by Shannon Talbot
On the first Monday after a time change, I’m sure many of you have getting more or better sleep on the brain. In fact, 1 in 2 Canadian adults have trouble sleeping according to the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2019.
What does lack of sleep do?
Chronic sleepless nights can have severe consequences on our health but for most of us, not having a great sleep can make us grumpy and impair our focus, but did you know that lack of sleep is also linked to overeating and obesity? A lack of sleep increases the ghrelin hormone, or as I like to think of it, the “gremlin hormone” – that little guy on your shoulder that says go grab those cookies or ice cream at 10:00 at night. The ghrelin hormone is otherwise known as the hunger hormone and the one that makes us crave certain foods like sugar and caffeine. We have the sugar or caffeine, feel a jolt of energy and feel great, and then we crash which starts the cycle of craving the sugar or caffeine all over again. In other words, we get stuck on a blood sugar rollercoaster full of spikes and crashes. And the less sleep we get, the more that gremlin hormone comes out to haunt us.
As a busy mom of two young boys with a full-time job, a part-time job and an over analytical mind, I relied on coffee and sugar getting me through the day for a long time. But what got me through the day worsened my sleep quality at night and it wasn’t until I started waking up at 5am that I realized I needed to focus on getting a good quality sleep if I wanted to properly function past 2pm. So, in today’s post, I’m going to share the tips that have helped me to sleep better. And the days I follow this routine (combined with my morning routine of meditation, exercise and gratitude writing), I crave sugar less, drink less coffee and overall feel pretty darn good.
How much sleep should we get?
Experts recommend we get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, but everyone is different so do what makes you feel your best. Interestingly before I started my wellness journey, I used to sleep 8-9 hours a night but now with my routine, I find 7 hours of sleep does the trick.
What is my bedtime routine?
Like kids, adults can benefit from sticking to a routine, especially when it comes to sleeping. Here’s mine:
1. The Power Down Hour – an hour before I’d like to be asleep, I close my laptop, put my phone on its charger (not in my bedroom), wash my face, check on my kids sleeping and then either read or write in bed. If I have a lot on my mind or a big to do list the next day, I like to write everything down and clear my head before bed. Or I read and find this usually works like a charm in making me sleepy. All of this combined prepares me physically and psychologically for sleep.
2. I go to bed much earlier than I used to. I wake up at 5am to have an hour of me time before my family wakes up so in order to get 7 hours of sleep, I must be asleep by 10pm to have a productive day. I’ve found if I go to bed even just 10 minutes past 10:00, my brain immediately thinks about how I’ll be tired the next day so 10:00 is my absolute maximum if I’m going to wake up at 5. If I go to bed after 10, I sleep a bit later.
3. I don’t drink caffeine past noon.
4. I aim to get 20 minutes of outside time every day - the light from the sun enters your eyes and triggers your brain to release specific chemicals and hormones like melatonin that are vital to healthy sleep, mood, and aging.
5. I try not to drink alcohol during the week. I love a glass of red wine to wind down at the end of a long day but those days I have it, I have to be prepared for a more restless sleep as the wine sends my blood sugar on that lovely rollercoaster ride I mentioned earlier and I usually find myself wide awake around 3am.
Some other suggestions include having a bath during your power down hour, limiting watching or listening to the news in the evening and especially not before bed (in fact, studies have shown listening to the news right before bed and right when you wake up in the morning can add more negativity and stress to your day!) and eating no later than two hours before going to sleep.
These are just some ways to increase your sleep quality and decrease that hunger hormone in your body but what works for me may not work for you. The best way to find out is to experiment with different tactics and then follow what works and stick to that routine as much as possible!
I’d love to hear from you if you are going to try any of the above tips or have any other tips that work for you? Comment below.