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01 Oct 2022

Healthy Living: Getting a good night sleep

Healthy Living:  Getting a  good night sleep

In general, as many as 7 out of 10 people find it hard to get a good night's sleep in Ireland

WITH THE daylight-saving time change you might be struggling to get your sleep regulated. You are not alone. In general, as many as 7 out of 10 people find it hard to get a good night's sleep in Ireland. Sleep is designed to restore us to full function after a full day of wearing ourselves out. But what is standing between us and a proper, deep sleep?

Cortisol is an essential stress hormone that keeps us alert during the day. Cortisol works in balance with melatonin (our sleep hormone). When Cortisol levels go down at night, Melatonin along with growth and repair hormones increase. However, if Cortisol levels do not sufficiently go down at night-time or are not at the right levels during the day, Cortisol can peak intermittently during the night, disturbing sleep and reducing your body’s ability to rest and repair. If your system has been under consistent and/or considerable stress, Cortisol levels can become dysfunctional.
Watching television or working on the computer at night - even having electric appliances in the bedroom with their small LED lights can disturb the circadian rhythm by affecting the cortisol-melatonin balance.
If you are a worrier, you need to clear your mental agenda before bedtime and write out your worrying thoughts. Make a list of things to do the next day or other issues that you need to consider and then put them aside for the night. A good book, nothing too exciting, meditation and prayer can switch a busy mind off.
Eating a large meal late at night can interfere with sleep. Your digestive system should finish most of its job by the time you go to sleep. If the liver must deal with sorting out the absorbed nutrients at night instead of detoxifying, you can end up with a restless night and vivid dreams.
Alcohol and simple sugars can cause blood sugar imbalances that can peak stress hormones at night. Some people can be more sensitive to caffeine than others. Caffeine can stay in the system up to 10 hours if the liver is struggling to process it. Having caffeine-rich drinks or chocolate after 2pm is not a good idea.
Tryptophan-rich foods can help the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) - these are turkey, chicken, fish, pheasant, partridge, cottage cheese, bananas, eggs, nuts, wheat germ, avocados, milk, cheese, and the legumes (beans, peas, lentils), and there are also smaller amounts in Montmorency cherry juice. All amino acids compete for transport to the brain and because
Tryptophan is such a large molecule, other more easily absorbed amino acids actively compete with it. In order to divert them and encourage the uptake of Tryptophan.
It is helpful to moderately raise insulin levels by eating starchy carbohydrate foods, such as brown rice, wholemeal bread, oats and jacket potatoes, alongside the Tryptophan rich proteins, so it can make its way to the brain to be converted to serotonin, then to melatonin.

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