Ask the expert – Everything you need to know about SLEEP
Spirit of Hemp’s Head of Nutrition, Uta Boellinger, shares her knowledge and experience
According to the National Institutes of Health around 30 percent of UK adults suffer from some form of sleep disruption. Problems falling or staying asleep also appear to be on the rise. A recent report showed that monthly NHS prescriptions for Melatonin, the hormone which helps us fall asleep, rose by 148% from June 2014 to May 2019.
It is therefore not surprising that there is a rising interest in supplements which may help us get a better night’s sleep.
As a nutritionist with a holistic approach there isn’t a natural strategy I haven’t used or recommended to one of my clients. Below I answer some of the most commonly asked questions around sleep.
Q: What happens to my body if I don’t get enough sleep?
A: Sleep is essential for growth and repair and effects both physical and mental health. It is also critical for maintaining hormonal and neurotransmitter balance and disruption of either can lead to a vicious cycle with imbalances leading to further sleep disturbance. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to mental health and mood disorders, weight gain, increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke as well as increased illness duration. All in all sleep appears to be essential for just about every function in the body.
Q: How much sleep do we actually need?
A: Most of us need around 8 hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly – but some need more and some less. What matters is that you find out how much sleep you need and then try to achieve it.
As a general rule, if you wake up tired and spend the day longing for a chance to have a nap, it’s likely that you’re not getting enough sleep.
Q: What is causing my insomnia?
A: A variety of factors can cause poor sleep. If your insomnia is caused by a physical problem you should address this with your GP. However, in many cases the cause include bad sleeping habits, chronic stress and anxiety.
Q: I’ve heard that a ‘sleep routine’ can help. How important is this and what should it include?
A: It is very important. Our bodies thrive on routine and good habits, not just when it comes to sleep but also with things like meal times. Creating a good routine is also a simple step which most people can take to improve their quality of sleep.
This does not start in the evening but in fact when you get up in the morning. Our circadian rhythm (sleep wake cycle) is governed by hormones. These in turn are impacted by both natural and artificial light sources (or lack thereof). First thing when you get up try to look out of a window and expose your face to natural day light. You should also aim for 20-30 minutes outside at some point during the morning or early afternoon. Next try to avoid screen time for 1-2 hour before bedtime and if possible dim the lights in your house.
The body also responds well to habits in the evening and creating and following a routine can trigger your body to release the hormones which help you fall asleep. You may want to start by taking a warm bath and using one of our topicals for added relaxation such as the Immune Balm as an all over body balm. Next have a herbal tea such as our Organic Pure Hemp Tea. Our customers tell us this is very relaxing and they love it for a great night’s sleep. Finally don’t overexcite your brain just before bedtime; Some light reading for 30-60 minutes is the best way to ensure you’ll sleep well.
Q: Is stress a big factor when it comes to sleep and what can I do to reduce stress?
A: As mentioned our nervous system plays a key role in our ability to get a good nights sleep and this can often be disrupted by overstimulation and chronic stress. 10 – 15 minutes of meditation or breathing exercises can work wonders in soothing and calming your nervous system as it actively reduces cortisol, the stress hormone. It’s therefore a good idea to include this in your daily routine, too. Our high quality organic CBD+CBDA oil may support the body’s natural ability to keep your hormones in balance. It is also packed with terpenes such as myrcene which is also found in hops and has been shown to have a calming effect on the body.
Q: What foods can I eat to help with my sleep and does it matter when I eat?
A: Nutrition and sleep are intrinsically linked with both foods to include and foods to avoid being important. In fact, lack of sleep creates a vicious cycle – the more tired you are, the more caffeine and sugar you’ll crave and consume to stay awake during the day; but the more you consume, the harder it’ll be to fall asleep at night.
Key things to consider here are avoiding caffeine, sugar and refined carbs, especially in the afternoon and evening and including plenty of the following:
- Foods high in magnesium such as green leafy vegetables and nuts. Magnesium is nature’s chill pill and helps us relax physically and mentally.
- Foods which contain melatonin such as almonds. Melatonin is the hormone needed for sleep.
- Adequate protein (approx. 1 gram of protein per kg of body weight) to ensure good levels of the amino acids involved in sleep regulation
- Other sleep-aiding foods such as Montmorency Cherries which contain the sleep modulating compounds melatonin, tryptophan, potassium and serotonin as well as turkey which contains the amino acid tryptophan and important precursor of both melatonin and serotonin.
In terms of timing it is best to have your last meal about 2 hours before you go to bed. You don’t want to go to sleep with a full stomach as your digestive system slows down at night and undigested food can cause problems such as bloating and wind. On the other hand you don’t want to go to bed hungry as this may prevent you from falling asleep. Again it can be really helpful to get into a good routine and try to have your meals around the same time each day.
If you would like to find out more about any of the above or discuss your personal sleep needs and how you might benefit from further advice book your personal nutrition consultation now. If you want to browse our sleep aids, you can find them in the ‘sleep’ archive of our website.