This is the one thing that I get so many eye rolls about. I mean, your grand mother told you about the importance of sleep and you probably yawned as it seems like such a boring piece of advice. But it is one of the things that most of my clients neglect, but it is one of the most important pieces of advice anyone could receive.
One basic thing that helps your hormones, periods and fertility that frequently gets overlooked, is sleep. Sleep is so important for so many reasons: maintaining hormonal cycles, lower stress, optimising serotonin and dopamine levels. It also helps the body repair itself and assimilate the nutrients you ate earlier in the day.
A particular thing about sleep and hormones is that Shawn Stephenson, author of the book Sleep Smarter, says that just by not getting one night of decent sleep, your insulin sensitivity matches that of a type 2 diabetic. If you know anyone with insulin sensitivity, PCOS or tendencies towards those imbalances, this means sleep is super important for you. (Because reduced insulin sensitivity is through the to be cause behind PCOS and type two diabetes).
As sleep is so important for women’s health and hormones, here are a few tips to help you sleep better:
1. Get Enough Sleep Every Night
This might sound really basic, but do you know how much is the right amount for you. The data suggests the average amount of sleep for a person to get to remain healthy is 7-8 hours a night. So start off with this and see how you feel each day. If you are feeling lacking, then maybe you need more or less.
2. Catch The Angel Train
Sara Gottfried, author or the books The Hormone Cure and Hormone Reset often calls the hours of sleep before midnight the angel train because the benefit of one hour of sleep before midnight is the equivalent of two hours afterwards. Most people do better when they fall asleep by 10pm. (And yes, this usually means that you need to prepare for sleep way before this).
3. Get Up At The Same Time Every Day
Yes, including the weekend. Your body clock is incredibly sensitive to changes. When you don’t get up at the same or a similar time every day, then your cortisol patterns can get confused. If you are tired in the morning, but wired at night, this is a sign of your cortisol rhythm going back to front.
If you need more sleep, rather than waking up later, go to bed earlier until you make up the sleep deficit.
4. Work Out Your Bedtime Routine
Most of us know that children require regular sleep routines with a period of time to wind down and get themselves ready for bed. The not so big secret is that adults are the same. We need to wind down, cut out light exposure (especially to mobile devices) in the hour or two leading up to bed, avoid late exercise and late eating.
Think about what relaxes you and can you integrate that into your evening routine. Whether it is a bath, reading a book (not a screen), a gentle walk or yoga nidra, then you can add this into your routine to help you relax and prepare for bed.
5. Optimise Your Sleeping Environment
Is your bedroom really prepared for the best night’s sleep. Is it quiet, free from distractions and restful. Is your bed comfortable or do you really need a new mattress? Is the temperature right for you? Most people need their bedroom to go down by 2 degrees so that their body metabolism slows down in preparation for sleep.
You also need your room to be dark, so getting rid of as much extra light as possible is really important. Whether cracks around doors, light around curtains is coming through or light from other sources within your room such as glowing alarm clock faces, it can make a real difference to your ability to fall asleep.
Sleep masks can help but other parts of your body can sense light too, so black out blinds are the idea option and they are a lot cheaper these days than they have been in the past.
6. Get Regular Bodywork
Shawn Stephenson found a few studies showing that bodywork such as massage and reflexology can really help with your sleep quality. He said that a practice called “gut smashing” was particularly helpful, as your abdomen holds a lot of stress and tension, as well as the gut-brain axis.
For those of you that don’t know what gut smashing is, this is a form of self abdominal massage where you roll your belly over a hard ball. However, getting a Fertility Massage is a much gentler way to get this done (and it feels divine, but I am biased, so you should try it out for yourself).
I’d love to hear any of your tips for better sleep too. Sleeping seems so basic, yet is one of the most neglected practices in today’s busy society. So start working on yours and see how it makes a difference to you.