Are you happy with your sleep?

What does sleep hygiene really mean?

Gary Burke – B.Sc, M.Sc, SENr

36% of UK adults struggle to get to sleep on a weekly basis, while almost 1 in 5 have trouble falling asleep every single night. Everyone has experienced it at some stage of their life – a poor night’s sleep will more than likely leave you less productive, reduce the quality of your work and put you in a worse mood overall. 

Some of you may be familiar with the term ‘sleep hygiene’ – it refers to habits & practices that can be used to help improve the quality of your sleep. Sleep hygiene isn’t all about giving yourself a caffeine curfew or what you do in the lead up to bedtime. Various other factors can contribute to a better sleep and I hope to shed some light on these below. 

Consistency

It’s been shown that having a consistent sleep schedule is more important than how long you sleep for (within reason). Having a set wake & sleep time each day (and not deviating from this by too much at the weekends) will help you fall asleep faster, improve the quality of your sleep, and help you feel less groggy in the mornings. 7-9 hours is best but if your schedule means you can’t manage that much, try to at least make it consistent.

Light

You may already know that screens can negatively affect your sleep through both the light of the screens and stimulation from what’s on the screen. It’s best to put the screens away in the hour leading up the bedtime if you want to optimise your sleep and minimise your morning grogginess. Reading a book or meditating before bed have both been shown to make it easier to fall asleep & improve quality of your sleep.

It’s best to avoid all bright light sources in the hours leading up to bedtime, not just blue light from screens. Bright light exposure late in the day suppresses your body’s production of melatonin – a hormone that makes us feel sleepy – making it more difficult to fall asleep and reducing the quality of your sleep when you finally doze off. 

In the mornings, it’s best to do the opposite: exposing yourself to bright light as soon as you wake (and over the first 2 hours of wakefulness) will both speed up the waking process by increasing alertness and make it easier to fall asleep that night. The sun is best – it’s much more intense that any artificial light source you’ll find have. The sun can be up to 400 times brighter than the average lightbulb! 

Temperature

Your body temperature has a natural cycle correlating with your body clock, peaking just before noon and falling again from late evening until it reaches its lowest point a couple hours before you wake up. You can adjust your body clock by facilitating a rise or a fall in body temperature, depending on the time of day.

Aligning your body clock & sleep/wake cycle is very important for getting good quality, replenishing sleep – incongruency between the two is a major reason why you may struggle to get to sleep at night and wake up feeling groggy and unrested.

Activities that lead to a drop in body temperature in the hour or two before bed will help – something that warms your body like light exercise or showering/bathing will lead to a subsequent drop in body temperature that coincides with your body’s daily temperature cycle, naturally making you sleepy. This is why keeping your bedroom at a cool temperature is important for getting a good night’s sleep.

In the morning, the opposite is true – practices that lead to an increase in body temperature can actually help you get to sleep faster that night. Cold showers – as well as being shown to increase productivity by improving dopamine levels – can help adjust your body clock so that you start to naturally feel sleepy at your usual bedtime. 

Exercise 

Exercising early in your day adjusts your body clock slightly earlier, making you naturally want to sleep earlier that night and makes your body more likely to wake up naturally around the time your alarm usually goes off. Some people often feel sluggish exercising early in the day – if you can manage to schedule some exercise in regularly, your body will adapt to make it feel easier.

Take-Home Points to Improve Sleep

  • Have a consistent sleep schedule, even over the weekend if possible
  • Avoid bright lights & screens in the hour before bed
  • Read a book or meditate before bed 
  • Light exercise or warm/hot showers close to bedtime
  • Exercise or cold showers in the morning make it easier to fall asleep that night

The gap between knowledge & success is application

It has become inherently evident to me that there are many things that do not work when it comes to giving out nutrition advice, and having people interact accordingly with it. One such factor was giving people overwhelming amounts of information, which I was privy to doing, with the intent of helping and informing, but in reality what happens is that people become confused, distressed, they don’t understand what figures apply where, and why. This became very apparent with a recent client, with whom suggestions such as low fat yogurts, microwave grains and ready made salads seemed like made up products, and the idea of reading a food label was out of this world.

So today, I am doing my first session of what I hope to become a main pillar in the services I offer, practical shopping guides, and my only regret is that I hadn’t thought of it sooner! What does this entail?

