Category Archives: Sleep

Sleep

Q&A with James Wilson – The Sleep Geek

March is National Bed Month, a campaign which aims to highlight the importance of a good night’s sleep, so we’ve teamed up with BetterYou and Sleep Geek, James Wilson, a Sleep Behaviour and Sleep Environment Expert to answer some common and not so common questions about sleep.

1. How Much Sleep Do We Need?

The media is obsessed with this question and you see lots and lots of different answers. Generally, between 6-9 hours is the norm and to get 80% of our physiological need from sleep, we need about 5 and a half hours’ sleep. We know less than 5 and more than 11 can have a detrimental impact on our long-term health. Rather than obsessing about duration, I help people focus on quality and to create a sleep routine that gives them the sleep they need.

2. Tell me the one thing I can do to make me sleep better?

Unfortunately, for sleep, there is no one thing. We can eat better, and decide to exercise more but we cannot force sleep. What we need to do is create a healthy pre-sleep routine, ensuring we are looking to drop our heart rate and core temperature in the hour before bed. Learn what sleepy feels like, rather than tired and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends! If more of us did this, then the quality of our sleep would improve. As I have already said, it is as much about quality as it is about quantity.

3. I keep pressing my snooze button in the morning and I struggle to get up. How do I stop this?

It may be that your sleep type is a night owl; someone who goes to sleep later and gets up later, but you are trying to get up earlier than your body wants. What is currently happening is that your alarm is going off and you are waking up with a shock. You go into fight, flight or freeze mode, your senses check to see if you are under attack and when they realise you are not, they let you drop back to sleep. To combat this, use a daylight alarm clock. Our bodies are designed to be awake when it is light and these alarm clocks mimic the sun. They wake you up more gently and the sunshine like light stops the production of Melatonin, meaning you are less likely to drop off back to sleep.

4. How Do I Stop My Little One Waking Up in The Night?

Parents often ask me this and although there are several causes, one of the main reasons is that the child’s environment has changed since they went to bed. What often happens is that our little ones go to bed with a night light on, or a lullaby, or a cuddly toy type product that claims to help them sleep. These products either switch off automatically or we, as parents, turn them off. We wake up numerous times in the night, but normally go straight back into our sleep cycle, so don’t remember them. However, if we change their environment, our little ones wake up and want us to reassure them that everything is ok. If we keep the environment consistent, then they are less likely to wake up fully out of sleep.

5. The strangest question I have had:

“I was struggling to sleep and my friend recommended I take a potato to bed with me. It worked! Why do you think this is?”

I was asked this question as part of a radio phone in I took part in. My thoughts would be that the gentleman in question created a routine for himself that meant his body knew when it was time to start producing melatonin. I always recommend creating a healthy pre-sleep routine that is consistent and it helps if we use something to anchor this process. You could use brushing your teeth, removing make-up or, using a high quality magnesium supplement such as BetterYou Magnesium Oil Spray or BetterYou Magnesium Flakes. As well as providing an anchor, magnesium relaxes us and helps our heart rate drop which is important to the production of melatonin.

BetterYou are offering one lucky person the chance to Win a Sleep Bundle worth over £40, including Magnesium Flakes, Magnesium Oil Goodnight Spray, Magnesium Lotion and an Inflatable Footbath, helping you to put an end to restless nights.

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Sleep

Top Three Supplements for a Good Night’s Sleep!

March is National Bed Month, a campaign which highlights the importance of a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep can lead to numerous health problems, including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, poor immunity and mental health issues (1). Sleep is clearly crucial to our health and wellbeing. Unfortunately more than a third of us don’t get enough of it (2).

According to the latest Great British Bedtime Report, the most popular self-medication for sleep problems is alcohol. In fact, one in four of us is turning to alcohol at bedtime to help get to sleep. This figure has climbed worryingly since 2013 when the survey was first conducted.

