Sleep, are you getting enough?
With the pressures the world puts on us today, it’s not surprising that so many of us aren’t getting the amount of sleep we need, ask yourself, are you getting enough?
When it’s time for sleep, our body needs to be in a state of calm… and certainly not releasing stress hormones and going into the fight or flight response. What and how we eat can have a dramatic impact on our balance of stress hormones and whether we’re in a relaxed, calm state, ready to sleep… or releasing too much cortisol and other stress hormones and prepared to fight or flight.
Why Does this happen?
You know, our body hasn’t changed so much since our caveman and cave women ancestor days. When we release stress hormones, your body is trying to defend you from imminent threat. It thinks there’s a Sabre tooth tiger or a woolly mammoth about to invade your cave… it doesn’t realise you are just feeling a bit stressed out, stuck in a traffic jam, haven’t eaten recently or eaten far too much sugar! So that’s why if you are releasing too many stress hormones such as cortisol, your body doesn’t want you to sleep… because it worries you might get trampled by a huge mammal or eaten by an unruly tiger. It’s trying to protect you!
Many parents eat with their children at around 5 or 6pm at night, but if you’re not going to bed until midnight, by the time you hit your pillow your blood sugar may have dropped considerably, and you may experience low blood sugar.
If you have too many sweet things or not enough protein and fibre in the evening, you might once again go into that stress response, caused by blood sugar swings. When you eat too much sugary food (or drink too much alcohol) we get a sudden rise of blood sugar, and your body doesn’t like this and over compensates, releasing too much insulin and causing your blood sugar to plummet. Again, this causes a state of panic inside your body and you end up back in the stress response. This is how your diet can cause stress on your body, and increase the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and DHEA. And once those guys are released… yep you got it, your body isn’t able to go to sleep!
So, here are my top tips for keeping your blood sugar levels balanced…
- Eat a handful of protein with your 3 main meals… and avoid snacking on sugary snacks and drinks. Protein might include meat, fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, pulses. If you want a bedtime snack, having something slow releasing such as a glass of warm almond milk or an oatcake with peanut butter.
- Avoid caffeine after 1pm if you struggle to sleep, because this can also imbalance your blood sugar. If you do have caffeine in the morning, have it with or near to food, to prevent blood sugar spikes. Stick to herbal teas later in the day.
- Do some deep breathing, meditation, yoga, go for a walk – whatever it takes to keep you relaxed and prevent those stress hormones building up. Then your body is more likely to be in a state of calm before bedtime!
Small, simple changes can make such a profound difference to your ability to sleep… and in turn your long term health. For more tips on managing your stress, blood sugar balance and getting a good night’s sleep, you can sign up to my free newsletter here, and receive my tips directly to your inbox.