by our contributing Health M.O.M ~ Sharon Tanner, CHC
We often look at our food choices beginning in the morning with breakfast and traditionally it does, that is when we “break” our fast and set into motion our intentions for the day ahead. But I believe it really starts when we go to bed, because how we sleep, when we sleep and how well we sleep will have a profound impact on what choices we make the next day.
Lets take a normal scenario in a typical M.O.M household. You are frazzled and exhausted from working all day, juggling kids, dinner, homework and trying to get that last little say on a social network before you plunk yourself in front of the TV. You drag yourself into bed at 11pm or later, exhausted, just to toss and turn or you fall into a deep sleep only to wake up 2 hours later wide-awake and stressing. You get up in the morning feeling more exhausted than you did when you collapsed into bed the night before, so you grab for a big mug of coffee and a bagel or donut to get the energy you need to make it through another day of juggling and by 10am you are feeling drained again so grab a candy bar to energize yourself before lunch. Does this sound familiar? You can see now why sleep is really the set up for what our choices will be first thing in the morning and carry you through the rest of the day.
Getting a good night sleep is imperative to our health, mood and weight. A study out of Chicago, led by Eve Van Cauter showed that when we are tied from lack of sleep our body produces a hormone called ghrelin, which triggers hunger and reduces the hormone leptin that suppresses appetite. It went on to show that when sleep was reduced significantly then appetite was increased by 24 percent, can you imagine what eating 24 percent more would mean for your waistline? The food choices you make when your body is sleep deprived are not usually the healthy options either they are more often than not more sugar, salt and carbohydrates. This means you are reaching for the candy bars and pasta lunches. The problem with this is that it keeps your body out of balance, the sugar gives you an instant surge of energy but then you come crashing down a few hours later. So what do you do? You reach for more sugary foods. Now your body and mood is see-sawing and not able to create balance, making you snap at the slightest thing or you get a feeling of fogginess. So now your mood is up and down, your waistline is increasing and your over all health choices are rather poor. The catch 22 is that in order to get a restful nights sleep you need to stop the sugar and caffeine overdose during the day, because your unbalanced sugar levels will either keep you up if they are too high or wake you up at 2am when they drop too low.
So lets look at how you can make changes so you have a successful night sleep and break the cycle we so often find ourselves in. Bedtime might be the beginning of setting yourself up for the next day, but the morning is when you should begin setting yourself up for a good night sleep.
· Limit Coffee Studies have shown that it takes 14 hours for the stimulant of coffee to work its self out of your system, so having several cups a day will effect your sleep. Try limiting it to one cup in the morning and if you must sip on something during the day try a caffeine free herbal tea, or warm water with lemon. Caffeine also stimulates the same hormones as stress, so it increases your cortisol and adrenaline, which over time exhausts your adrenal glands leaving you without energy resources when you really need them.
· Breakfast Instead of grabbing a bagel or donut try to start your day off with a high protein breakfast with a small amount of complex carbs. Scrambled eggs with a slice of wholegrain toast, or a whole-wheat wrap filled with roasted veggies and egg. Having a breakfast high in protein and a complex carb will help keep your blood sugar stable, not resulting in a sugar low. You will sustain your energy longer and you won’t be reaching for that candy bar.
· Snacks To keep your energy up, have a high protein snack in between meals. A handful of almonds or a greek yogurt with a little fruit. Try to avoid the protein bars as they usually have hidden sugars in them.
· Lunch Lunchtime is when you should enjoy a more protein filled meal with fewer carbohydrates. The amino acid tyrosine in Protein-rich foods wakes your body up if not accompanied by too many carbohydrates and will not make you sleepy in the afternoon like a high carbohydrate meal will do.
· Dinner Dinnertime is when you should have complex carbohydrates with a small amount of protein. The complex carbohydrates release insulin that clears the way for the amino acid tryptophan in protein to enter your brain. Tryptophan produces sleep-inducing hormones such as serotonin and melatonin, giving you that sleepy feeling.
· Hydration Being dehydrated will also lead to fatigue, make sure you are sipping on water through out the day and avoid sugary sodas and diet sodas. If you want to add some flavor try a coconut water or add a slice of lemon or mint leaf to your water. Just having a tall glass of water in the afternoon can perk you up. But avoid drinking too much liquid at least 2 hours before bed to prevent having to get up in the middle of the night when your bladder calls.
· Exercise Try to exercise for at least 30mins each day. This will help your body reduce stress and increase your endorphins (feel good hormones). When you are less stressed you will sleep more soundly. But avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as your body will still be stimulated; the best time to exercise is in the morning.
· Calming the body down Take a warm bath with a few drops of Lavender essential oil or a warm shower in the evening. When you raise the temperature of your body in the late evening, it will drop again a little later which will signal to your body that it is time to sleep. If your mind is racing with all the must do’s for the next day spend some time journaling before bed to get all the chatter out of your head.
· Bedtime We have set in place a bedtime that we insist our kids must follow. Why don’t we have the same for ourselves? Set an early enough bedtime, optimum is before 11pm and stick to it. Have a bedtime routine that helps your body signal it is bedtime.
· Setting the scene Don’t watch TV in bed or work on the computer right before going to bed. It is too stimulating for the brain and it will not allow your brain to “switch off” when you go to sleep. Make sure your room is really dark and not warmer than 70 degrees.
Now tuck yourself in (and if the kids don’t wake you up in the middle of the night) you should have a deep and peaceful sleep waking up feeling refreshed, energized and ready to have a full and productive day.
By Sharon Tanner, CHC
Certified Health Coach