If despite your best efforts to exercise regularly and eat a clean diet you find that there is a not-so delicious muffin growing around your middle that won't seem to budge- your sleep schedule could be a big part of the blame.
When it comes to balancing your hormones, getting a good night's sleep is one of the most important lifestyle adjustments you can make along with managing stress. At the same time, there is a bit of a double edge sword here- because quality sleep has such an influence on our hormones, sleep deprivation can lead to hormonal imbalance- and hormonal imbalance can throw off your natural sleep/wake cycle, making it hard to get a good night's rest. Ouch.
Some signs of sleep deprivation:
- You're always hungry
- You crave higher calorie, high sugar foods.
- You fall asleep as soon as you get into bed
- You feel tired throughout the day
Let's take a further look at those first two points.
When you consistently have good sleeps, you positively influence the hormones that control your appetite and help to increase your metabolism. These hormones are ghrelin (hunger hormone- appetite enhancing) and leptin (satiety hormone- appetite curbing/metabolism enhancing). When you are sleep deprived, your ghrelin increases significantly and your leptin decreases. Sleep deprivation makes you feel hungrier more often and at the same time, slows down your metabolism. Ouch again.
And then on top of that - there are the cravings.
When you are energy deprived, your body will seek out energy from other sources..like sugary, carb heavy foods that will get your blood sugar levels up fast. This also occurs when you have high levels of cortisol (stress hormone). So pair a poor nights sleep with a stressful day at work- it's no wonder that all you want to do when you get home is eat pizza and a whole tray of brownies! When we succumb to these cravings, our blood sugar levels rise quickly and dramatically and this causes our insulin levels to do the same. What goes up, must come down and so as your blood sugar levels drop, you can expect your cravings to come back.
When this cycle becomes the norm, we eventually start developing the ol' muffin top around our middle.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that we receive between 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
How do you measure up?
I have a sleep tracking app on my phone, I use it for keeping track of what time I went to bed, what time I wake up and noting any interruptions, weird dreams, etc. This is a great way to see how consistent you really are.
So what can you do to help promote awesome sleeps?
- De-clutter your room and create a calm and peaceful sleeping space.
- Keep your bedroom cool.
- Keeping your bedroom around around of below 21 degrees C, will help promote the proper release of melatonin.
- Make your room as dark as possible.
- (Even a little light can disrupt your circadian rhythms and can interfere with your melatonin (sleep hormone) production). If this is tough to manage, I recommend getting a sleep mask.
- Unplug before bed.
- Electromagnetic Fields are known to interfere with the production of melatonin and serotonin. The blue light on your electronic devices has also been shown to throw off the balance of your circadian rhythms. If you use your devices in the evening, I highly recommend getting an app like. f.lux.
- Set up a regular sleep schedule.
- I have found that embracing a night time routine has been really helpful in encouraging me to start unwinding earlier and getting me into bed earlier. Getting into bed before 11 is ideal, especially if you have imbalanced hormones or adrenal issues.
- Embrace essential oils.
- Whether you have a diffuser or not, essential oils are a really lovely way to help calm down your central nervous system and promote some good chill vibes. Opting for classic scents like lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang, sandal wood, melissa and jasmine are all great choices. You can add a few drops to some body butter and give yourself a nice massage, you could add a few drops to your bath, or just rub a tiny bit on your pulse points. Check out my favourite essential oil sleep blend from Veeva, here.
- Drink some herbal tea.
- Like the essential oils, certain herbs are natural sedatives, relaxants and help reduce stress. These are great to incorporate into a nice calming tea blend that you can sip in the evening to help you start winding down. Here is a recipe for one of my go to's.
- Consider supplementation.
- There are some really nice herbal supplements that exist out there that can help you fall asleep and help you stay asleep through the night.
- Too start, try taking between 100-400mg of magnesium bis-glycinate before bed. Magnesium has an amazing ability to promote relaxation and calm anxiety. This is basically the same thing as taking an epsom salt bath- just more concentrated. (I still love me a good epsom salt bath though!)
- Try taking a dropper full of Lemon Balm (Melissa). This is one of my favourite bedtime herbs as it is amazing for helping reduce sleep disruptions while also helping reduce stress and anxious feelings. I wrote a post all about this herb recently, check it out here.
- Of course, managing stress is absolutely vital. Supporting your body with adaptogenic herbs, good food, self-care and stress supportive nutrients can help your body handle stress more effectively and can help support hormonal balance - including assisting in regulating your sleep/wake cycle. Here are a few examples of your adrenal's favourite supportive nutrients.