My 5 top tips for getting better sleep
Sleep is something that can make or break how we go through life. If you’re not sleeping well, you won’t be as creative, productive or resilient as you could be. So if quality sleep is evading you, here are my top five tips to help you get a good rest at night.
Keep it cool
A lot of people like to be cosy at night. But the human body just isn’t designed to sleep well in 20+ degrees! That’s why it’s important to be aware of the temperature that you’re sleeping in.
Around 16-19 degrees Celcius is considered the ideal sleep temperature. If it is much warmer, you may feel more restless and likely to toss and turn. Colder than that may be fine if you have enough blankets to keep you warm!
Make it dark
Before we had electricity, the only light after dark was the flicker of fire. So needless to say, the human body has not adapted to sleeping well with light around. Have a look around your room to see if there are sources of light that might be disturbing your sleep.
Common light sources in the bedroom include:
- A flashing or charging light from the mobile phone
- Other electronic charging lights
- Light from outside such as a streetlight
- Lights coming from somewhere else in the house
- Electronic display alarm clocks
These might seem small, but they can disrupt sleep. So if you can’t remove the light source completely, try covering it for sleep. For example, you can put a piece of electrical tape over the power light on a TV.
Beware the blue light
Beware blue light
Any light can be a problem when you’re trying to sleep, but blue light may actually be a problem if you are exposed to it during the hours prior to sleep. This type of light is commonly emitted by screens including our phones, and by many types of light bulbs.
Blue light is not all bad – it can help to boost attention and mood during the day. But in the evening, it suppresses production of melatonin, the sleep chemical. This means that it can shift the body’s internal clock, which can lead to a host of chronic health issues.
The easiest way to avoid blue light exposure is to stop using electronics for an hour or two before bedtime. But if you truly can’t put down the phone or tablet, look at installing an app or switch your device to night mode which reduces the blue light levels given off by the screen
Avoid caffeine after 3 pm
This might not be something that happens when you are getting ready for bed. But caffeine can continue to stimulate the nervous system hours after you consume it. If you are struggling to get to sleep, it’s time to look at your caffeine habits.
When you stop drinking caffeine depends on when you head to bed. But it takes around 5 hours for half of the caffeine to be eliminated from your body. So if you’re drinking coffee at 5 pm, you could still have 50% of it circulating through the body when you head to bed.
Snack on sleep-friendly foods
You might be fond of a post-dinner snack before you head to bed. If so, there are some foods that you can include to support a deep, restful sleep.
Cherries and blueberries are natural sources of melatonin, the body’s sleep chemical. Consuming melatonin-rich foods can help to induce sleep. If you prefer a beverage, research shows tart cherry juice can support sleep time and efficiency.
Tryptophan-rich foods support the body’s production of melatonin. This is why a warm glass of milk is a traditional insomnia remedy. You can also get tryptophan from foods such as turkey, oats, almonds and yoghurt.
My approach to sleep problems
Many of my clients come to me because they are burnt out and struggle to have the energy to get through the day. Needless to say, one of the first things I ask about is their sleep habits, quickly followed by their caffeine habits. You see, most sleep problems are caused by what happens during the day, while many energy issues are caused by what is going on at night.
By taking a detailed health and lifestyle history I can start to identify what could be the main cause or multifactorial causes, of poor sleep onset or maintenance. Along with the case history, there are blood tests and functional hormone tests that can be run to see if there are biological reasons you are suffering from sleep issues.
The key difference between most GPs and nutritional medicine is the focus on the root cause of the problem and not only the symptomatic treatment. Treatment protocols may include dietary changes, lifestyle adjustments and nutritional supplementation (because sometimes we just need some extra help to kick-start some healthy habits).
Consultations are available at my clinic in Newstead, Brisbane and via my online video consultations.