5 Simple Hacks to Transform Your Sleep!

A few years ago we were going through a really difficult time with our previous business and our children were still often waking up in the night. I was running from pillar to post during the day and unwinding with a glass of red wine in the evenings.  

As a result of the constant pressure on my nervous system, hormones and adrenal glands, I started to have difficulty getting to sleep and would often wake up in the night. This started to impact my productivity and enjoyment in life, and at the time I couldn’t see a solution.  

As a Registered Nutritional Therapist I was able to find some easy action steps to tackle my sleep problems.  As a result I am drifting straight off to sleep. No longer waking up in the middle of the night, plus I feel way more productive and happier each day.  

Here are my five simple hacks to transform your sleep!  

1 – Reduce Blue Light Exposure  

Increased levels of blue light in the evening can disrupt your sleep-and-wake cycles, making it harder for you to drop off to sleep. It does this by decreasing the amount of melatonin that is made by the brain. If you just love watching TV in the evening and need to be on your device up until bedtime sometimes, why not invest in some blue light blocking glasses for those last-minute emails. 

Alternatively, consider using a red-light therapy lamp that you can switch on in the evening and first thing in the morning to help keep your circadian rhythm in check. 

Consider putting your phone on flight mode! And read a book before you go to sleep instead of watching TV. 

Include red light therapy into your morning and evening routine to help your melatonin production. 

2 – Increase Magnesium  

Magnesium has over 600 cellular functions in the body. 

In particular, magnesium aids sleep by activating the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for making you feel calm and relaxed. It also regulates the hormone melatonin, which guides sleep-wake cycles in your body, and it binds to the hormone GABA which helps to quieten down nerve activity. 

There are different ways that you can get magnesium into your system to aid in sleep. Foods such as green vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish and meat contain good amounts of magnesium. Or consider magnesium supplements, magnesium powder for drinks, or take a hot bath with a handful of Epsom salts in the evening. 

Focus on your evening meal containing more magnesium rich foods. Dark green leafy vegetables make a great addition. Avoid alcohol and fizzy drinks as they may deplete magnesium. Try not to stress out too much as this can deplete your magnesium levels. Choose a handful of nuts or dark chocolate for a snack and consider taking a magnesium supplement 1-2 hours before bed. 

3 – Balance Blood Sugar  

If you consume too much sugar (this could come from alcoholic beverages too), then your rising insulin levels may also cause a rise in your cortisol levels, making it harder to drop off to sleep.  

If you wake up in the night then your blood sugar may be imbalanced, and as it continues to drop, it may cause cortisol to rise once more.  

In addition to this, your brain needs glucose to manufacture and store memories. If your blood sugar is low, your brain might be triggering for more glucose during the night. And if your liver is burdened with too much or too little glucose, then it may also cause sleep disturbances as it tries to do its crucial clean up and repair work during the night.  

In order to balance blood sugar, avoid refined carbohydrates, foods with hidden added sugar and drinks containing sugar. Increase your intake of protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates as this will slow down spikes in blood sugar and help to keep your blood sugar stable. 

Replace packaged cereals for protein shakes, oats, chia and flaxseed for breakfast. Avoid snacking, but enjoy a handful of nuts, seeds or fruit WITH your lunch and evening meal. 

Include good quality protein, fats and plenty of vegetables in your lunch and evening meal. 

4 – Exercise Every Single Day 

Exercise will not only physically make you feel more tired, but it will help you to get into the stage of sleep known as slow-wave sleep (or deep sleep). This is when the most restorative work is done on the brain and the body. The benefits of exercise continue into the night! 

Even if you don’t have time to go to the gym every day, then walking can also be a great way of getting more exercise. Exercise plays a huge role in how well you sleep. 

It is generally considered that working out first thing in the morning is the most beneficial for performance and sleep, but new research shows that performance may be greater later on in the day. So as long as you exercise at least 90 minutes before bed – it might be more beneficial for you. 

Consider changing your mindset around exercise. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise every single day. Even cleaning the house and working in the garden can be seen as exercise when done with vigour! 

Include yoga (broga for men) into your workout routine, either before or after your usual routine. Yoga not only helps to relax the muscles in between workouts, but it also repairs our tissues AND it works to rebalance our hormones so that we can cope with stressful situations better and even sustain our ideal weight.  

If you can’t squeeze in a workout then include at least 30 minutes of brisk walking into your day. 

5 – Incorporate Breathing Techniques  

When you feel stressed and anxious it’s easy to take shallow fast breaths as our ‘fight or flight’ response is switched on. This won’t help you to feel relaxed and may even prevent you from getting good quality sleep.  

Try diaphragmatic breathing. This involves engaging the diaphragm and will switch on the ‘rest and digest’ part of our nervous system. You can check you are doing this correctly by placing your hand on your tummy and making sure it’s expanding as much as possible when you breathe in. Try this next time you feel anxious, or if you have trouble falling asleep.  

Take a moment to think about how you are breathing when you feel stressed, can’t get off to sleep, or wake up in the night. Instead of taking shallow breaths, take some deep belly breaths RIGHT to the bottom of your abdomen and make sure your tummy extends as far out as it will go as you breathe in. 

I hope you have found this useful. For a free actionale workbook on getting better quality sleep, click here to download