Are You Having Trouble Sleeping?

By Unite Fitness Retreat Dietician, Brooke Bouwhuis

Restful sleep is a big deal.  Given our current circumstances, I would bet most of us have struggled with sleep over the past several weeks (or months).

Sleeping is the king pin for healing our bodies each night.  Without a solid 7-8 hours of restful sleep we do not have the patience, mental capacity or immune system support needed to plow through another day of social distancing or isolation.

The scenario of not sleeping well feeds into making food choices that are not great which in turn sabotages our desire to move our bodies which leads back to a rough night’s rest again with the cycle perpetuating itself.

Poor sleep attacks the hormones that control our hunger. It can lead to increases in ghrelin, a hormone that makes you hungry and a decrease in leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full.  When we stay hungry, we crave heavily processed carbohydrates.  Add that to increased cortisol levels from the piles of stress we are facing, and the math leads us to a waistline that is expanding.

Let’s break that cycle! Sleeping is critical to our mental, emotional and physical health.  If you are struggling there are plenty of things you can do beyond heavy duty sleeping medications but even those may be warranted based on your situation.

Prioritizing high-quality sleep can be a game changer as we slug through our current rhythm.

How do I get back to a regular schedule and routine?

  • Go to sleep and wake at the same time each day to create a regular rhythm for your body.
  • Keep the tv off, using the bed only for sleeping, snuggling, or smooching.
  • Each morning get yourself outside in the natural sunlight for at least 20 minutes, it will help your brain to create chemicals that regulate melatonin and improve your sleep cycle.
  • We have all been watching way too many screens to help pass the time, accomplish work that must be done remotely and to pass more time.  Turn those screens off 1-2 hours before bed.  The blue light these devices emit triggers our brain to stay alert and awake.  You can buy blue light filtering glasses on Amazon that may be beneficial for you too.
  • Temperature.  The cooler your room the better.  Open a window to cool it down or turn your thermostat down a few degrees to make snuggling into bed even more relaxing.
  • Clear your mind.  Meditation and prayer can be game changers when you leave your worries with a higher power and allow yourself to rest.  At our fitness camp we recommend the apps Calm and Headspace, both have guided meditations that help your body relax and send you into a more restful night sleep.
  • Supplements.  Melatonin or magnesium – both are easy to find at Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS or Amazon.  Melatonin helps shut down the swirling thoughts to help you get to sleep faster.  Magnesium is a relaxation mineral and is very helpful in helping our bodies relax and drift off into dreamland.
  • Stretching.  It seems too simple to be effective but light stretching relaxes tight muscles in your body and your mind.  A nightly yoga practice can be a major game changer in helping you relax and sleep better.

This only scratches the surface of improving your sleep, if you do need something a little stronger, talk to your doctor.  Be honest with yourself about how you are dealing with today’s challenges and if you need a little extra help in the sleep department, take the time to trouble shoot your routine and see how it pays off!