The importance of sleep and rest for good gut health can often be overlooked. But, when it comes to our health, both physical and mental, sleep is one of the keys to our overall wellness.
While we don’t need to be reminded how great we feel after a good night’s sleep, any ongoing lack of restful and uninterrupted sleep can impact our health on many levels. Just ask any new mum longing for the days of a solid 8, or even 6 hours of sleep!
A lack of good sleep and rest can impact our digestion, our hormones (creating hormonal imbalances) and cognitive function (hello baby brain). And let’s not forget that our patience levels are strongly affected by how many hours of sweet dreams we’ve had the night before.
As a colonic hydrotherapist and gut health nutritionist, sleep is always one of the things discussed with every client in the clinic. When we sleep, our body is able to repair. Sleep and good rest are needed for our body and organs to perform the crucial functions of keeping us healthy.S
Sleep and stress impacts on good gut health
For some, including me, sleep has never been a challenge – we’re talking Gold Medal Olympic level sleeping! But, like everyone else, the added stress of the past year has affected even the best of us sleepers. The important thing is to take notice of those changes and look to remedy them quickly. If the pattern continues, less sleep can cause more stress, which then becomes like a game of ‘the chicken or the egg’. Is my lack of sleep causing my stress? Or is my stress causing my lack of sleep? To be honest, it doesn’t matter which it is; what matters is that we do something about it.
Tips for a good night’s sleep
Thankfully, there are some simple things we can do to manage our stress levels; and in turn gift ourselves one of the most valuable daily functions required for the health of our mind and body, along with aiding good gut health. And don’t we all deserve that?
So, here are just a few things we recommend you try in the search for a good night’s sleep.
- Avoid really large meals at dinner time. On average it takes between 1.5-3 hours to digest our food. This means the body is still WORKING and isn’t really ready for rest until that food passes from the stomach. If you are a troubled sleeper try to have a light dinner which is easy to digest. Perhaps prepare a salad with a nice light fish, or enjoy a warming soup in the colder months. Meat-heavy or pasta-heavy meals take longer to digest.
- Turn off the devices – at least an hour before bed put down your devices. Turn the phone off or switch to flight mode and leave the laptops to rest. When we scroll through messages, websites or social media we stimulate the same part of the brain that thinks we are working. Next thing we know an hour has passed of Instagram scrolling and our minds continue to think we have been “at work.”
- Create a downtime ritual
- Have a shower to wash off the day or soak in the bath using magnesium salts and a calming essential oil like lavender, magnolia or patchouli. Or whatever other calming scent you like.
- Enjoy a cup of tea – if chamomile isn’t your thing find a sleep tea that you enjoy or sip on a digestive tea, which is wonderful for aiding good gut health after dinner as well.
- Go to bed before 10pm – the most important hours of sleep are between 10pm and 12am. This is when our bodies secrete melatonin.
- Keep a journal by your bed – we often hear from those who experience trouble sleeping also have a thousand thoughts going through their minds. And, really, who doesn’t these days? Those of us who keep a journal by the bed for “mind dumping” find it easier to fall asleep. This is a great way of relieving our minds of the pressure of trying to remember all those things for the next day. Once it’s written down on paper, we’ve released the responsibility of holding on to that thought.
- Breathwork and Meditation for sleep – By slowing down the breath we tap into our parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for rest and digest. By practicing simple breathing exercises, we can slow our heart rate and slip into the state of rest. We also love a good Yoga Nidra practice. Yoga Nidra translates to yoga sleeping. Although we said put the phone down early, the Insight Timer app has several excellent night time mediations and practices. If you do need to use your phone for this, be sure it’s on ‘do not disturb’ mode so that once the meditation is over there’s no need to pick up the phone again.
- Your bedroom is your sanctuary – create your bedroom so that it’s inviting of rest and sleep. Our bedrooms should be minimally decorated without a lot of furniture and clutter. It should be comforting and nurturing. Soft bedside lighting, peaceful colours and art. If it’s a noisy room, invest in good quality earplugs and an eye mask. We love some of the cool products offered by Block Blue Light.
We wish you sweet, deep and restful dreams. For all the good things it will bring, including good gut health.
By Zhenya Gerson