Chronic sleep deprivation was one of the first issues I needed to tackle in order to improve my health: I had been maintaining a sleep pattern for many years in concordance with my husband’s restaurant hours while in fact, I had to keep to normal working and parenting hours during the day. This resulted in an average of 5 hours of sleep per night. To say that is less than ideal is an understatement, the fact I had Leaky Gut Syndrome only made matters worse: inflammation, pain and raised cortisol levels caused by that contributed to my insomnia.
I, therefore, implemented a strict bedtime routine (in bed at nine, asleep by ten) and started using melatonin to help get my body back into a rhythm. Today, with the exception of times of extra stress, my sleep is fine. The regularity suits me and I also discovered I am at my most productive in the hours between six and eleven in the morning.
While good sleep is essential for everyone, medical issues or not, for people doing keto with weight loss in mind sleep is extra crucial: people who are sleep deprived or suffer from a circadian rhythm disorder (read more about it here) are more likely to stall in their weight loss journey and even store extra body fat.
- Chronic sleep deprivation:
- Produces less growth hormone;
- Impairs glucose metabolism;
- Decreases leptin, the hormone that signals satiety;
- Increases ghrelin, the hormone that tells the brain when we are hungry.
All the more reasons to take a closer look at your sleep habits and see where it can be improved.
Here are my 4 tips to work on getting awesome sleep:
1. First of all, don’t do this
• do not exercise vigorously 3-4 hours before bedtime; a nice walk earlier in the evening may help you unwind though;
• do not eat a heavy meal right before turning in; digestion may hinder the body’s ability to rest;
• do not fall into the trap of thinking shorter sleep during weeknights can be remedied by sleeping in during the weekends; you should aim for 7- 9 hours of steady sleep ALL days of the week. Yes, that means going to bed at the same time each night, weekends too, as well as getting up at the same time each day;
• do not forget to balance your electrolytes: adequate levels of magnesium are very important for sleep. (read here about magnesium supplementation).
2. Turn all electronics off
This may be an obvious bit of advice but the reality is, even for me, a lot of people tend to use a phone or computer in bed right up to the moment of switching off the lights. Both the blue light from your devices as well as the constant sensory overload caused by endless scrolling through your social media are bound to mess with your ability to fall asleep. Having electronics on in the hour before actually going to sleep may also be responsible for reducing our levels of melatonin by a staggering 50%…ouch! For some people, blue light blockers may be a good option, even during the day if your job entails lots of computer/phone hours, and also keep in mind most phones have a blue light blocker build in so you can actively start using those hours before bedtime. And while you are at it: try to not switch on your devices immediately after waking up. Instead, wait one hour: this allows for a much more mindful morning routine and ultimately helps with your sleep too. The world can wait!
3. Dim the lights
Where possible, dim the lights in the hours before bed as this is proven to help your body prepare for the sleep to come. Overhead lights especially are not a good idea, so try to lower light intensity by keeping those switched off and stick to diffused or indirect light from smaller lamps. Better yet: back to the old days with some candlelight anyone? Also, try to sleep in the darkest environment possible: invest in some good blinds, especially when you live in a city where lights outside may intrude into your bedroom.
4. Stop worrying
Everyday stress (think work, money, housing, family etc) can keep you up at night. A vicious cycle is usually the result: the more you worry the less you sleep; the less you sleep the more you worry. Here are three tips to try:
• write down the worst unresolved issues and for each one also write down a point of action. It does not function as a to-do list (because most long-term stress also requires a long-term plan of action). But what it does it takes off the immediate pressure, it gives your mind a chance to at least turn away from the worrying long enough to be able to sleep. Try it, I find it very helpful;
• calming down the body may help in calming down your mind: lie down in bed and starting at the toes tense and relax the muscles going all the way up the body;
• this tip I am dying to try out but the hefty investment will have to wait for now: sleeping under a weighted blanket. Apparently, the pressure on your body triggers the brain into upping soothing neurotransmitters;
• try meditation techniques; I started taking Zen meditation classes at an actual zendo almost two years ago but meditation can be taken up anywhere anytime. Again, there are plenty of apps for that too. A lot of people I have spoken to about this are using Headspace, at home, I use InsightTimer myself;
So there you go, my guide to achieving optimal sleep.
Do you have any questions or want to share your own experiences? Share them in the comments or visit my website sevirutgrink-ketocoaching.com