Taste Success Wellbeing: Sleep
Did you know that women are twice as likely as men to have difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep? In this month’s blog, we’re going to share with you why we need sleep, the role our hormones play and what you can do to support your healthy sleep cycle.
Why do we need sleep?
Much research has been done in this area of health and wellbeing. Scientists have found that the brain goes through characteristic patterns of activity throughout each period of sleep, and that it is sometimes more active when we're asleep than when we're awake. The following list is not exhaustive, but it covers some of the ways in which sleep helps us to be optimally healthy. Quality sleep has been shown to help with:
- Cancer prevention
- Healthy ageing
- Healthy mood
- Stomach ulcers
- Diabetes prevention
- Heart disease prevention
- Tissue repair
- Weight management
What have hormones got to do with it?
With up to 80% of menopausal women seeking help at menopause for insomnia, hormones can play a major role with our sleep quality. Here are 4 key hormones that play a role with sleep:
- Ghrelin: Ghrelin is a hormone produced by specialised cells that line the stomach and the pancreas. Ghrelin is one of the main hormones to stimulate hunger. Ghrelin levels increase before meals and decrease after meals.
- Leptin: A hormone that counteracts the effects of ghrelin; leptin is produced by the fat tissue in the body. Leptin induces satiation or a feeling of fullness after a meal. When the leptin level is high, hunger is decreased. Studies show that people with shorter sleep cycles have elevated ghrelin (appetite-inducer) and lowered leptin (appetite suppressor). In Western societies, where chronic sleep restriction is common and food is widely available, changes in appetite regulatory hormones with sleep curtailment may contribute to obesity. Leptin can be tested via a simple blood test (cost = approx. $54)
- Melatonin: Produced with trigger of darkness at two times - firstly, when the sun goes down and again at around 10-10.30pm. Increases sleep inception. Melatonin regulates your sleep-wake cycle, so if you don’t secrete enough of it you may find it difficult to get to sleep. Melatonin is only available on prescription here in NZ, but the precursor to it can be found in tart cherry, and the following foods: cabbage, feverfew (herb), walnuts. Nibbling some walnuts prior to bed is not a bad idea, as they also contain protein to stabilise blood sugars.
- Cortisol: Levels of this hormone dip at bedtime, and increase gradually during the night to prepare for morning alertness. Cortisol imbalances are common these days due to high stress levels. The Oral Contraceptive pill (OCP) also affects cortisol production. It is very simple to have your cortisol tested, and it is something our in-house Naturopath, Tracey Loughran, does regularly with her patients. We can do a one-off cortisol blood test first thing in the morning, or a 24-hour assessment, to see what your cortisol levels are doing throughout your wake and sleep cycle. Contact us if you are interested in this.
What about nutrition?
If you’re hoping to get a better night’s sleep, try adding some of these sleep-enhancing foods to your diet:
- Nut butter
- Oats – eating oatcakes later in the evening can help with sleep, as oats are good for relaxing the nervous system. You can top with some chickpea hummous, see below for Hummous recipe from our Taste Success Foundation recipe book.
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 2 cloves garlic
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 4 tbsp tahini
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend well until very creamy and smooth. Add water if necessary to make it less thick. This recipe freezes well. Enjoy!
Our nutrition programmes are holistic in nature and provide support for a wide range of health and wellness topics, including healthy sleep. If you’d like to book your 1-on- 1 consult with a local facilitator, contact us today. We’re ready when you are.