Why do I wake up at night?

We’ve all been there, tossing and turning through the night, unable to get restful sleep despite being tired. Long-term disturbances with sleep patterns can be a huge problem, leading to issues with weight, cravings, immunity and mood. Often the cause is due to an imbalance in our stress hormone - cortisol.

Cortisol, produced in the adrenal glands, is nature’s built in alarm system evolved to help us survive in threatening situations. However in today's modern world, when stress is sustained for long periods of time, whether it is stress at work, a traffic warden approaching your car or over exercising, your cortisol levels begin to plummet as your adrenal glands are constantly overwhelmed.

One of cortisol’s main roles is to raise blood sugar levels during times of stress to help produce energy. However, if your adrenals are struggling to keep up, then cortisol levels decrease significantly from 6pm onwards and further still through the night. The body reacts by producing adrenaline to help your blood sugar levels from dropping too low. This neurotransmitter is very stimulating and keeps your brain on high alert, preventing you from falling asleep.

To help support your sleep patterns:

  1. Eat a healthy carbohydrate snack before bed - a slice of toast with a couple of spoons of cottage cheese or some rye crackers can be helpful.
  2. Avoid caffeine from 3pm - caffeine is a stimulant that can play havoc with your sleep patterns. Try chicory coffee which has both gut supporting properties without causing restless sleep.
  3. Go to bed when you begin to feel tired - often, people think they will sleep better if they go to bed later. Studies have shown that the quality of your sleep is improved enormously when you sleep earlier.
  4. Avoid strenuous exercise before bed - this will simply spark up your adrenaline and cortisol levels, keeping you awake for longer.
  5. Slow down in the evenings - stay away from work, stress and screens an hour before bed. Instead, read a good book, have a long soak in a hot bath or practice some restorative yoga to signal to your brain that you are ready for bed.

If you feel you could do with some extra support with your sleep patters, get in touch and see how nutritional therapy can benefit you.