Alcohol is one of the worst ways to treat sleep problems, as it blocks REM sleep – the most restorative type of sleep. It can worsen snoring and sleep apnea, and a nightly alcohol habit is likely to contribute to weight gain.

Fortunately, there are several healthier alternatives for those seeking a good night’s sleep. Here are the top three natural supplements commonly used to relieve insomnia and encourage restful sleep.

L-Theanine

L-theanine is the reason that many of us enjoy relaxing with a cup of tea. This amino acid, naturally present in tea leaves, has been shown to have calming effects on the brain (3). It reduces levels of the brain’s ‘excitatory’ neurotransmitter glutamate, and boosts levels of relaxing GABA.

Theanine supplements are well absorbed and have been found to enter the brain within 30 minutes. The dose often recommended for improving sleep is 200 to 400mg, taken an hour before bed.

Magnesium

Often deficient in modern diets, magnesium is one of the first nutrients to consider for anyone suffering through restless nights. Magnesium reduces electrical conduction in both muscles and nerves. These muscle-relaxant and sedative properties explain the link between magnesium and improved sleep. Those who supplement magnesium get to sleep more quickly and stay asleep for longer (4).

Dietary magnesium can be increased by eating plenty of leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds and unprocessed grains. Many people have success with magnesium oil spray or magnesium salts added to a bath before bed, as magnesium is well absorbed through the skin. Others might prefer an oral supplement. The dose often recommended for sleep is around 400mg, with chelated forms such as magnesium glycinate or magnesium taurate or magnesium citrate being the best option.

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid that reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, while increasing means the production of GABA – our brain’s ‘calm’ chemical is increased. Because this supplement appears to reduce the body’s response to stress, taurine may be of particular interest to those who feel that stress is affecting their sleep. Because magnesium is effective for muscle relaxation and relieving anxiety, taking taurine in the form of a magnesium taurate supplement may be the best choice for stressed individuals seeking a relaxed night’s sleep (5).

References
1. Why Lack of Sleep is Bad for your Health. NHS. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/lack-of-sleep-health-risks.aspx
2. The Great British Bedtime Report. The Sleep Council. https://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/The-Great-British-Bedtime-Report.pdf
3. L-Theanine: Unique Amino acid of Tea, and Its Metabolism, Health Effects, Safety. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2015
4. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: a double blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012
5. Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. Neuropharmacology 2012

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Disrupted Sleep - could it be making you fat?

Disrupted sleep – could it be making you fat?

New study: Disrupted sleep can increase ‘hunger hormones’

Disrupted sleep can increase ‘hunger hormones’ leading to unwanted weight gain, a new study suggests (1). The review, published recently in the Journal of Psychology, examines the various ways in which disrupted sleep and the associated problems cause increased food intake.

Disrupted Sleep and ‘Hunger Hormones’

Our experience of hunger is controlled by two hormones – leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that tells our brain that we are feeling full, while ghrelin sends signals from our stomach to our brain to increase appetite.

Studies have found that a lack of sleep leads to an imbalance in leptin and ghrelin (2,3). Any imbalance in these hormones can spell trouble for appetite and cravings. The result is that we are left feeling hungrier than usual. This type of imbalance also means that we are less likely to feel ‘full’ after a good meal and more likely to experience cravings for sugar-laden foods.

Disrupted Sleep and Will-Power

The researchers pinpoint another mechanism that may link sleep and weight problems. “Disrupted sleep patterns may impact food intake of both adults and children via impairment of executive functions”. If you’ve ever blamed a lack of will-power for thwarted weight loss attempts, then it may be helpful to look at improving your sleep. It seems that disrupted sleep can impair the part of the brain that is responsible for ‘executive control’ and ‘impulse modulation’, and so can sabotage weight loss attempts by affecting healthy meal planning, impulse control and simple ‘will power’. (4).

