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Nutrition & Sleep: How good nutrition can help you get a restful nights sleep

As a Homeopath, as well as a Nutritional Therapist, I often focus on Homeopathic Remedies to help with sleep.  My patients often come to me with underlying emotional issues that are hindering a decent nights shut-eye. 


We often overlook the fact that what you're putting in your body, can have a detrimental affect on your ability to sleep.  This weeks Nutritional Blog post will take a look at some things you can do with your diet, to help you get the rest you need.


Firstly lets take the obvious ones. 


Sugar and Caffeine.

It might seem obvious, but loading up on sugar and caffeine before bed, isn't the best idea.  But why? 

Well, caffeine is obvious.  The caffeine in your after dinner coffee is a stimulant.  And depending on how well you metabolize it, can hinder your ability to drift off, even if drunk hours before bed time.  I personally can't drink coffee after around 6pm.  For others it could even be a morning only beverage.  So steer clear at least after 6pm.

But lets look at sugar.  We know that lovely high we get after eating sugar.  What could be better than a bar of chocolate after dinner in front of the TV.  But that sugar high has to have a sugar low.  The low will more than likely make you sleepy, off you pop to bed and then wake in the night when your body is trying to balance its blood sugar levels.  Waking in the night with a craving for sugar is never going to do you any good.  And could indicate an underlying health issue.  If this occurs regularly, attention is needed.

That's the obvious ones, what about the less obvious ones.


Fiber and Fat

Studies have shown that a diet low in fiber (think fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and high in fat (think dairy, oils, crisps, chips etc), hinders the ability to fall asleep.  When you do fall asleep, the deep-sleep cycles are less frequent and sleep is disturbed.


Heart Burn (and GERD)

Anyone who has experienced heart burn knows how horrible it really is.  That nasty burning feeling, traveling up from your tummy and as far as up into your throat, is a telling sign that something is wrong.  The traditional camp often still thinks that the leading cause of heart

burn is too much stomach acid.  However, research is now showing that in the majority of cases the opposite is true.  The stomach tries to compensate for low stomach acid by giving extra effort to churn the food.  This causes the acid to wash back up through the sphincter which should protect the esophagus.  Doctors unfortunately don't usually check whether stomach acid is high or low and prescribe proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) as a matter of course.  Long term use of these can lead to nutrient deficiencies as stomach acid is a highly important component of our digestive system.


In younger times, I was partial to a glass or two of cider.  Coming from the south west of the UK, it was absolutely obligatory.  But after an evening of imbibing, I was often woken in the night by terrible heartburn. 

Not everyone suffers heartburn to due cider drinking, but those that do are prone to waking up, insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.  This leads on to daytime sleepiness.

All this can be avoided or at the very least helped by keeping clear of fried or high-fat meals, spicy foods, alcohol (including cider) and fizzy drinks.  Especially just before bed.


Vitamins

Of course we all know that a healthy balanced diet is the best way for health, weight control, and as we're learning now, sleep.  But the vitamins and minerals that accompany a good clean diet are also very important for sleep.  B vitamins are extremely important for a good nights sleep. 


If you are a meat and dairy eater, getting a good supply of B vitamins shouldn't be too much trouble.  Fish, poultry, meat, eggs and dairy all supply B vitamins.  It's thought that the B Vitamins play a role in melatonin regulation, which is the hormone responsible for a good nights sleep.  However, if you follow a plant based diet, it may be a bit more tricky.  It's

important for people following a vegan diet to take a good quality B12 supplement as this very difficult to get in sufficient quantities through plants.  We have unfortunately over farmed our soils so much that many of the vitamins and minerals we could have obtained through the soil are simply no longer there in the quantities we require. 


However, the B's 1 through to 9 can be obtained through vegetables, fruits and soy products.  The website One Green Planet has an excellent list of plant based B vitamin sources.


There seems to still be a debate on whether the estrogen's in Soy are healthy or not.  Simply put the estrogen's in Soy are plant estrogen's and not animal, and therefore do not have a detrimental affect on our hormones.  You can learn much more in dept about it HERE.

I would go for Soy over a animal any day.


Losing Weight

Yes, unfortunately, the more weight we carry around the midsection, the more likely it is that we experience sleep problems.  However, by following the above suggestions, the result will be weight loss as a by product.  


Last but not least - Exercise

It may seem obvious, but exercise can lead to better sleep.  If you get up for work, drive your car to work, sit at your desk all day, drive home, and sit in front of the TV before going to bed, rinsing and repeating, you're likely only tiring yourself out mentally and not

physically.


It's not advisable to exercise too late in the day as the stimulation from exertion can have the opposite effect. Plus you can also disrupt your blood sugar and wake in the night from Hypoglycemia.  But getting yourself moving and your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes per day will go a long way to helping with sleep, and weigh loss too.


But where do I start?

If you have an underlying health issue, make an appointment through my Booking page and we can examine your nutrition in detail.  But if you're just looking for ideas of an example daily meal agenda, this could help:

  • Breakfast - half a cup of steel cut oats with either some dried fruit or fresh blueberries or raspberries.

  • Lunch - a sandwich with whole-wheat bread.  With lettuce, tomato, cucumber, etc.  If you're a meat eater, try some lean turkey.  If you're not, try some grilled tofu or tempeh.  Mustard is a good condiment to use as it's low in sugar but high in taste.

  • Snack - try some legumes.  They come in small cans these days.  A combo of kidney beans, chick peas, black beans etc. With a light dressing made from your favourite vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.   Or snack on sliced bell peppers, cucumber, carrots etc. 

  • Dinner - stir fry vegetables (broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, onions etc) with lean chicken or tofu.  Or even just the vegetables.  When I make a stir fry I usually just chuck in a many different vegetables as possible and skip the protein.  (But where do I get my protein?  Same place as the meat you eat does. Plants.  But that's another post)  Combine that with some brown rice or whole grain pasta. 

Essentially, what you're looking to do is move to whole foods.  Vegetables, salads, low sugar fruits and whole grains. 


If you combine an improved diet with a Homeopathic treatment to explore any other underlying emotional reasons for sleep issues, you're on a winning ticket.

Interested in discussing your sleep issues?  Want to look into it further.  Book a no obligation FREE Fifteen Minute chat with me to see how I could help you.


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