Welcome to our blog post dedicated to all the incredible women out there who are facing disrupted or little sleep.
As a women's health nutritionist and someone who personally has impacted sleep, I understand the profound impact that sleep deprivation can have on various aspects of our lives, including food choices, eating habits, and mood.
While improving sleep is often the go-to advice, when improving all aspects of health and well-being. We recognise certain circumstances, such as; being a mum, going through menopause, PMS, frequently waking through the night, being a shift worker, or going through significant life changes, can impact sleep significantly. The regular sleep advise becomes redundant, as it may be completely out of your control.
So first let's have a look what sleep is...
What is sleep?
Sleep is more than just the absence of being awake. Scientifically, it is an altered state of consciousness that naturally occurs or can be simulated. During sleep, our bodies experience reduced muscle activity, lower heart rate, minimal engagement with our surroundings, and rapid eye movement (REM). Meanwhile, our minds enter a state commonly known as dreaming.
Why is sleep so important?
We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, and it plays a vital role in our mental and physical health.
In this article, we will delve into practical tips and evidence-based advice to help you navigate your nutrition journey while dealing with sleep challenges.
How can disrupted sleep affect my eating habits?
Sleep affects our hunger and appetite hormones. When we haven't slept well, our body produces more Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, making us feel hungrier than usual. On the other hand, the levels of Leptin, the hormone responsible for satisfaction and appetite suppression, decrease with inadequate sleep, leading to increased hunger. Higher cortisol levels, the stress hormone, after poor sleep can also contribute to an increase in appetite. Lack of sleep can also impair decision-making and impulse control, making it more challenging to think clearly, impact the want to spend time making meals and individuals may seek more comforting meals.
To combat this, here are some simple nutrition related tips:
Mindful Eating: Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues, and practise mindful eating to cultivate a healthier relationship with food.
Nutrient-Dense Foods: Choose whole, nutrient-dense foods that provide sustained energy and nourishment throughout the day.
Hydration: Proper hydration is crucial for overall health, rehydration if you are woken with night sweats, supports skin health and can help hunger levels.
Pre-made snack boxes: This is one of my favourite tips. On a day you have a little more time pre-make snack tubs, with a combination full of fibre-rich foods, protein, foods you enjoy and foods that provide a range of nutrients.
How can I maintain energy levels when sleep is disrupted?
When sleep is compromised, it's important to prioritise energy-boosting strategies to support your well-being. Consider the following:
Balanced Meals: Opt for balanced meals that include a combination of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates to provide sustained energy.
Regular Snacking: Incorporate healthy snacks, such as nuts, seeds, fruits, and yogurt, to maintain energy levels between meals.
Hydration: Dehydration can contribute to fatigue, so ensure you stay adequately hydrated throughout the day.
Caffeine: Although tempting to grab a caffeinated beverage to keep you going. Try to keep these for the mornings, as they will begin to impact your sleep for the next night if consumed too late in the day. You could trial out swapping some of these out for herbal teas such as Chamomile.
Can sleep disruption affect my mood?
Yes, inadequate sleep can significantly impact mood and emotional well-being. To support your mental health:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Include omega-3-rich foods like fatty fish, chia seeds, and walnuts, which have been associated with improved mood.
Balanced Meals: A well-balanced diet with sufficient protein, complex carbohydrates, and vegetables can help stabilise mood swings.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns and exacerbate mood disturbances, so consume them in moderation.
Are there specific foods that can promote better sleep quality?
While no one food and nutrient alone cannot solve sleep issues, certain foods can support healthy sleep patterns within an overall sleep promoting lifestyle, such as:
Tryptophan-Rich Foods: Foods like turkey, chicken, dairy products, and nuts contain tryptophan, an amino acid that aids in the production of sleep-promoting serotonin.
Magnesium-Rich Foods: Magnesium-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, can help relax muscles and promote better sleep.
How can I establish healthy routines despite sleep challenges?
Creating a consistent routine can help optimise your nutrition despite sleep disruptions:
Meal Planning: Plan and prepare meals and snacks in advance to ensure you have nourishing options readily available.
Batch Cooking: Utilise batch cooking to save time and effort, making it easier to maintain a healthy eating pattern. The next time you have left over dinners, freeze them down. This can massively help out your future self.
Give yourself time to rest: To reduce the likelihood of burn out, give yourself some time to rest. Give yourself time to do nothing or some relaxing self-care. There may be days when nothing works, on those days you need to let yourself be calm and your body rest.
Seek Support: If you need a little extra support and guidance with your nutrition and lifestyle, I can provide personalised guidance tailored to your unique circumstances.
While improving sleep is crucial, we understand that it's not always within our control. As a women's health nutritionist, my motivation to write this blog post stems from the recognition that generic sleep advice may not be feasible for everyone.
Whilst considering that here are some additional tips that will help you build on a sleep routine that works for you:
10 Tips to Support Sleep:
Establish a regular bedtime routine and stick to it.
Wind down before bed with activities like reading, a podcast or calming music.
Limit exposure to bright lights, especially blue backlights, in the evening.
When woken in the night try your absolute best to stay off your phone. If you need to check the time I recommend buying an old school clock.
Reduce fluid intake before bed to minimise nighttime bathroom trips.
Consider limiting alcohol consumption before bed, as it can disrupt sleep quality.
Avoid eating large meals too late at night, balancing not going to bed hungry or overly full.
Create a cool and comfortable sleep environment in your bedroom.
Reserve your bed for sleeping only, avoiding other activities like studying or eating.
Give yourself enough time, allowing yourself enough time to get 6-8 hours of quality sleep.
By incorporating practical tips and evidence-based science, we aim to empower women facing sleep challenges to prioritise their nutrition and overall well-being.
Thank you for joining us on this blog. We hope you found valuable insights and practical tips to nourish your body and mind despite sleep challenges. Remember, while sleep improvement is important, it's equally crucial to prioritize self-care, establish healthy routines, and make mindful nutrition choices. Embrace your resilience, seek support, and know that you have the power to thrive. You've got this! 💪💤✨
If you need extra support contact me here.
I wish you all some peaceful rest!