Disrupted Sleep and Emotional Eating

A third factor highlighted in the review is the role that sleep plays on emotional regulation, scientifically known as the limbic system. A pattern of disrupted sleep means we are more likely to see the ‘glass half empty’ – negative emotions are amplified and emotional challenges are more difficult to manage (5).

The result is comfort eating. We begin to reach for sugar-laden or stodgy foods – sweet and energy-dense foods to rebalance our levels of ‘happy hormones’ such as serotonin and endorphins.

Solutions for disrupted sleep

“Sleep should be actively considered in efforts to modify dietary behaviour,”, this new study concludes. In other words, if you are struggling with weight loss or sticking to a healthy eating programme, then addressing sleep problems is a good place to start.

Basic sleep hygiene is important. Try to go to bed and rise at the same times each day, and refrain from doing anything too stimulating – playing computer games, checking emails, heavy exercise – in the couple of hours before bed. Make sure that your bedroom is dark and kept at a comfortable temperature.

Magnesium, the ‘relaxing mineral’ has been found to relieve sleep problems. Taking 300mg magnesium before bed, or using a topical magnesium oil, can boost your levels in order to promote healthful sleep. Magnesium salts can also be added to bath water and will be absorbed through the skin.

L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid, plays a role in relaxation and has been seen to improve sleep quality in recent studies (6). L-theanine works by enhancing alpha-wave activity in the brain, resulting in a more relaxed state and reduced anxiety levels.

Valerian is a herbal supplement often used for promoting healthful sleep. Many individuals have found relief with herbal sleep formulas although more research needs to be done in this area.

Finally, tart cherry juice (such as CherryActive), has also performed well in initial placebo-controlled sleep studies, probably as a result of its anti-inflammatory properties and melatonin content. This type of cherry juice has been found to improve sleep parameters such as sleep quality, efficiency and total sleep time (7).

References:

  1. Alyssa Lundahl and Timothy D Nelson (2015) Sleep and food intake: A multisystem review of mechanisms in children and adults. Journal of Health Psychology, 20(6):794-805
  2. Tatone F, Dubois L, Ramsay T, et al (2012) Sex differences in the association between sleep duration, diet and body mass index: A birth cohort study. Journal of Sleep Research 21(4): 448–460
  3. Burt J, Dube L, Thibault L, et al (2014) Sleep and eating in childhood: A potential behavioral mechanism underlying the relationship between poor sleep and obesity. Sleep Medicine Reviews 15(1): 71–75
  4. Beebe DW, Fallone G, Godiwala N, et al. (2008) Feasibility and behavioral effects of an at-home multi-night sleep restriction protocol for adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49(9): 915–923
  5. Daniela T, Alessandro C, Giuseppe C, et al. (2010) Lack of sleep affects the evaluation of emotional stimuli. Brain Research Bulletin 82(1): 104–108
  6. Lyon MR et al (2011) The effects of L-theanine (Suntheanine®) on objective sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Dec;16(4):348-54
  7. Wilfred RP et al (2010) Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study. J Food Med. 13(3):579-583
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Sun Chlorella: How to cope with the snooze you lose

Sleep trouble? Could Sun Chlorella help?

Most people will experience problems sleeping at some point in their life and it is thought that around a third of Brits suffer with chronic insomnia.

Many things can contribute to a sleepless night – stress, diet, environment and lifestyle factors – but when we do find ourselves tossing and turning into the small hours of the night, it can be all too tempting to reach for the sleeping pills – but a report published by a leading mental health charity suggested that Britain has become a nation of ‘sleeping pill addicts’.

Reduce your risk of becoming addicted to these pills and try something natural instead, such as Sun Chlorella. Research from across the globe has suggested that some whole foods may improve sleep quality by up to 42% . So before you pop those prescription pills, take a look at these tips from Sun Chlorella Holistic Nutritionist Nikki Hillis who has shared some of her favourite foods to help you achieve a longer, deeper sleep.

