Over the years, our lives have become more hectic and fast-paced than ever before. We are working to earn a living, taking care of our homes, raising children, trying to socialize and still have time for ourselves. We are constantly being bombarded with external stimuli, from television and computers, to phones and PDAs. Many of us are so accustomed to giving and receiving information instantly that we forget to slow down and reflect on ourselves. Our diets are full of sugar, caffeine and processed foods, and more and more, our emotional health and physical activity seem to take a back seat. We are left feeling exhausted before bed, while not waking feeling refreshed.
Sleep is required for repair and rejuvenation. Allowing our bodies to shut down and rebuild on a nightly basis enables us to begin each day with energy and enthusiasm. Making an effort to improve your sleep habits can enhance your quality of life and give you the motivation you need to achieve to stay on track with a healthy lifestyle.
Unhealthy sleep habits can have a harmful impact on carbohydrate metabolism and hormonal balance.
Here are my top 5 dietary and lifestyle tips to help you improve your sleep pattern.
- Try to sleep a minimum of seven to a maximum of nine hours of sleep per night. Oversleeping can be as detrimental as sleep deprivation.
- Establish regular sleep hours. Try to go to bed and wake up in the morning around the same time every day, even on the weekends.
- Go to bed before 11:00 pm, preferably by 10:00 pm. Our stress glands, the adrenals, recharge between the hours of 11:00 pm-1:00 am.
- Avoid raising your blood sugar levels at night. Try not to eat in the two hour period before going to bed. If you’re feeling hungry, choose a snack that contains protein because it is a source of the amino acid, tryptophan. We convert tryptophan into serotonin and melatonin, which are the hormones important for sleep. The sugars from fruit may also help tryptophan reach the brain more easily.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. These are all stimulating and result in increased heart rate, rapid breathing, increased brain activity and higher levels of stress hormones.
If you are wanting a snack in the evening (2 hours before bedtime preferably) then you want to be choosing a low glycemic snack like apples with almond butter, raw veggie sticks and a couple of tablespoons of hummus or avocado or some plain Greek yogurt sweetened with cinnamon, vanilla extract and cacoa powder.