Sleep Tips: Improve Your Health Through Improving Your Sleep
Sleep is incredibly important to health and wellness in general, and autoimmune health and wellness in particular.
Benefits of Sleep
Getting plenty of quality sleep supports:
- Blood Sugar Regulation
- Fatty Acid Balance
- Endocrine Function
- Cardiovascular Health
- Brain and Nervous System
- Maintaining a Healthy Weight
What Experts Say About Sleep
“Every physiological system in the body and every single operation of the mind is wonderfully enhanced by sleep when you get it and demonstrably impaired when you don’t get enough.” Dr. Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Founder and Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. Dr. Walker goes on to suggest that insufficient sleep can be linked to every disease of the developed world, from Alzheimer’s Disease to Type II Diabetes (Rose, 2018).
“Excess inflammation, less cellular regeneration and repair, lowered immunity, and imbalanced hormones can be the outcome of too little rest. Even if you have addressed dietary issues and made other lifestyle changes, they won’t be effective if you aren’t sleeping properly.” (Trescott & Alt, 2019).
“Lack of adequate sleep has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality from all causes: this means that if you consistently don’t get enough sleep, you have a much higher risk of getting sick and dying. Period.”Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (Ballantyne, 2013)
Protect your schedule, set boundaries, and schedule time for sleep.
Sleep Tips: Create a Relaxing Evening Routine
Schedule some time to relax and unwind in the evening before bed. Include habits that you find calming and relaxing.
Some ideas include:
- Take a warm bath or a shower in the evening. A bath or a shower can encourage sleep through promoting blood flow, calming the nervous system, and lowering body temperature.
- Write in a journal. Record any thoughts, events, or emotions from the day. Or, write down a list of things you are grateful for. If you find it calming, make a list of things you do not want to forget to do tomorrow.
- Practice deep breathing and/or meditation. Alternate nostril breathing is a great for relieving stress and anxiety, as well as for calming the nervous system. Or, try an evening meditation through Calm or Headspace.
- Use positive sleep affirmations. Some simple examples includes: “I am allowing my mind to relax and my body to sleep” and “I am surrounded by love and support. I am relaxing my body. It is safe for me to sleep.”
- Dim the lights in the evening. Consistently dimming the lights every evening will help to signal your body that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
- Read a calming book instead of watching tv or movies.
- Have a consistent bedtime, and unplug from electronics 1-2 hours before bedtime (if you must be on electronics – use blue light blocking glasses.) If you are struggling to go to bed earlier, gradually adjust your bedtime by 10-15 minutes each evening.
- Use calming essential oils like frankincense and lavender to relax in the evening and encourage sleep. You can use them topically or aromatically.
Sleep Tips: Set the Mood for Sleep
- Sleep in a dark room. Use black out curtains. Remove electronics like TVs, laptops, and cell phones from your room. Put dark tape over LED lights. Use a silk eye mask.
- Keep your room cool. Aim for setting the temperature in your room to approximately 65 degrees Farenheit or 18 degrees Celcuis, the temperatures where studies show that people sleep best.
- Use a white noise machine to block out any noise from outside or within your home. A white noise machine can be especially helpful if other family members stay up late.
Sleep Tips: Cultivate Daily Daytime Habits that Encourage Better Sleep at Night
Did you know there are things you can do during the morning and daytime to improve your sleep at night?
For real. Here are some ideas:
- Include nutrient dense foods that support sleep, like organ meats, seafood, banana, and kiwi fruit.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, but not too close to bedtime. Aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces every day. Dehydration at night can lead to dryness in the nasal passages and mouth, which can make people more prone to snoring. Dehydration can also lead to painful nighttime leg cramping. However, drinking too much water too close to bedtime can lead to interrupted sleep through middle of the night bathroom visits. The best bet? Drink water evenly throughout the day up until a couple of hours prior to bedtime.
- Connect with nature. Get outside to connect with the natural cycle of the earth / or if you are indoors most of the day, mimic natural light cycles. For example, turn lights down in the evening. Remember, it’s natural to sleep more in the winter months when it’s darker for longer.
- Wake up calmly when possible. Waking up to a loud, blaring alarm clock can trigger a stress response in your body immediately upon waking. If you need to wake with an alarm clock, consider a light alarm clock that simulates the sunrise, or use an alarm clock with calming, nature sounds.
- Get moving earlier in the day. Movement, including yoga and walking can help circadian rhythms, as well as metabolism. However, be wary of exercising at night as it may be hard to fall asleep or it may disrupt sleep.
- Consider napping, but only before 3pm. Even short naps can work wonders for brain function and overall health. However, be aware of how napping personally affects your nighttime sleep patterns, and make adjustments as necessary.
Sleep Tips: Dietary considerations
Avoid eating large meals too close to bedtime. Indigestion, which can be triggered by large meals, can interfere with sleep.
Blood sugar dysregulation can interrupt sleep patterns and wreak havoc on the quality and quantity of sleep. Be sure to macro balance your meals. In other words, include a protein, carbs in the form of veggies, and healthy fats at every meal. Also, reduce stress and get moving to improve blood sugar regulation.
Be sure to include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Omega 3 fatty acids help to regulate the production and release of melatonin, which will in turn help the nighttime phase of circadian rhythm, thus improving sleep.
Inflammation affects sleep. As you eat a nutrient dense, whole foods, anti-inflammatory diet, like the autoimmune protocol (AIP), inflammation will decrease in time, which should in turn improve sleep.
Sleep Tips: for Shift Workers
- Create and stick to a regular sleep routine when possible. Arrange your schedule to allow for consistent daily sleep patterns.
- Simulate day-night cycles when possible. Make your sleep environment as dark as possible during the day, using black out curtains and a sleep mask.
- Remember to remove phones and any other electronic distractions from your sleep environment to ensure uninterrupted sleep.
- Use a white noise machine to block out any daytime noise from outside or within your home.
Sleep is so incredibly important to health and wellness. I personally know how important sleep is to me as I find joy while living well with autoimmune disease.
Please remember to be patient with yourself as you break old habits and cultivate new ones. Change is hard. Be kind to yourself, and take baby steps.
This is not about a quick fix. This is about a long term lifestyle change. So take things as slow as you need to, and try not to overwhelm yourself.
I am sending you so much love and support.
Ballantyne, S. (2013). The Paleo Approach. Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing, Inc.
Nutritional Therapy Association 2019. Sleep, Stress, Movement Student Guide.
Trescott, M. & Alt, A. (2016). The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook. New York, NY: Rodale.