Sun Chl  1. Chlorella

It might seem bizarre but an algae supplement such as Sun Chlorella® is rich in chlorophyll that contains high amounts of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, tryptophan and omega 3 fatty acids, all essential nutrients for quality sleep.

A recent study by Oxford University showed that the participants on a course of daily supplements of omega-3 had nearly one hour more sleep and seven fewer waking episodes per night compared with the participants taking the placebo.

Furthermore, the tryptophan found in chlorella is a sleep-enhancing amino acid used by the brain to produce neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin that help you relax and go to sleep. While young people have the highest melatonin levels, production of this hormone wanes as we age. Calcium and magnesium relax the body and B vitamins are essential for stress relief.

nuts2. Nuts and Seeds

Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds and sesame seeds are rich in magnesium and calcium – two minerals that help promote sleep. Walnuts are also a good source of tryptophan. The unsaturated fats found in nuts improve your serotonin levels, and the protein in the nuts help maintain a stable blood sugar level to prevent you waking in the night. 100 grams of sesame seeds boasts over 1000 micrograms of tryptophan. The same amount of chia seeds have over 700 mgs of tryptophan, while pumpkin seeds have almost 600 mg.

3. Herbal teas (such as Chamomile, Passionflower, Valerian, Lavender, Lemongrass)

Valerian is one of the most common sleep remedies for insomnia. Numerous studies have found that valerian improves deep sleep, speed of falling asleep, and overall quality of sleep. Lemongrass’ calming properties have been long revered to ward off nightmares while chamomile tea is used regularly worldwide for insomnia, irritability, and restlessness.

kiwi 4. Kiwi Fruit

Research suggests that eating kiwi fruit may have significant benefits for sleep due to its high antioxidant and serotonin levels. Researchers at Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University studied the effects of kiwi consumption on sleep and found that eating kiwi on a daily basis was linked to substantial improvements to both sleep quality and sleep quantity. After 4 weeks of kiwi consumption, researchers found that the amount of time it takes to fall asleep after going to bed decreased by 35.4%, the amount of time spent in periods of wakefulness after initially falling asleep fell 28.9% and the total time spent asleep among the volunteers increased by 13.4%.

5. Honey

Honey promotes a truly deep and restorative sleep. If you take a teaspoon or two of honey before bed, you’ll be re-stocking your liver with glycogen so that your brain doesn’t activate a stress response, which often occurs when glycogen is low. Honey also contributes to the release of melatonin in the brain, as it leads to a slight spike in insulin levels and the release of tryptophan in the brain.

Sun Chlorella 'A' 6. Sun Chlorella Sound Asleep Smoothie
Smoothies are a popular and satisfying breakfast but we rarely associate them with bedtime. Here, Sun Chlorella Holistic Nutritionist – Nikki Hillis – shares her ‘Sound Asleep, Sun Chlorella Smoothie’ packed with tasty ingredients to help you nod off and enjoy a restful kip.

  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ cup uncooked oats
  • 2 cups kale
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 1 sachet of Sun Chlorella®
  • Bee pollen to sprinkle on top (optional)
  • Cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a blender and sprinkle with bee pollen and cinnamon.

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Ease stress levels with Magnesium for restful nights this Sleeptember

September marks the start of a new school year. Typically at this time of year our lives become busier, the holiday period is over and work pressure builds as we head into the colder, darker months in the run up to Christmas.

A recent study by The Sleep Council found that 90% of people admit to suffering from some form of stress in their lives, with almost two out of five saying they are regularly, frequently or constantly stressed.

Not surprisingly three quarters say they have problems sleeping while stressed, with the catch 22 that almost a third say when they can’t sleep they get stressed, while just over a quarter say the best way to relieve stress is to have a good night’s sleep.

It is not always possible to remove stress from our daily lives, but transdermal magnesium can help you to relax and increase the body’s ability to cope with stress.

Magnesium is a natural relaxant, but stress can greatly increase magnesium loss.

