Rise & Shine – Optimizing your sleep & energy

       Sleep helps regulate our circadian rhythm – a dynamic flow of hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters that alternate activity levels between day and night. During sleep, we heal and grow as our body processes what we eat, think, and do each day. During the day, we supply our body with the signals it needs to function and accomplish tasks, but this can be impaired if we haven’t yet processed the day(s) before.  With inadequate sleep, your body tries to catch up with day to day functioning, and your healing and growth gets left behind.

 

         Sleep hygiene refers to various aspects of daily habits relating to a good quality nights’ sleep. The quality of your sleep can be reflected in different patterns of insomnia, such as:

  • difficulty falling asleep

  • waking through the night

  • early waking

 

But sleep dysfunction (which may not look like one of the above) can also present as:

  • feeling unrefreshed in the morning

  • low energy levels throughout the day

  • reduced cognitive function

  • mood changes and higher stress

  • downstream effects on hormones, stress, digestion, and metabolic functioning

 

These are my top tips for improving your sleep to feel great!


1.
Regular Sleep timing – Establish a regular bed time and wake time, and routines to go along with them.  Your body will naturally adjust to and benefit from sleeping at a consistent time.  We get the best quality sleep between the hours of 9pm and 6am – aim for the bulk of your sleep to happen during these hours.  Try to avoid weekend late nights and long sleep-ins as this will disrupt your routine.  Also don’t go to bed wide awake OR completely exhausted – these reflect your cortisol levels which can impact sleep quality if too high or too low.  Aim for a time when your body is naturally ready to sleep but before you crash.

 

2. Sleep rituals – Doing things to remind your body that it is almost bedtime will help improve sleep onset.  This can include relaxing stretches, yin yoga, meditation, guided imagery, breathing exercises, reading a book, taking a warm bath, or drinking herbal (non-caffeinated) tea. Avoid doing anything stimulating.  Check out apps like insight timer, Calm, or Headspace for guided meditations.  Journalling can also be great for getting your thoughts or next-day tasks out on paper so you’re not thinking (or dreaming) about them while trying to sleep.

 

4. Light exposure – Screens, street lights, night lights, all the lights affect your brains ability to recognize when it’s night time.  This impacts the production of our master sleep hormone, melatonin, and the circadian rhythm.  Avoid evening light exposure by reducing screen time from computer, tv, phone, tablet, etc. after 8-9pm and/or wear blue-light blocking glasses.  You can get them from most companies that sell eye  glasses these days, or even on Amazon!  At night time, wear an eye mask or get blackout curtains to reduce indirect light exposure from street lights, night lights, etc.  Each morning, natural sunlight exposure – walk outside, work near a bright window, or try a SAD/happy lamp; a minimum of 30 minutes each morning can improve mood and energy through the day!

5. Eat well – It seems obvious to avoid sugary foods before bed, but you may not realize that other carbohydrates like bread, pasta, cereals, and even milk contain sugars.  This can be stimulating as the body breaks them down and increases your blood sugar and insulin to spike. This can cause reactive hypoglycemia – a quick drop in blood sugar – within a few hours after you have gone to sleep and can stimulate a waking response often associated with feelings of anxiousness.  Ultimately, it’s best to avoid having late dinners, aiming for at least 3 hours before bedtime, and make sure it’s rich in veggies, protein, and healthy fats to provide your mind and body with the building blocks for healing.  If in need of a snack before bedtime, make sure it’s also high in protein and healthy fat.

 

There are many factors that can both lead to and be a result of poor sleep.  My best advice is to speak with your naturopathic doctor about how your sleep may be affecting you, and possible sleep aide options.  Natural health products like botanical and nutraceutical supplements can help assist the body in regulating sleep onset, depth, duration, and circadian rhythm, but may not be right for everyone.  There may be other physiological causes of your sleep dysfunction that can be investigated with the right practitioner. 

In health & happiness,

Dr.Nicole, ND

Dr. Nicole DeYonge, Naturopathy

Learn more about Dr.Nicole at www.nicoledeyongend.com

Immune Support Helpers!

Seasonal changes, cold weather, and less outdoor time often make us more susceptible to catching pesky colds and flus. Here are some of my top tips for staying healthy and happy this (and every) season.

  1. Stress management. Cortisol, our stress hormone, down-regulates our immune system and makes us more susceptible to even minor bugs that we’re exposed to. Keep your stress in-check with gentle exercise, a good sleep routine, and designated time for self-care.
  2. Eat warm, nourishing foods – like veggie soups! Cooked veggies in soup is easier to digest, and keeps you hydrated and nourished. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the warmth of food nourishes the Spleen, which plays a key role in your immune health. A TCM botanical soup – called Change of Season Soup – is one of my favourites. Garlic & mushrooms also contain antimicrobial properties that may help fight off viruses and bacteria. Try adding these to your soups and other dishes for extra benefit!
  3. Nutrient support. Some key players in out immune system include vitamin D, vitamin C & zinc. Many Canadians have insufficient levels of vitamin D (the sunshine hormone) in the winter months, making us more susceptible to getting sick! Vitamin C & Zinc are also great immune supporting nutrients that can be taken at the onset of cold/flu symptoms.
  4. Probiotics. These friendly bacteria help reduce colonization of the bad microbes that cause colds, flus, and other infections. Good quality probiotics can help reduce frequency, duration, and severity of seasonal illnesses. They can also help with digestion, metabolism, and overall immune health. Choose a good quality multi-strain probiotic to keep you and your family feeling great this winter.
  5. Hygiene is the key to prevention. Make sure to wash your hands regularly, especially at work and in public spaces, and avoid touching your face. Disinfect work and home areas as needed. My favourite products to use are natural disinfectants with thieve’s oil, eucalyptus, or tea tree essential oils.

These are all general recommendations that may not be right for everyone. Speak with your naturopathic doctor to decide if these are the best options for you and your family.

In health & happiness,
Dr.Nicole, ND