  • 30-45 minute shopping trip to your local supermarket (Aldi/Lild/Tesco)
  • A software analyzed report of your typical diet
  • Suggested meal plans
  • Suggested shopping lists
  • Meal prep guidelines & recipes

The session is basically a walking tour of a supermarket, discussing aisle by aisle, pointing out your habitually consumed foods that are contributing most to your calories/fats/salts/sugars and some suggested alternatives. Being shown first hand where to find the foods you need to plug the holes in your diet, and compiling a shopping list that meets your weekly needs, which will fit into both easy cooking and practicality time wise, followed up by a round up in my where we discuss budget/food storage/prepping and some finer points of label reading.

I really think this has the potential to actually reach into practical elements of healthy eating & living by ensuring you have:

1) A good food environment

2) Constant food availability

3) All your nutritional needs met

4) A plan

I will be properly rolling this out in the coming weeks, but will be taking bookings. If you are interested, and think this could benefit you, get in touch and let’s organize your groceries!

Get in touch via Facebook/Instagram platforms or email: fitnutspectrumfitness@gmail.com

Stay healthy,

Evan

This is hotly debated topic, what is FODMAP, what is it for, how does it work? All is explained below!

Having IBS and issues with bloating, cramps and malabsorption can really wreak havoc with your life, it can cause food to become a source of anxiety, it can destroy your appetite, cut you off from your social and ruin your confidence, not to mention feel powerless in terms of never knowing what to eat. The FODMAP protocol is designed to help you avoid specific sugars and fibres that either are poorly digested, are broken down rapidly by gut bacteria to create gas, or which can draw water into your intestines, these sugars and fibres are well defined, and there are clear cut ways to avoid them, it just takes a little know how and a little practice. Let’s look at what FODMAP stands for:

  • F is for fermentable. The sugars and fibres that your gut bacteria love to eat and make lots of gas with, very quickly, leading to bloating and abdominal pain, and possibly reflux/nausea.
  • O is for oligosaccharide. These are compounds consisting of fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides. These are very poorly absorbed and difficult to digest for humans in general, and can be common sources of gastric distress. Sources include onion, garlic, legumes, pulses, wheat and rye.
  • D is for disaccharide. These are two molecule sugars such as lactose, the sugar in dairy products, ice-cream, creams and milk would be the biggest offenders. High fat cheeses should be fine.
  • M is for monosaccharide. Fructose is the main one here, it is well absorbed in the presence of glucose, foods usually have a mix of the two, but in high fructose foods, you may be prone to malabsorption issues, foods high in fructose will include honey, apples, watermelon and watch out for high-fructose corn syrup on labels (also known glucose-fructose, isoglucose, glucose-fructose syrup). Avoid juices in excess.
  • A doesn’t stand for anything. It’s purely to make the acronym easier to say. Just FYI.
  • P stands for polyols. These are sugar alcohol sweeteners that contain about 3 calories per gram (just nice to know they are not calorie free). These are not absorbed, and they can draw water into your gut, giving you the urge to go to the bathroom and potentially to have diarrhoea. These include sorbitol and mannitol, anything ending in –ol is most likely a sugar alcohol, unless you are drinking actual alcohol, which has 7 calories per gram.

How we approach it

The FODMAP protocol should be stuck to for approximately 4-6 weeks, sticking to lower FODMAP food options for this period of time, Monashe university have useful resources and an app that is quite useful and can inspire some recipes! After the six week period, you can start slowly introducing some of the trigger foods, basically anything that isn’t on the list. This should be done under the guise of a dietitian or registered nutritionist, as the nature of the low FODMAP diet can put people at risk of energy and nutrient deficiency, an expense for lower incidence of gastric issues. Taking a multivitamin, speaking to a doctor and getting a blood test to check your nutrient status prior to embarking on this would be a good idea. The main thing to note is that this diet is only designed for short term, the whole point is to include more and more items as your gastric symptoms allow, in increasing amounts.

Food lists (to include)

Low FODMAP carbs: Options include rice, potato, gluten free bread, rice noodles, gluten free pasta pasta/spaghetti, oats, corn, quinoa, buckwheat, popcorn, oat/rice/potato flours are fine, fruit is okay, but that is a separate category below.

