5 underlying reasons why you can’t sleep

Are you struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep? Yes, children waking you up at all hours of the night plays a big part here. But what I’m seeing a lot in my clinical practice is Mums struggling to unwind and get good quality sleep both when their children don’t sleep but also when their children have established a better sleep rhythm.

This ‘Tired and Wired’ feeling can have a huge impact on your emotional regulation throughout the day, your energy levels throughout the day, your food choices and cravings and how high your levels of anxiety and overwhelm are.

In these situations, I never bypass the Mother. It’s amazing to see that by supporting the Mothers health – nervous system, gut health, blood sugar balance and her stress response can have a profound effect on both Mum and child’s ability to unwind and sleep.

Here is the personal experience that one of my awesome 1-2-1 clients shared on her Instagram:

“We have certainly faced our fair share of sleep ‘challenges’ over the past 22 months… Finn has only ever really napped in arms or in his pushchair. He needs a lot of support to fall asleep and stay asleep during the night. We often go through periods of hourly wakes. He nurses constantly, and if I get him to sleep in the evening and sneak away he will – without fail – wake up within 45mins wondering why he’s on his own.

We have started working with the lovely @annie_breen_nutrition who is supporting me in feeling better in myself. The idea being that if I feel better then Finn will reap the benefits. So far so true! Self care is important mamas!

The biggest thing I’ve come to realise is that sometimes the issue isn’t just with the child, the way we’re feeling – mentally, physically and emotionally – can have an impact on our little ones sleep too!”

Read full post here

So what could be keeping us from a restful night? There are a number of potential contributors at play, here I’m looking at 5 common culprits and how to overcome them.

Nutrient deficiencies

Whilst the effect of individual nutrients on sleep is still very much an area of ongoing research, it is a fact that diet and sleep are deeply interconnected. Whilst the things you DO eat can have an effect on your sleep (I’m talking spicy or fatty food just before bed, alcohol and caffeine), the things you DON’T eat also play an important role in how much and how well you sleep. Below are a handful of nutrients we should be consuming more of if we’re struggling to get a decent night’s kip.

Vitamin D. A number of studies have found a significant link between low levels of the sunshine vitamin and short sleep duration, potentially due to vitamin D playing a key part in keeping our circadian rhythm in sync.

Foods rich in vitamin D include eggs, red meat and in particular liver, and oily fish such as salmon, herrings, sardines, mackerel and anchovies.

Vitamins C and E. Studies have shown that low levels of these vitamins can have a negative effect on the quality of our sleep. Patients who were supplemented with a daily dose of vitamin C and E were shown to have better night breathing, resulting in better quality sleep.

Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, strawberries, potatoes and broccoli. Foods rich in vitamin E include whole grains, dark leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts.

Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 plays a key role in the production of serotonin and melatonin – two hormones that are critical for sound and restful sleep.

Foods rich in vitamin B6 include meat, peanuts, oats and bananas.

Protein. The level of protein we consume can have an effect on how well we sleep. Whilst studies showed that low protein intake can result in difficulty falling asleep, high levels of protein can cause difficulty maintaining sleep.

Protein can be found in abundance in meat products, fish, eggs and dairy. However, there is also a range of plant-based foods that are rich in protein such as nuts, seeds, beans and legumes.

Magnesium. Magnesium has been shown to improve sleep quality by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep.

Foods rich in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, seafood and legumes.

Stress

Stress can be hard to avoid but I can wreak absolute havoc with our bodies. It affects not only our brain and nervous system but also our endocrine and immune system, putting our body in a state of ‘hyperarousal’, a main underlying driver for insomnia. The release of the stress hormone cortisol can have a negative effect on our sleep cycle, too.

Meditation, exercise, a healthy nutrient-dense diet and self-care are only some of the options that may help you to deal with your stress levels.

Blood sugar imbalance

I talk a lot about the importance of blood sugar balance for all aspects of our health. Sleep is no exception.

Low blood sugar causes a release of adrenalin to keep us going which, during the night, will cause us to wake and may leave us craving sugary carbs to push our blood sugar back up. On the other end of the spectrum, high blood sugar may wake us in the night feeling thirsty or needing to go to the bathroom as our kidneys try to flush the excess sugar from our system.

Either way, suboptimal blood sugar may have a detrimental effect on our sleep cycles. Check out my recent blood sugar post here to find out how you can take charge and overcome your blood sugar imbalances.

Gut imbalances

Our microbiome (that’s the colony of gut bugs living in our intestines) is in charge of regulating the production and distribution of a number of hormones that are important for our sleep. If our microbiome is out of whack, this production and transportation line cannot function properly, resulting in poor sleep patterns.

Look after the little guys in your gut by feeding them lots of brightly coloured fruit and veg as well as fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and kombucha. You may also like to consider a probiotic supplement for an additional helping hand. Have you seen my ‘Healthy Tum, Happy Mum’ online course: I see this as the foundations of achieving good health, energy, happiness and calm.

Liver overload

Do you wake up at 3 am every night? In Chinese Medicine, this ‘scheduled’ night-time waking indicates that your body is trying to tell you that your liver is working too hard in removing toxins from your body. There are a number of ways in which we can give our liver a helping hand such as drinking lemon water on waking, removing caffeine and sugar, light dinners, light yoga, and sleep hygiene routines.

Of course, there are lots of other factors that could be affecting your sleep from sleep hygiene to underlying health conditions. If you’re struggling with sleep and as a result are suffering from low energy and low mood do come and join my ‘Energised Mother Community’ on Facebook for exhausted, depleted Mothers who are ready for a new way to create lasting energy and vitality.

I did a 30 min Live on sleep which you can catch on the replay and feel free to download this FREE cheat sheet with some simple sleep tips to prompt you x

Energy = Freedom

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