Sleep is essential to every process in the body, affecting our physical and mental functioning the next day, our ability to fight disease and develop immunity, and our metabolism and chronic disease risk.
Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Other potential problems include obesity, depression, reduced immune system function and lower sex drive.
Claire Barnes, nutritional therapist at Bio-Kult and Hayden Elliott, trainer and co-owner of F45 spoke exclusively with the Daily Mirror to offer her best tips and guidelines to help ensure faster and better slumber.
Consistent routine promotes better sleep
“Keeping to a regular routine during the day where possible may help us regulate our sleep hormones more effectively,” says Claire.
She added: “This includes waking up within the same 90-minute window each day.
“Our sleep hormones rely on a finely balanced circadian rhythm, which is an internal process that regulates our sleep-wake cycle and is dictated largely by our exposure to daylight.
“The more our wake-up times fluctuate, the more our hormones will need to adjust, to catch up with us.”
She added how cortisol (stress hormone) naturally increases in the morning to wake us up but if a person has too much circulating in their blood later in the day it will be difficult for the sleep hormone, melatonin to have an effect.
“Having a routine keeps us calm, and may prevent spikes in stress hormones and promote well-being.”
Tryptophan in your diet
To produce melatonin, our body requires tryptophan, which is an amino acid obtained from certain proteins in the diet.
“Foods such as poultry, bananas, oats, seeds and nuts are all good sources of tryptophan,” explains Claire.
“Although, not conclusive, some studies have shown improvements to sleep when consuming tryptophan foods, especially when the individual already experiences some sleep disturbances.”
Great food choices if hungry before sleep includes porridge, bananas, seeds and nuts or a banana helps to increase the amount of tryptophan to allow for conversion into melatonin.
Whilst we should avoid eating a large meal before bedtime, a small bowl of porridge containing bananas, seeds and nuts or a banana and oat smoothie could potentially help to increase the amount of tryptophan available for conversion into melatonin.
Incorporate exercise into your day
Regular exercise is widely known for being great for the body and mind, but the benefits on sleep can sometimes be overlooked despite being so important.
“There have been numerous studies which have found that exercise can not only help you fall asleep more quickly, but it can also improve the quality of sleep as well,” adds Hayden.
“One of the main reasons for this is that exercise can calm anxiety and depression, helping the mind to relax and enable a good night’s rest.
“Exercise also encourages a sharp rise in body temperature, followed by a slow cool down, which mimics the natural fluctuations of the circadian rhythm and paves the way for sleep.”
In terms of the type of exercise you should do, Hayden says this can vary for everyone, but “some may find that high intensity exercise too close to bedtime could keep them awake.”
“Strength training and stretching before bed have been known to have little effect on sleep, as they do not release the same serotonin endorphins (known as ‘feel-good hormones’) that HIIT can, which would keep people up at night.
“It’s always good to mix up your workouts, so you could try doing HIIT a little earlier in the day or early evening and doing something slower paced right before bed if you wanted to.
“It’s all about when you can fit it into your lifestyle, as some people may find that an evening HIIT session helps them doze off as they have burnt off all their energy from the day.”