One of the most common concerns I hear about in my practice is issues with sleep.  So many people have problems falling asleep, staying asleep or a combination of the two.

I’d say it’s almost an epidemic!

What causes this?

  1. Stress (yes, this is probably the root cause of most of our health issues) However, when the body is stressed it goes into a primal survival mode of fight or flight when it’s ready to fight an enemy or run away from one – neither of which is particularly helpful for sleeping.
  2. Pain and inflammation – this doesn’t take a lot of thought to understand how pain might impact our ability to sleep, but what is fascinating is how some basic foods in our diet can impact our bodies ability to increase or decrease our pain responses.
  3. Nutrient deficiencies – our bodies are incredible and have evolved to be able to survive in many tough conditions, but surviving is not always the same as thriving.  Often our food sources are depleted in important nutrients, some of which will severely impact our ability to get a good night’s sleep.  Magnesium is one of the most important minerals that our body needs, however, the increase in processed foods (processed = nutrient depleted) has left us with a magnesium deficiency, one that will impact our sleep significantly.
  4. Metabolism – many people try to not eat later in the evening, however, for some with irregular blood sugar levels, low blood sugar, or hypoglycaemia, can actually trigger mid-night or early morning waking.
  5. Hormones, toxins in our environment, wi-fi, temperature,  the list goes on…

So what can we do to improve our sleep?

Stress-Free Bed-Time Protocol

Have a bath, listen to calming music, do some light stretching, read, turn off the phone … do anything that allows you to simply relax.  (This should NOT include watching the nightly news, which is often anything but stress-free!!)

Dietary modification can help reduce pain and inflammation

Some of the most miraculous changes I’ve seen in my patients have simply happened when they make some changes in their diets.  The two biggest triggers for both pain specifically and inflammation generally are wheat and sugar.  Try to eliminate these 2 foods in all their forms for 2 weeks and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll sleep and feel a LOT better!

Magnesium supplementation

For those that know me, they know that this is probably my favourite mineral. It is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in our bodies and without it, we don’t sleep, we have tight muscles, our energy drops, our digestion is not good, the list goes on… Magnesium rich foods are WHOLE foods (i.e. not processed) and green foods.  All green veggies contain a lot of magnesium.  

Alternatively, you can try Magnesium bisglycinate in supplement form, it works like a charm.

Bedtime snack

I’m a fan of bedtime snacks, providing they are healthy. Eating a carbohydrate (oatmeal, apple) and a bit of protein (10 almonds, 1 Tbsp of natural peanut butter) will help to keep your blood sugars stable throughout the night which can help minimize those early morning wakings.  I’ve included a recipe for Oatmeal Bedtime Bites you can make in advance and nibble on one before bed. Get the recipe here.