Let’s not underestimate the effect a lack of sleep has on us. Apart from feeling exhausted, lacking energy, being moody, having low tolerance and having difficulty concentrating, you probably notice that on the days that you are feeling like this, your cravings for sugar and carbs are almost uncontrollable. You will eat just about anything to give you that spike in sugar and energy you are so depleted of.
The research is clear: Lack of sleep, or poor sleep, stops your metabolism working efficiently. When this happens your cravings increase, which makes you eat more, increasing your weight and risk of developing chronic diseases. Getting enough sleep, and sleeping well, are essential for our health!
The optimal amount of sleep for an adult is between 7-9 hours each night. Now I know the first thing that will come to mind for a majority of you is the thought: I am a mum (or dad) with young children so how am I supposed to do that??? Let’s not forget that I am a mum of 2 young boys (10 and 8) too and I am very lucky that they do not disturb me during the night. However, there is plenty that needs to be done for them at the start and end of the day, which means that I definitely don’t have the luxury of staying in bed until mid-morning. But the one thing I make sure that I do religiously, in order for me to be able to function and do everything that needs to be done, is that I endeavour to climb into bed each night between 9:30 and 9:45 with the aim to have the lights off at 10:00/10:15.
There are many ways that we can assist our bodies in achieving our optimal sleep so I thought I would share some of those tips with you. Please keep in mind that you will have to be patient, because an improvement in your sleep pattern will not happen overnight, it may take a few weeks or months, but these strategies will eventually shift your sleep patterns.
1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time to create regular rhythms of sleep.
2. Create total darkness and quiet in the bedroom.
3. Avoid caffeine – although you feel as though you need this to keep you awake during the day, this may end up making your sleep worse at night.
4. Avoid alcohol – it helps you get to sleep but causes interruptions in your sleep and therefore leads to poor-quality sleep.
5. Do not eat within 2-3 hours of going to bed – going to bed on a full stomach can lead to poor-quality sleep.
6. Don’t exercise vigorously after dinner – this tends to excite the body and makes it more difficult for you to get to sleep.
7. Turn off IT technology 1 hour before bed – being stimulated right up until we go to sleep makes it difficult for our brains to switch off and therefore get a restful nights sleep.
8. Take a hot salt / aromatherapy bath – raising your body temperature before bed helps to induce sleep.
9. Stretch before bed as this helps to relax our bodies and makes it easier for us to fall asleep.
10. Practice relaxation breathing or meditation before sleep - this helps to relax the brain, allowing you to fall asleep more easily and have a restful sleep.
11. Before going to bed write down the things that are causing you anxiety and make plans for what you need to do the next day to reduce your worry. This will free up your mind, allowing you to have a deeper and more restful sleep.
12. Get 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight during the day – the light from the sun triggers your brain to release specific chemicals and hormones such as melatonin that are vital to healthy sleep, mood and ageing.
Remember, the key is to get both enough sleep as well as good quality sleep every night. Everything else will fall into place as a result. Your mood will improve, your energy will improve, your ability to concentrate will improve, but your sugar and carb cravings will reduce! You will feel more level throughout the day and you will find it much easier to cope with your work and family.