Low FODMAP fruits: Banana (green), blueberries, cantaloupe, cranberries (1 tbsp), clementine, grapes, guava, honeydew and galia melon (NOT watermelon), kiwi, lemon & limes (juice is okay too), mandarin, orange, passionfruit, papaya, pineapple, raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry.

Low FODMAP veggies: Bamboo shoots, bean-sprouts, beetroot, broccoli (1/2 cup), Brussel’s sprouts (2), butternut squash (1/4 cup), cabbage (1 cup), carrots, chick peas (2 tbsp), courgette, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, green beans, ginger, kale, lentils (1-2 tbsp), lettuce, marrows, olives, parsnip, snow peas (<5 pods), peppers, potato, pumpkin, seaweed, spinach, sundried tomato (<4 pieces), sweet potato (1/2 medium potato), tomato, turnip, yam, zucchini.

Low FODMAP dairy: Butter, brie, camembert, cheddar, cottage, feta, goat , Monterey Jack, mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta (2 tbsp), Swiss, dairy free chocolate pudding, margarine, almond milk, hemp milk, lactose free milk, rice milk (200ml), sorbet, soy protein (avoid soya beans), Swiss cheese, tempeh, tofu , whipped cream, coconut yoghurt, Greek yoghurt (small portions), lactose free yoghurt.

Low FODMAP nuts/seeds: Walnuts, pecan, pine nuts, brazil nuts, almonds, chestnuts, chia seeds, hemp seed, sunflower & pumpkin seeds.

Low FODMAP condiments: Butter, strawberry jam, maple syrup, marmalade, peanut butter, pesto, ketchup, BBQ sauce, mustard, soy sauce.

Low FODMAP protein: Beef, cold meats, cod, chicken, egg, haddock, lamb, mussels, oysters, plaice, pork, prawns, Quorn, salmon, trout, turkey, tuna (avoid breaded or marinated options, flavour foods yourself as much as possible.

Low FODMAP drinks: Water, lactose free milks, lemonade made fresh, tea, coffee, gin, whiskey, wine, 1 glass sugar free soda max.

Sneaky things to avoid

  • Sugar free soda or squash, chewing gum, mints. Check labels for sorbitol/mannitol/xylitol, these are sugar alcohols and can cause some gastric pain and diarrhoea in IBS sufferers.
  • Avoid dried fruits; they have an increased concentration of fructose sugars as a result of the processing.
  • Avoid anything with garlic or onion, garlic infused oil is fine.

Portions

  • Gluten free pasta (100g/7 tbsp/3 handfuls)
  • Gluten free spaghetti (100g/bunch 1 inch diameter)
  • Brown rice/couscous/Quinoa (80g/5 tbsp)
  • Buckwheat (75g/5 tbsp)
  • Popcorn (40-50g)
  • Potato (2 egg sized potatoes)
  • Bread (2 slices wholegrain, 1 slice Maltese bread, 1 wrap, 1 small bread roll)
  • Cereal (2 Weetabix, 40g cereals, 50g oats)
  • Fruit (1/2 banana, 1 apple/orange/pear, 6-7 grapes, 10-15 blueberries, 3-4 strawberries, 2 dates, 1 cup of chopped melon/pineapple)
  • Veg (1 handful broccoli/spinach/kale, salad veg, 1 carrot, 1 marrow, 1 cup of chopped pumpkin/squash, 2 tbsp peas/corn/beans)
  • Seeds (1 teaspoon)
  • Nuts (6-8 nuts)
  • Oils/dressings/honey (1 teaspoon)
  • Dairy (200ml milk, 125g yogurt, matchbox/thumb sized portion of cheese)
  • Chocolate (2-3 squares, 2 cookies, 5-6 maltesers, small chocolate bar)

How can you add flavour to your food without risking side effects?

  1. Use garlic/onion/chili/herb infused oil. FODMAPs cannot infuse into oil, but you can get their flavour to, use these to keep your meals kicking!
  2. Use good old herbs and spices, these are all okay.
  3. Add a little salt, and a little pepper.
  4. Sauces like soy and salad dressings should be okay.

Thanks for reading, I hope you find this helpful!

Get in touch:

  • fitnutspectrumfitness@gmail.com
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