This can be a vicious circle, as our body needs magnesium to maintain a state of rest, but a lack of the mineral in our Western diets means many of us do not get the levels we need.

When magnesium levels are low, the nervous system gets out of balance, and we feel increasingly anxious, with our muscles naturally tightening. Magnesium deficiency promotes excessive muscle tension, leading to muscle spasms, tics, restlessness, and twitches. Studies also suggest that magnesium deficiency may also be one of the causes of insomnia.

Andrew Thomas, founder and managing director at BetterYou, said: “The physical effects of stress, including high heart rate and blood pressure, tense muscles and fast and shallow breathing, can play havoc in our bodies. Sleep helps to slow these effects and encourage a state of relaxation.

“Our body needs magnesium to maintain a state of rest, but a lack of the mineral in our low magnesium Western diets means that we are not getting the levels we need. Magnesium levels are difficult to rectify via traditional tablets, as our body benefits most from small regular amounts rather than a large single dose.”

A pilot study by Watkins & Josling (2010) found that magnesium levels increased with BetterYou Magnesium Oil an estimated five times quicker compared with oral supplementation.

Following this, a clinical trial by Cardiff University (2011), highlighted how well magnesium is absorbed through the skin. BetterYou’s range of magnesium products, including oil sprays and flakes, are absorbed faster than capsules and tablets; delivering magnesium directly into the skin tissue and entering cells immediately.

References

Stressember: The worry starts here
Opinion matters surveyed 2035 UK Adults on behalf of The Sleep Council
http://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/2014/08/stresstember-the-worry-starts-here/

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Help yourself to sleep efficiency

You’ve probably got used to the notion of efficiency ratings. Your fridge, your car, your insulation: all these are judged by their efficiency. You may not have realised that your sleep can be too.

The amount of time spent asleep in relation to the amount of time spent in bed is known as sleep efficiency. 80-85% is considered optimal, while below 75% is considered a sign of poor quality sleep. [1] These busy days, with so many people coping with hectic schedules, constant caffeine intake and very little rest and relaxation, sleep is often illusive. The reasons for tackling this are compelling:

  • People getting less than 7 hours sleep per night are almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those achieving more than 8 hours per night. [2]
  • After a night of only 4 hours sleep, calorie intake can rise by up to 22%.[3]
  • Patients with resistant hypertension high blood pressure that doesn’t come down even when on as many as three different medications for it have been found to sleep 33.8 minutes less than those with controlled hypertension and 37.2 minutes less than those with normal blood pressure. [4]

What’s more, when you enter REM or rapid eye movement sleep, when most dreams occur, you are better able to solve a new problem the next day with lateral thinking. So sleeping on it really can work.

After a night of only 4 hours sleep, calorie intake can rise by up to 22%

Tips on improving sleep efficiency:

  • Keeping to a consistent sleeping schedule – going to bed and getting up at the same time each day will reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
  • Consider taking a nap during the day – power naps from ten to thirty minutes in the afternoon is best. Any longer that this, will risk falling into a deep sleep.
  • Avoid coffee and alcohol at night – the stimulating effects of caffeine can disrupt your sleep quality.
  • Try a mixture of Valerian and Hops to improve the way your body slips into sleep from a wakeful state, as well as increasing the likelihood of your subsequent sleep moving through all the stages including REM sleep, so that you wake refreshed and ready to solve those problems.
  • Keep the distractions at bay – switch off electronic devices and turn the lights off. Earplugs are also good to use to eliminate background noises.

References

[1] BMJ 2008; 337: a1245.

[2] Cohen S et al. Archives of Internal Medicine 2009; Vol. 169 (1): 62-67

[3] Bronel L et al. Am J Clin Nutr (March 31, 2010) doi10.3945/ajcn.2009.28523

[4] Friedman O et al. American Journal of Hypertension 2010; 23 2, 174–179

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