When was the last time you got a good night’s rest? Last night? Last week? ‘Studies show a strong link between sleep deficit and the development or worsening of diabetes,’ says Professor Michael Hensley of the Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at John Hunter Hospital, NSW. ‘And too little sleep increases your risk of weight gain due to changes in hormones that can increase both fat storage and appetite.’ To help you nod off faster and enjoy a better night’s rest, try this sleep-friendly countdown to bedtime.
5 HOURS BEFORE SLEEP
Exercise! Studies show that regular activity leads to sound sleep and a slimmer waistline, and interval training is the best way to get results. ‘Alternating periods of high-intensity exercise with low intensity helps the body produce catecholamines – chemicals that turn on the body’s fat-burning process,’ says Dr Stephen Boutcher of the School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales. And remember to practise safe diabetes management, too. ‘Stay hydrated, have some jelly beans handy and check your blood glucose levels,’ says type 1 blogger and counsellor Helen Edwards.
TOP TIP Avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as late-night workouts can suppress the sleep hormone, melatonin. ‘Late exercise increases your body temperature just when it should be dropping in preparation for sleep,’ says Siobhan Banks of the Centre for Sleep Research at the University of South Australia.
4 HOURS BEFORE SLEEP
Eat your dinner four hours before turning in. Why? Having a late meal can raise your body temperature, which affects your ability to fall asleep. ‘It can also cause issues like indigestion, because you are lying down with a full stomach, which will keep you awake,’ says dietitian Melanie McGrice, director of Nutrition Plus clinics in Melbourne. ‘To avoid snacking before bed, ensure that your meal is filling and contains a mix of vegetables, healthy carbohydrates such as brown rice, and protein such as chicken or fish,’ she says.
TOP TIP Minimise stimulants like soft drinks or coffee in the lead-up to bedtime, as caffeinated or sugary foods make you more alert. And watch your alcohol intake, too. ‘This can later interrupt your sleep, by dehydrating you or causing stress about your blood glucose levels or the need to monitor them more overnight,’ says Edwards.
2 HOURS BEFORE SLEEP
Switch off technology, including mobile phones, your computer and tablet, and if possible, remove these devices from your room. ‘Avoid computer use for several hours before bed – the bright light can interfere with your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which rises at night, readying your body for sleep,’ says Banks.
TOP TIP Have a relaxing soak in a warm (not hot) bath close to bedtime. ‘The warmth actually causes a temperature drop which can help sleep onset,’ says Banks.
1 HOUR BEFORE SLEEP
As bedtime approaches, try these five fast tactics for a better night between the sheets.
● Ensure that your room is cool and dark – this will improve your sleep quality.
● Check your blood glucose levels and make adjustments to your insulin as required.
● Slip on some socks. Swiss research has shown that warming your feet before bed promotes faster sleep onset.
● Keep lights low. Electric lights at night can interfere with your body clock, which in turn affects the production of the hormones that regulate sleep, energy, appetite and weight.
● Relax and unwind by reading a book, listening to classical music or sipping a soothing chamomile tea.
30 MINUTES AFTER WAKING UP
Enjoy your breakfast outside. ‘A morning dose of sunlight helps synchronise your hormones with light and dark, so that you get tired in the evening and have more alertness in the morning,’ says Banks.
By Stephanie Osfield