Tag Archives: sleep problems

sleep

Sleepless Summer Nights: 5 tips for a good night’s sleep

The current heat wave is leaving many of us sleep deprived, as more than sixty two per cent of adults in the UK struggle to sleep in warm weather. In order to get a good night’s sleep, it is essential for our body’s temperature to drop at night by one degree. This becomes difficult during the warm nights in summer, leaving many people struggling to get to sleep and stay asleep. Read on for five ways to improve sleep naturally.

1. Tart cherry juice

The body needs darkness in order to make the sleep hormone melatonin. The long and light summer days cause melatonin levels to drop, meaning that many of us begin to suffer with sleep problems. Boosting levels of melatonin naturally can help to alleviate this problem.

One of the best ways to boost melatonin levels is to drink tart cherry juice. A recent study found that drinking just 30mls of cherry juice each day is effective in boosting melatonin levels. Adults who drank the cherry juice had more than 25 minutes more sleep each night compared to those who drank a placebo drink, and they also woke less often through the night.

2. Boost your Magnesium levels

Magnesium deficiency is common among adults. It is abundant in leafy greens, and lacking in processed foods, meaning that the typical UK diet often falls short. Magnesium is required for the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep and relaxation. For this reason, magnesium supplementation can be helpful in supporting good quality sleep, especially in those who find it hard to ‘switch off’ at night.

Studies have found magnesium to be effective in improving sleep, while increasing melatonin levels and reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol (2). Those who find difficultly sleeping may wish to try supplementing 300mg of a well-absorbed form of magnesium, such as magnesium citrate or magnesium taurate.

3. Try supplementing Lemon Balm and Theanine

Lemon balm is a plant from the mint family, which has been used for centuries to soothe the stomach, reduce anxiety and promote calm. More recent studies have found that lemon balm aids restful sleep by boosting levels of circulating GABA, the brain’s ‘calming’ nurotransmitter.

A pilot study found that lemon balm, at a dose of 600mg for 15 days, resolved insomnia for 85 per cent of participants (3). Hopefully the promising results of this study will pave the way for larger studies in this area.

Combining lemon balm with theanine is thought to be particularly beneficial in promoting healthy sleep. While theanine does not have lemon balm’s sedative effect, it works to boost the brain’s production of alpha waves. These brain waves are linked to deep relaxation. They reduce levels of physical and mental stress, and lower levels of anxiety (4).

4. Eat to Sleep

To encourage good quality sleep, try eating a high-protein, low GI snack, such as natural yoghurt with berries or some almond butter on rye, a couple of hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan needed by the brain to produce the sleep hormone.

While, protein-rich snacks can help, sugary foods will have the opposite effect. These will raise your blood sugar and delay sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low, you may wake up and be unable to fall back asleep.

Alcohol also robs the body of good quality sleep. While a chilled glass of wine might seem tempting on a hot evening, alcohol actually prevents the body from falling into the deeper stages of sleep, where the body does most of its healing.

5. Lower your Core Temperature

Good sleep is strongly linked to core body temperature. In order to get to sleep, your body needs its internal temperature to drop by around one degree. Losing heat actually helps to bring on restful sleep at night. Unfortunately this can be difficult during the summer, when hot days lead to uncomfortable, warm nights.

To combat uncomfortably hot summer nights, a cool bath can encourage a drop in core temperature, bringing on restful sleep. Try adding some Epsom bath salts to boost the effect. Ventilate the bedroom well before bedtime to reduce the room temperature, and keep a cooling water mist spray by the bed for a quick cool down.

References
1. Howatson G et al (2010) Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr 51:8 pp909-916
2. Abbasis B et al (2012) The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci 17:12 pp1161-9
3. Cases J et al (2011) Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Med J Nutr Met 4:3, pp211-8
4. Kimura, K. (2007). L-theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biological psychology, 71(1): 39-45.

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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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