It seems that every one of my clients lately has complained that they aren’t getting quality sleep. Maybe you can’t fall asleep even though you are tired, maybe you wake up repeatedly, maybe you wake up and then can’t get back to sleep, or maybe you sleep through the night, but don’t wake up feeling refreshed. Or maybe you find yourself dozing off during meetings. Sound familiar?
Along with diet, exercise, stress management and social connections, quality sleep is one of the pillars to optimal health. The problem is that good sleep can be elusive!
While your gut microbiome does actually play a role in your sleep (so keep up with your gut-healthy diet!) (1), today I’m just going to focus on simple tips that everyone should be doing, plus a few additional ones to try if those aren’t working.
Make sure your room is DARK. Add blackout curtains if it’s not completely dark, or try a sleeping mask.
Make sure your room is QUIET. If there is street noise, noise from neighborhood kids, or traffic noise, then consider using a fan or white noise generator to block out sounds. I’ve been using a Marpac white noise machine for years and love it.
If you use a nightlight, use one with a red/pink bulb, which will signal your brain that it’s time to sleep. Red light encourages the production of melatonin, which is the neurotransmitter that signals sleep.
Exercise in the morning, especially if you do cardio.
Add blue light filters to your computer, phone, and other screens if you have to use them in the evening. Better yet, don’t use screens several hours before your bedtime.
Expose yourself to natural light each day – this means getting outside! Try exercising outdoors, run some errands on foot, walk around the block during your lunch break… anything to get you outside. This can sometimes be challenging in our climate, but if you are having troubles sleeping, then it’s worth the effort of getting all those extra clothes on to go outside.
Turn off Wi-Fi at night. Put your phone on airplane mode if it is in your bedroom. For some people a reduction in electromagnetic field exposure improves sleep.
Avoid caffeine consumption later in the day. Limit it to the morning.
ADDITIONAL SLEEP TIPS
Try a warm bath with Epsom salts before bedtime.
Put some lavender oil on a cotton ball, facecloth or tissue, and have it on your night table, or you can also try lavender in an essential oil diffuser if you have one. You can also add about 10 drops to that Epsom salt bath!
Try one of the herbal tea formulas designed to help you sleep. If you have to get up to pee at night, then this might not be the best choice for you. Some of the ingredients you might find in these formulas can include chamomile, lavender, valerian root, passion flower and lemon balm.
Listen to hypnosis, calming music, an audiobook or a guided meditation. If you fall asleep while doing this, make sure there is someone who can put your device (phone, iPad etc.) in airplane mode after you fall asleep. There are a lot of great apps out there. My favourite meditation app is Insight Timer, but there are other good, free apps and resources, so it’s worth taking the time to find something that resonates with you.
Eat a small snack before bed. Some people need some carbs to help them sleep. If you have blood sugar issues then have a small snack with carbs and healthy fats, such as some nuts, or maybe some berries with coconut cream. If you are on a low carb diet, then having some higher carb vegetables, tubers, or some fruit with dinner can sometimes help with sleep.
Eat your meals at consistent times each day. Research supports the idea that meal timing impacts your circadian rhythms (2), and just like you, your gut microbiome follows circadian rhythms, so to encourage you and your microbes to maintain healthy circadian rhythms you should try to eat at approximately the same times each day.
If you’ve tried all of these things regularly, and are still struggling to sleep then it might be time to visit your family doctor or wellness practitioner, and explore other reasons for poor sleep such as hormonal imbalances, or thyroid function. If restless leg syndrome is keeping you awake, then SIBO testing could be warranted, as there is a high correlation between those conditions (3). Figuring out why you aren’t sleeping well can take some time, so be persistent and communicate with your doctor. Good sleep is worth the effort!
Happy, Healthy Sleeping!