The body does a lot when we're asleep - everything from growing muscle, repairing damaged tissue and producing hormones to supporting the cardiovascular system and metabolism. The brain also regroups and resets in myriad ways. The better the body sleeps, the more efficiently all of this happens, but for some of us, a good night's sleep is easier said than done.
According to 2022 sleep statistics collected by CyberCrew, 36% of adults in the UK struggle to fall asleep at least once a week and 1 in 3 people are sleeping less than before the pandemic. With daily stresses, busy lives and a glance at what's going on in the world, it's no wonder our sleep can be affected.
World Sleep Day is observed on Friday 18th March 2022 and the theme for this year is "Quality Sleep, Sound Mind, Happy World".
Gabriela chatted to Venetia Archer, the founder of Ruuby this week to talk all things sleep and relaxation and to share some of their top tips around stress, supplements and getting a good night's sleep.
Venetia: In terms supplementation Gabriela, what are the best things to take to support sleep?
Gabriela: So, sleep and stress tend to go hand in hand and you tend to look to the same supplements for both because obviously, you need to be relaxed to be able to sleep. Supplement wise, my favourite for sleep would have to be Magnesium.
Most of us are deficient in Magnesium if you don't eat enough dark leafy vegetables and you need a great abundance within your body to create a difference.
When shopping for a Magnesium supplement, you want to look for a form that the body can absorb. Good forms include Magnesium Malate and Magnesium Glycinate and I like to take them in powder form to avoid needing to take too many pills. You can get some really lovely Magnesium drinks that are great before bed or you can take a Magnesium bath with some lovely salts.
Food should always be your priority, but I love to recommend high quality supplements, particularly to those with super busy schedules as sometimes, no matter how healthy our diet is, we just don't get enough key vitamins and minerals.
As well as Magnesium, I like to focus on foods high in Tryptophan which is an amino acid, a building block of protein. In the body, Tryptophan is used to form Serotonin which is a neurotransmitter in our brain and in responsible for feelings of happiness, but also promotes sleep.
When our Mothers gave us hot milk before bed, they were absolutely right! Dairy products are high in Tryptophan. I really like to have some yoghurt or a couple of spoonfuls of cottage cheese before bed, but you could also have a slice of turkey or some nuts and seeds. Having a snack like this with protein before bed is going to ensure you don't go to bed hungry. When you're hungry you stimulate cortisol, your stress hormone, which will disturb your sleep.
Venetia: When it comes to switching off, when we're tired or maybe trying to establish that work/life balance, so important when trying to promote good sleep, what are your top tips?
Gabriela: As a Nutritionist, when I start thinking about stress, I immediately go to nutrients and adaptogens. We've spoken about Magnesium but another nutrient great for stress is Omega 3 fatty acids. Just as with Magnesium, we tend to be deficient in fatty acids as the body uses them for so many processes and because the body cannot produce them itself - you must obtain them through diet. Omega 3 is a really key for hormone balance, reducing inflammation in the body, skin and hair as well as brain health.
I'd recommend 3-4 portions of oily fish per week, plus some nuts and seeds plus, I always recommend that everyone takes a supplement! I do a lot of blood tests in my clinic and I'm yet to meet one patient with no deficiencies.
Venetia: Absolutely, and I think committing to your health and wellness through supplementation and treatments is investing in yourself and that's why we're so passionate at Ruuby about offering really gorgeous treatments to help people invest in that pre-bedtime ritual.
Ruuby have just launched some really exciting new treatments with Bamford, designed to promote sleep and reduce stress using blends of different oils including Roman Camomile and Poppy Seed, through application to the body. For £15 off your first treatment with Ruuby, use code 'RUUBYGP'
It might take a little bit of time but organising and planning that time to unwind is so important - taking the time for yourself to focus on recalibrating and improving your sleep. Scheduling that time so you know you've allocated the time is really important.
Gabriela: I very much believe in resetting - I quite like the word reset. This is because I completely understand and my ethos as a Nutritionist is that we really can't be good all year round, and we're not! I'm a Nutritionist and I'm definitely not, it's really all about balance. To me, it's important to teach my patients to take that time for themselves, to say 'this is my week' and focusing on a few small changes to feel good. We're all busy, I have 3 small children myself - we definitely don't need to go into full detox mode but every little change counts.
My book is all about little tips and tricks for helping you make small improvements in as little as 1 or 2 weeks. You can create a lot of little habits in 2 weeks which will continue. We all have weeks where we don't feel our best but it's important to remember that it's completely normal to fluctuate throughout the year in periods where we feel that stress, or maybe a bit sluggish but nothing is lost. Your body can reset at anytime, it's never too late to start and it begins with very smalls steps.
Venetia: I agree with that and for me, finding time to exercise has been a bit of a challenge but this morning I did 15 minutes on the exercise bike and 15 minutes is better than nothing, right? It's that value added that isn't too overwhelming, it's easy to think you have to completely reset and change everything.
Gabriela: Absolutely, little habits like having your (Ruuby) treatments before bed, taking your Magnesium, making sure your blood sugar levels are nice and balanced throughout the day. If you don't eat well throughout the day, it will impact your sleep because imbalanced blood levels will increase your cortisol which will disrupt falling asleep or will wake you up.
Having protein with every meal, including that mid-afternoon snack will keep your blood sugar levels nice and balanced. That 4pm snack is really important, when you start to feel peckish and if you're feeling hungry before bed, don't be afraid to have a little snack, as long as it's high in Tryptophan.
Aside from food and supplements, be conscious of how you're going to sleep. The key to a good night's sleep isn't just about what you're eating, but about your bedtime habits. I talk a lot about this in my book, but the temperature of the room we're sleeping in important. 18c with fresh airflow is optimal for quality sleep. Reducing screen time and blue light before bed is crucial and then another little tip I give to my patients is to have a pen and paper on your bedside table for that 2am 'oh my gosh' detail you remember! This way you can write it down rather than trying to switch on your phone or tablet, stimulating your brain with the blue light.
Venetia: Another thing that I love and I'm such an advocate of is a weighted blanket! I really struggled with sleep, especially after having Penelope, my baby with waking up all of the time and it got me into this stressed out mindset. I tried this weighted blanket and it's changed my life. I feel cocooned, I don't move around or get up as much and now I recommend it to everyone.
Gabriela: My 10 year old daughter is the same, she loves her weighted blanket!
Venetia: I'd read about them but never tried it but honestly, it's transformed my sleep!
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