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A Functional Dietitian’s 8 tips for sweet dreams and better Z’s

By Lesley Nickleson, RD, IFNCP





























Ever wonder why the world seems brighter after a good night’s sleep?

 

As a Functional Dietitian, one of the first places I start with my clients is aimed at restoring quality sleep because I believe the quality of our sleep impacts the quality of our life. And there is a scientific reason. You see, it is during the stages of deep sleep that the body shifts into deep cellular detoxification, repair and regeneration.

 

So if you are not getting quality sleep, you are missing out on this powerful healing mode. Let me share some of my game-changing tips to transform your nightly routine designed to enhance the quality of sleep leaving you feeling energized in your days.

 

Tip No. 1

Establish & maintain a consistent sleep routine.

Consistency is key when it comes to quality sleep. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each and everyday, even on weekends. This is one of the first steps you can take toward resetting and regulating your body’s internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm.


Over time, this routine will strengthen your rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed. Find a schedule that aligns with your lifestyle, prioritize consistency, and know you will be on your way to deeper, restorative sleep each night.

 

Tip No. 2

 Avoid eating 3-hours before bed.

Steering clear of food intake 3-hours before bed is not just about minimizing indigestion. It is a strategic move to actually optimize the body’s natural cellular healing and repair processes. Every time we eat, our body releases insulin. By avoiding eating 3-hours before bed, you give insulin a chance to normalize, signaling to the body that it is time to shift the focus away from digestion and metabolism.


Instead, your body can prioritize repair, restoration, and rejuvenation while you sleep, which is essential for tissue regeneration and immune function. And more importantly, you allow the release of growth hormone, which is a key player in cellular regeneration, muscle repair and fat loss.


If you hit the hay with insulin still circulating in your system, you miss out on this natural innate process of the body that goes a long way towards optimal long-term health and function.


Tip No. 3

Begin each day with 3-Minutes of sunlight.

Begin a simple yet powerful habit of getting 3-minutes of morning sunlight upon waking. Exposure to natural light triggers the production of melatonin, a hormone that cycles opposite of cortisol in our sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is produced when light hits our supra-chiasmatic nerve in the eye and is later released upon exposure to dark. Therefore, by consistently exposing ourselves to morning sunlight, we can powerfully train our circadian hormones, to helps us to have a smoother transition between wakefulness and sleep every 24 hours.


Melatonin isn’t just important for sleep- it is also one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants that supports brain detoxification and has even been linked to anti-cancer properties. So those few morning moments of sunlight not only help you to get more restorative sleep but may also contribute to overall health and wellbeing.


Tip No. 4

Pay attention to evening lighting in your environment.

If you have trouble falling asleep at night, something to seriously consider is the light you are exposed to in the evening. Do you turn on direct overhead lights? Are you spending hours on screens?


If so, you may be giving your body the signal that it is still noon on a bright and sunny day which can disrupt your sleep hormone balance. It may interfere with the release of melatonin.


To support optimal sleep, change your evening lighting to red to orange hues and avoid all direct overhead bright lights. Use Himalayan salt lamps in living spaces or purchase red bulbs for lamps, and wear blue-light blocking glasses to help keep your sleep hormones happy.


Tip No. 5

Clear Your Mind with a Brain Dump

Address any worries or concerns that you have through activities like brain dumping or making lists so that you don’t bring anxious, repetitive thoughts to bed with you. Some time before going to bed, take a few minutes to do a brain dump and write down any lingering thoughts, worries or to-do lists.


This simple act of externalizing your thoughts can help you to clear your mind and release all the mental clutter that might otherwise keep you wide awake. As you clear your mind on paper, give yourself permission to let thoughts go and to relax.


Over time this practice can help you to cultivate deeper self-awareness, significantly reduce stress & anxiety and enhance emotional well-being.


Tip No. 6

Optimize Your Sleep Environment

Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep by creating a comfortable and relaxing sleeping environment. Invest in comfortable pillows that provide adequate support. Ensure that you are sleeping in complete darkness because even a little amount of light can disrupt Melatonin. Consider using black out curtains. During deep sleep, our body temperature naturally cools so you can help to facilitate this drop by keeping your room at a cool temperature with an ideal range around sixty-six degrees Fahrenheit. Remove any screens or electronic devices that emit light or noise from your bedroom. Infuse lavender oil in a diffuser for sleep aromatherapy.


Tip No. 7

Create an Evening Relaxation Ritual

Wind down from your busy day by incorporating a soothing, evening relaxation ritual. This can include a lavender-infused bath with Epsom salts to promote relaxation and ease muscle tension. Enjoy a cup of sleep-inducing herbal tea like Chamomile or VHP (Valarian Root, Hops & Passionflower) to calm the body and nervous system. Consider practicing deep breathing exercises or do a Yoga Nidra practice with progressive muscle relaxation (yogic sleep) to quiet the mind and release built-up muscle tension. By dedicating time to relax and unwind before bed, you create a tranquil mind and body that sets the stage for restful night’s sleep and promotes enhanced sleep quality.


Tip No. 8

Embrace Mouth Taping (Yes, really!)

It may sound like something out of a comedy movie, but trust me, there is real science behind it.


Choose a soft-cloth medical tape, about the size of a postage stamp placed over your lips from the top of your upper to the bottom of your lower lip. You can still talk, yawn, breathe and even cough. The goal is to train you for nasal breathing while sleeping which, according to the book Breath by James Nestor, helps to deepen sleep, improve oxygenation, and boost nitric oxide. Give it a try, be consistent with it and see how it helps you to restore sleep.

 


So, if you struggle with sleepless nights with a mind that won’t shut off, try these 8 all-natural sleeping remedies as simple yet powerful lifestyle adjustments. From establishing a consistent sleep routine and evening relaxation rituals to taping your mouth, practiced on a regular basis & consistent basis can make a world of difference.


Experiment with different tips and be proactive to prioritize deep restorative sleep in your life knowing you are giving your body the deep states of healing and repair that it needs. Here is to sweet dreams and waking up to a brighter world everyday.

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