Sleeping well is a fundamental step in improving your health and maintaining good health. Often with sleep issues there is a cat and mouse type problem; the actual problem can be interrupting your sleep or the problem can be caused from lack of sleep.

I want to try and help improve your sleep using some simple techniques you can do straight away. Everyone is different so some may work better than others for you. Please email me your experiences and feedback if you try them out.

Do you always wake at the same time of night?

Many patients mention that they wake at the same time every night and it is especially common to wake around 3 am. In Traditional Chinese medicine, this is the time that the liver energises. One of the functions of the liver is to store sugar and it releases this if you have low blood sugar so it is very possible that you can wake due to this activity. The hormone that triggers the release of sugar is “cortisol”. Cortisol is actually the stress hormone that wakes us up in the morning so having it released in the middle of the night is not great for sleep!

To prevent this happening, you need to stabilise your blood sugar by eating regularly throughout the day and a formulated snack before bed. This is where there are differing opinions on what to do. Many people will suggest a banana before bed as it contains chemicals to help you sleep, however, bananas are high in carbohydrates so they may make the blood sugar spike and then crash which triggers cortisol to wake you up. A protein snack before bed may help as it has a slower sugar release that may get you through the night, however, it may not have enough sugar therefore waking you again from cortisol release.

You could also try a balanced snack before bed. By balanced I mean a healthy snack that contains protein, fat and carbohydrates; a piece of fruit and some yogurt or an oat cake with peanut butter.

Everyone is an individual so it depends on your “Metabolic Type” as to which will suit you - try 3 nights on each and see what works best. Keep a food journal and make notes of the food combinations and also the foods. Did you eat meat, alcohol, coffee, eggs, sweets, or cakes? You may find any one particular food that is the culprit.

STRESS and the 'Sweet & Salty' Sleep Connection

You may be able to link stress to sleeping poorly and after reading this you may also see another link? This is that cortisol the stress hormone keeps you awake or wakes you up. If you are stressed already, then have low blood sugar as described above, you will have a double whammy waking you up!

The stress hormone cortisol is made in the adrenal glands that sit on your kidneys. They also produce other chemicals to balance blood pressure which works well with the kidneys. Salt and sugar are another couple of interesting foods that involve decreasing stress and are generally thought of as bad for you! Like all foods, sugar and salt can be used therapeutically at the correct levels but if used excessively can be harmful. You can use them therapeutically to help you sleep. Sugar and salt have differing actions but can calm the stress output from the adrenals via blood sugar control and blood pressure too.

Here are two pre-bed 'nightcaps' to help calm you before bed and throughout the night. I personally try just about everything I recommend and these really work!

  • Fresh orange juice (sugary), add some powdered collagen protein (this adds dissolvable protein to the drink) and a pinch of himalayan salt.

  • A small glass of organic whole milk (contains calming minerals and a mix of sugar and protein), plus a little sugar and a pinch of himalayan salt.

One reason some foods promote sleep is because they have high levels of magnesium which is calming on the nervous system. Magnesium is one of the most common minerals to become deficient in as it is used for 100’s of reactions and chemical pathways in the body. Ironically, it is one of the best minerals to take if you are tired too. I have extremely good results with a magnesium night formula that also contains other ingredients to promote relaxation and sleep such as chamomile, hops and milk extracts.

We have had rave reviews and highly recommend this MegaMag Night Formula by Nutri below. You can order this direct from Nutri on 0800 212 742 or give us a call and we will order it in for you.

These are common signs you might be Magnesium deficient:

  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Sleeping problems
  • Chocolate cravings
  • Anxiety
  • High Blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Constipation

These foods have good magnesium levels in:

  • Dark leafy greens such as spinach or chard
  • Nuts and seeds such as almonds and pumpkin seeds
  • Mackerel
  • Beans & lentils such a black beans
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Figs
  • Dark chocolate
  • Unsweetened Yogurt or kefir

These tips relate to the foods your are eating before bed and to your stress levels affecting sleep. Of course there are other reasons that you may not be sleeping well that haven’t been covered. Balancing your blood sugar like this is also effective at helping other issues too and may have general health benefits on top of improved sleep.