Sleep is important. Getting at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night is life changing. While you sleep, your body goes into reset mode; repairs and replenishes to its natural state. Sleep is directly related to hunger though the emission of hormones. There are various things you can introduce into your lifestyle to get better sleep. Exercise, food, stress and routine are all a part of creating good Sleep Hygiene.
While you sleep, your body goes through some of the important processes:,
Digestion through the large intestine
Hunger Hormone reset
Let’s briefly talk about the last one, what I call the Hunger Hormones. There are two hormones which play important roles in what happens in your body: leptin and gherlin, and they are both regulated by sleep and other factors.
Sends message to your brain that you are satiated - STOP EATING!
made in fat cells
Increased production while you sleep
Sends a message to your brain that you are hungry, think gremlin - EAT!
made in the stomach
Decreased production while you sleep
Both of these hormones, plus insulin play huge roles in your weight goals. Along with a diet full of whole foods, good protein, healthy fats and fibre, you will naturally feel fuller longer and help increasing your leptin levels.
Food Timing is one last thing to mention about these hunger hormones. Make sure that your meals are:
Consistent- at the same time
Have Protein and fibre
Intermittent Fasting may be an additional benefit to regulating blood sugar. You can do this by ensuring you are not consuming any foods between the hours of 8:00 pm - 8:00 am. This way, you allow your entire system to relax and repair overnight.
The Sleep Protocol
Like everything in our lives, our body likes routine. It runs beautifully on its own circadian rhythm, but when that is out of balance, everything is out of balance.
Getting the right amount of sleep is a science and has four major pillars;
Let’s look at these in more detail:
Getting daily exercise isn’t just about keeping your heart healthy, losing weight or building muscle, but it’s also about tiring out your body. If your body doesn’t get adequate daily exercise, it isn’t tired. Your muscles get lethargic without exercise and become restless. Getting the right amount of exercise is based on each individual, so you have to regulate and see what your limit is.
Recommended weekly exercise is at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week where your heart rate is increased over 125bpm. This means that every part of your body is activated and working. If you keep this up, then keeping a good heart, losing weight and getting stronger is just a bonus.
Here are some ideas to get your body moving:
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Chores like vacuuming, cleaning windows
TIP: Set aside a time during your day to get some exercise. Make it a priority. Lunchtime walks, getting up a little earlier, join a class after work. At first it may seem hard, but it will get easier over time.
Our life is like a pendulum; good or bad, clean or dirty, food can be the same way. Having a diet enriched with whole foods and no processed foods is the ideal. Processed foods are full of sugars and additives that can make it difficult for your body to process and relax. These foods disrupt your insulin levels which can affect all of your hormones to make it more difficult to rest.
TIP: Make a list of all the things you like to eat, then make a list of all the flavours you enjoy. Put those two things together to make your list. Don’t like lettuce? Make a slaw!
A quick talk about sugar.
The topic of sugar is all around. Going sugar-free, although healthy, has become a fad diet on its own. Sugar is a necessity of life. Your brain needs it to function. It’s all about HOW MUCH sugar you are getting and the SOURCE of it.
Refine sugar goes by many different names so seeing it on the package may not be as easy as it seems. Here is a list of common names for sugar:
Less apparent sugar names include: carbitol, concentrated fruit juice, corn sweetener, diglycerides, disaccharides, evaporated cane juice, erythritol, fructooligosaccharides, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, hexitol, inversol, isomalt, maltodextrin, malted barley, malts, mannitol, nectars, pentose, raisin syrup, ribose rice syrup, rice malt, rice syrup solids, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, sucanet, xylitol and zylose.
Sugar Alcohols: xylitol, sorbitol, isomalt, and mannitol
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Keeping your blood sugar stable will aid in getting to sleep. If you are having a difficult time getting to sleep, avoid any sugary foods, including fruits after 4pm.
Stress may be the biggest influence on sleep. Many Canadians have trouble falling or staying asleep throughout the night. As discussed, sleep involves many different hormones to keep your body in check. Controlling your stress levels may be the key to getting better sleep.
Cortisol is a hormone is needed for our survival. Also called the “stress hormone” it is made when you body is in fight or flight mode and tells your brain to fire up. Cortisol is released from your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys. In this day and age, surrounded by daily stressors of traffic, deadlines, social media, etc...it can be extremely difficult to manage your stress levels. But there are some ways that you can manage your stress levels.
Managing Stress Levels
1. EFT: Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping)
Ever find yourself rubbing your eyebrows, massaging your temples or stroking your chin? These are all forms of EFT tapping. Based on alternative medicine techniques including acupuncture and energy medicine, it’s a technique that calms your nervous system, draws your energy to one point by where you are able to relax and calm yourself.
2. Meditation/Deep Breathing
If the mention of meditation scares you, don’t be. There are many different sources of guided meditation from phone applications, podcasts and online youtube channels. Finding a little bit of time before bed to get rid of the days’ stress, show gratitude and wind down. Deep breathing gets more oxygen to your brain, calming your nervous system down.
This practice goes hand in hand with #2. Physically stretching your body allows it to release any tension it is holding onto. Go to youtube and type in “relaxing stretches” there are several videos that will come up that will guide you through a small stretching practice to melt away your body’s stresses.
4. Getting out in in nature
Sometimes just getting out in some fresh air for a short walk can clear your mind and allow you to relax. Try going for a short walk before you wind down and take deep breaths. Going for longer hikes or walks in the park connects you back to the earth, which naturally calms your nervous system. Try staying off of social media and really listen to the sounds of the birds and the wind. It will truly take you away and leave you feeling extremely rested.
5. Self Care - Saying No.
Work stress, emails, social media and engagements can become stressful. Keeping “busy” is a good indication that there are too many things on your mind. Taking stock of priorities, non-negotiables and unimportant things can make space in your mind so you can take better care of yourself.
Work stress: Leave work at work. Be timely in your tasks to get things done and make priority to-do lists. Give each task a time deadline, if not done, then go onto another task then come back to it.
Social engagements are negotiable. There’s not one thing that you “have to” attend. Make space in your calendar for yourself. Find the time to put yourself first. Make yourself a priority. Enjoy the time you make for yourself.
We all have a routine we have in the morning, right? Wake up, turn off the alarm, drink water, stretch, take a shower, brush teeth, breakfast then to work. But do you have a nighttime routine? Creating a nighttime routine or what is also known as good sleep hygiene is more important than what you do in the morning.
It will take practice, but getting good sleep hygiene decreases insomnia and stress levels while promotes a deeper better sleep.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Finish emails, tv programs
Turn off media, (phone/laptop/tablet/tv) 2 hours before bed
Take a bath
Prepare for next day: take out clothes/make lunch/final emails
Listen to music, read, journal
Go to bed
When you add new things to your routine, it takes practice. Adding in exercise, eating right, having good sleep hygiene and reducing stress all takes time to put things into place. Start slowly by adding one thing to your weekly schedule. Whatever makes sense in your lifestyle, but start with one and then slowly add on more things to create routine and habit.