health. It interrupts your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) and stimulates cortisol to be produced at night. You want melatonin to be stimulated and not suppressed as this is your sleep hormone.
Your body won’t make melatonin for up to 4 hours if you’ve been staring at your phone or lap top. My advice is to not look at screens including T.V., iPhone, ipad or computers at the very least for 30 minutes before bed but preferably longer. If you must (sometimes I have clients up to 9pm) there are some tools you can use to minimise the negative effect.
iPhone/iPads – now have nightshift switch available which adjusts the color to a more candlelit, non stimulating colour. I have mine set from 7pm to 7am.
Computers – check out f.lux which also minimises blue light.
Tv – There are no great solutions that I know of yet. You can buy special blue blocking glasses to wear such as from Blue Block You need the red lenses at night once the sun has gone down, the transparent ones are no adequate.
Otherwise stop watching tv well before bed and read a book.
2. Have a magnesium bath before bed.
Studies have shown that magnesium and sulfate are both readily absorbed through the skin, making Epsom salt baths an easy and ideal way to enjoy the associated health benefits.
Magnesium plays a number of roles in the body including regulating the activity of over 325 enzymes, reducing inflammation, helping muscle and nerve function,
Stress drains the body of magnesium and increases levels of adrenaline. When dissolved in warm water, Epsom salt is absorbed through the skin and replenishes the level of magnesium in the body. The magnesium helps to produce serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of calm and relaxation.
Another great magnesium source to add is magnesium chloride which is replenishing. Add the two together or alternate each time you have a bath.
3. Go to bed early.
Go to bed early! Every hour you sleep before midnight is worth 2 hours after midnight. It’s actually during the first third of the night that we experience the deepest part of our sleep. We move into deep sleep more rapidly and it’s the phase of sleep during which we’re least likely to be disturbed and wake up. This deep or slow-wave sleep (SWS) is the most restorative part of our sleep. We experience low levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as reductions in sympathetic nervous system activity – this is the stimulating activity associated with our ‘fight-or-flight’ responses.
We also experience increased parasympathetic nervous system activity, which is associated with ‘rest and digest’ activity. So, you can see why it’s so important.
4. Reduce your caffeine intake
No one will like hearing this one but… ‘a systemic review observed the abstinence of caffeine on quality of sleep was associated with increased sleep quality and duration..’ (Hechtman, 2014)
Caffeine is a stimulant, we all know this, that’s why we have it. If you do drink coffee or tea, try not to after midday. Especially if you’re a slow metaboliser of caffeine, it will stay in your system for hours. If you’re a fast metaboliser, it will be out of your system in just a few hours. Dark chocolate is a trap people fall into having after dinner. Yes, dark chocolate is better for you than others but it has a higher content of caffeine. Just a few pieces can impact sleep quality. The same goes for raw cacao. Avoid at night if you can.
5. Rule out any gut infection
Parasites, especially the ones that prefer to nest in the intestinal tract, can cause a host of sleep disorders such as insomnia. Parasites affect the nervous system as well, giving rise to sleep disorders. All through the night, the body is hard at work eliminating toxins through the liver.
Parasites are known to upset this routine, changing the body’s rhythm. Some parasites cause a great deal of itching around the anal area, disrupting sleep and causing discomfort to the person.
If you are waking up around 3am most mornings, this is a good indication you gave an infection and you should test. It could mean other things too.
You can test your circadian rhythm through a saliva or urine test which measures cortisol and melatonin to see exactly what is happening with your hormones.
6. Sun exposure in the morning
Early sun exposure in the morning is most beneficial, typically with in the first hour after waking up. However, many of us are parents and this can be almost impossible. Somethings you can do are;
- Don’t wear sunglasses until after midday
- Have breakfast with the kids (if you have them) outside in the morning
- Glasses, windows and contacts will block the natural sunlight -keep this in mind
- Exercise outside in the morning if you can
The morning sunlight will increase cortisol production (which we want in the morning) and wake you up. It will also stimulate serotonin and then melatonin for that nights sleep allowing you to get better quality sleep.
At Ministry of Skin we do saliva and urine tests to measure your circadian rhythm to really understand what is going on with your sleep/awake cycle.
Sleep is one aspect of our health that I really work on with patients to improve because it is vital in other determining factors of our health. Contact us to find out more information about one of our programs where you’ll learn other tips to hack your sleep.