Are you one of those people who struggle to fall asleep at night, or is it more about getting to sleep, but then waking up during the night?
Oh how I wish I had learned these really helpful sleep strategies when I was dealing with high night-time coritsol levels and adrenal fatigue, because there really are things that can make getting a good nights sleep possible during these times.
Here are 3 sleep strategies that I have come to use and which will help you with issues of high night-time cortisol.
1. Include a slow releasing carbohydrate with your dinner, and a small snack before bed.
For most people it is the issue of high cortisol at night that is affecting their sleep. This creates up and down blood sugar levels that can very easily throw the sleep pattern out of whack.
Eating slow releasing carbohydrates (such as sweet potato or quinoa) with your dinner will help to stabilise your blood sugar levels during the night, helping you to stay asleep.
Dr Alan Christianson in his book “The Adrenal Reset Diet” explains that
“By dinnertime, your insulin response is at its peak. If you do not have some carbohydrates, cortisol will raise your blood sugar, which will prevent you getting a good night’s sleep. This can also cause a blood sugar crash, which leads to sugar cravings.
By testing glucose levels minute by minute throughout the night in hundreds of people, I have observed that unstable blood sugar levels occur exactly when people are struggling to fall asleep or are spontaneously waking up at night.”
In addition, if you have had an early dinner it is also important to have a snack before bedtime that contains protein, unrefined carbohydrates and high quality fat. You may need to test out what quantity feels good for you.
Dr Michael Lam in his book “Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome” explains that
“A light snack can promote sleep, and pairing tryptophan-containing foods (such as turkey and certain dairy products) with carbohydrates, helps to calm the brain, which allows the body to sleep better.”
Please listen to your own body in deciding what the right kinds of foods are for you to have for this evening meal and snack. We all have a unique system.
Some of the things I eat before bed are:
- a rice cake (brown rice and quinoa) with some nut butter spread
- a rice cake (brown rice and quinoa) with a little tuna and avocado
- a small bowl of quinoa puffs, a sprinkling of protein powder and some almond milk
- Oh, and to drink – a mug of calming camomile tea
2. Create a diligent bed time ritual that slows you down.
Two hours before sleep is the time to start your slowing down ritual. One of the most important things to do is to turn off all electronic devices that emit a blue light. This is going to be devices like your tv, computer, laptop, tablet and phone. The only exception will be your kindle, which has been shown to not emit this same blue electromagnetic field.
If you simply can’t get off your computer, I encourage you to install f.lux on your computer. This is a software program which you can install on your computer to adjust your screen to the fading light. As it gets darker outside, your screen will fade accordingly without emitting extra blue light.
Then at least one hour before bed, engage in a ritual of very calming activities.
I choose from the following
- A legs up the wall yoga pose
- Reading something inspirational from a real book or kindle
- Writing in my journal to help release the day
- Listening to some soft music
- Doing some coloring
- Having a shower (not too hot though, as this can be overstimulating on your system)
- Engaging in calming conversations with family members
I have made it a super high priority to calm down before sleep, and I have seen that the more diligent I am with this, the significantly greater quality of sleep I end up having.
3. Sleep by 10.30pm and Sleep in the morning to 8 or 9am.
Firstly having the goal to sleep by 10.30pm is really important. This is because most people dealing with adrenal fatigue will get a second wind after this time and their cortisol levels will go higher, making it even harder to fall asleep.
Even though it may be challenging, go back to number 2 above, and really dedicate yoruself to slowing yourself down before sleep.
The other thing is the morning. If you’re anything like I was, and still am when I have busy or stressful days, sleeping longer in the morning made a big difference to how I felt during the day.
Dr James Wilson in his book “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome” explains this well
“Catching those couple of hours sleep between 7-9am can be remarkable refreshing. The reason for this is that while you are sleeping during those morning hours your adrenals have a chance to rest, allowing your cortisol levels to rise.
Normally cortisol levels rise rapidly from 6am -8am, but quite often in adrenal fatigue those levels do not rise as high and/or drop faster than normal. When your cortisol levels are lower, it takes longer to feel fully awake in the morning. Sleeping in, therefore, is not only restorataive for your adrenals but also helps you feel much better when you wake up and during the rest of the day. It is not self indulgent, it is essential, knowing when to sleep can make all the difference to how you feel.”
Trust what you need. Trust how you feel.
I often found I had gaps of sleep during the night because of wayward blood sugar levels, and severe hay fever symptoms, and those extra few hours of sleep in the morning made all the difference.
Look at making an adjustment in your schedule if possible or get the support that you need in order to help your body to heal one day at a time.
This does take a commitment from you. It does take not giving in to that wired, late at night feeling, but rather letting yourself take time to unwind and unravel to give yourself the best possible chance of getting a good night’s sleep.
Until soon, good night. xo