Updated: Mar 17, 2022
If you’re like most people, quality sleep is also hard to come by. There’s a long list of real and valid reasons why the majority of folks don’t get enough shut-eye: A raging, enduring pandemic, racism, sexism, homophobia, chronic pain, job and financial stress, and people to care for, just to name a few. Getting consistent, good quality sleep is essential for our gut health, immunity, and overall well-being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society suggests that,
The recommended amount of sleep is at least 7, ideally 8, hours per night for adults of all ages, and kids need more, closer to 9 hours.
Sleeping less than 7 hours a night on a regular basis can lead to a host of chronic physical and mental health conditions. How well your digestive system functions is directly correlated to how well you’re sleeping at night. Sleep is when the body repairs and restores. Lack of sleep increases stress in the body, which affects the gut. When you don’t get enough sleep, your hormones can become unbalanced, and the stress hormone, cortisol, can rise. Chronic exposure to cortisol can cause bloating, inflammation, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, food sensitivities, and changes to the gut microbiome. Yikes! Lack of sleep also impacts our hunger cues. Hormones that control hunger get out of whack, leading to increased appetite and cravings for sugar and processed foods. All the more reason to prioritize getting consistent, high quality sleep.
Try these practices before bed to sleep like a champ:
Tip #1 - Limit Sleep-Disrupting Foods
Caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, processed sugar, and foods high in saturated fats, and spicy foods. All of these foods can make it hard to fall asleep and also disrupt REM cycles making deep, quality sleep a great challenge. With the exception of spicy foods and dark chocolate, these are all good foods to avoid in general.
Tip #2 - Eat These Sleep-Promoting Foods at Dinner
For better sleep, combine high quality proteins and complex carbs, like brown rice and lentils, or salmon and sweet potatoes, at dinner. Also known for their sleep-promoting qualities are kiwi, fatty fish like wild salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, eggs, dark leafy greens, yogurt, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, tart cherry juice (unsweetened), and healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados.
Tip #3 - Sip Some Tea
Chamomile, lemon balm, valerian root, peppermint, and ginger all have body calming and stomach relieving effects.
Rest is revolutionary, and a form of resistance in our culture of productivity and the glorification of busyness. Make the time to sleep and rest often so you have the energy to do the things that matter to you.
Tip #4 - Refrain From Eating 3 Hours Before Bed
Your digestion has a bedtime, too! Sitting upright allows your body to better digest food, so let gravity do its job.
Tip #5 - Cut All Fluids 2 Hours Before Bed
Reduce nighttime bathroom trips for deeper, longer sleep. Stay well hydrated throughout the day by drinking ample water. Aim for your urine to be clear.
Tip #6 - Gentle Stretching
Stretching stimulates blood flow to your core, reduces bloating, gas, and constipation, relaxes muscles and can prevent spams.
Tip #7 - Keep Stress in Check
Stressors are part of life, AND we have control over how we react to those stressors. Having a relaxation practice (or two) to manage life’s worries will not only benefit your sleep, but also your gut health and keep illnesses at bay. Try deep breathing, guided meditation, journaling, or a yoga nidra (aka gentle brain wave yoga and body awareness.) Find what works for you and make it part of your daily routine. Learn more about different techniques here.
Tip #8 - Take a Bath
Baths are magical! Soaking in hot water improves blood circulation, aids digestion, eases menstrual cramps, relieves constipation, relaxes sore muscles, and increases happiness and well-being. Add Epsom salt for extra help with constipation and sore muscles, baking soda to soothe irritated or itchy skin, and lavender oil for extra relaxation and to promote sleep.
Tip #9 - Get Support
Becoming a sleeping pro is challenging for many reasons that can seem puzzling. It can be helpful to get support from a health coach to have guidance, accountability, and help you put the pieces together.
Hi! I'm Alison (she/her), a certified health and wellness coach who helps women and LGBTQ+ folks struggling with digestive issues like gas, bloating, fatigue, and food sensitivities. I help my clients find relief, have more energy, and enjoy food again so they can get back to living their best lives. I provide a holistic approach to well-being, and a path to physical comfort, balance, and healing. I'd love to support you in reaching your health goals and feeling your best. Contact me at email@example.com to talk more.
What helps you get good sleep? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!