By Kirsten Beynon MSc. Dip.Nu
Last year I read an amazing book called ‘Why We Sleep’ and I had my mind blown. I always knew that sleep was important, but I re-prioritised it to be THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER. It underpins our entire health, wellbeing and experience of life.
We all know what it feels like to not have enough sleep for one night – cranky, unfocussed, sleepy, forgetful, accident-prone, poor physical performance and reaching for snacks that maybe aren’t our usual choices. It makes for a hard day, especially if you have to parent, work, learn, maintain relationships, drive, think or do anything that isn’t snoozing on the sofa being brought cups of tea.
When I was studying my Masters, the campus had a sleep research centre. We, as MSc students, were strongly discouraged from taking part in sleep studies, under threat of expulsion. The school recognized that sleep deprivation studies were not conducive to academic success (or keeping heads above water!). We occasionally heard tales of participants in sleep studies who were picked up by police for exhibiting strange behaviour and detained or ‘sectioned’ under the Mental Health Act until they had recovered.
Chronic poor sleep is a significant health burden. We’re talking about the big stuff – cancer, diabetes, poor immune health, increased risk of car accidents, weight gain, increased risk of heart disease and stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and other psychiatric disorders, fertility problems and overall poorer quality of life. (1)
How big is the 'sleep problem'?
It’s big, I mean REALLY big.
I would go as far as to say that almost everyone will struggle with sleep at some point in their life.
The NHS and National Sleep Foundation put sleep disorder occurrence at around 1 in 3 people. (2,3) This is ‘diagnosed’ disorders and doesn’t capture people who sleep poorly but don’t seek a diagnosis. Matthew Walker suggests that it is likely to be 2 in 3 people who sleep inadequately. (4)
That is 66% of us who are going around functioning in a sub-optimal way, either in the short, medium or long term. This is a MASSIVE issue to health, productivity and overall happiness.
What is sleep anyway?
I’ll defer to Matthew Walker here – ‘Sleep is not the absence of wakefulness. It is far more than that. Our night time sleep is an exquisitely complex, metabolically active, and deliberately ordered series of unique stages’. (5) There are different stages of sleep that we cycle through, each responsible for different ‘jobs’. Light NREM sleep, deep NREM sleep and REM sleep all have different functions. Disturbance of sleep disrupts the sequence and flow from one type to the next and reduces the effectiveness.
I’m not going to go into detail – just understand that every night’s sleep is a journey, and every disruption prevents you from getting to your well-rested destination.
Can't I just take a sleeping pill?
I mean, you can, but it won’t help you to have a natural and restorative sleep. It isn’t sleep – it’s sedation. The stages of natural sleep that do all the work are inhibited and that impairs brain repair and cleansing.
Sedatives often leave people feeling ‘hungover’ the following day, can be addictive and often become less effective over time.
Removal of sedative medications should be done under the care of a doctor. Don’t just stop taking them!!
Supporting the natural processes of sleep is a healthier way forward.
How do I support restorative sleep?
There is no single magic answer – sorry.
Much of our sleeping problem epidemic is a result of our modern lives. Stress, exercise, electric light, technology, how we work (shifts are a disaster!!), nutrition, how we breathe, how we socialize, alcohol, medications, narcotics, travel across time zones and other factors all have the ability to reduce our sleeping capacity.
A few changes might make all the difference, though.
‘Sleep hygiene’ is a term used to describe activities that help us to achieve good quality sleep. (6) There are lots of ideas about how we can do this, and some work better for some people than others.
Make time to wind down. Give yourself that gift.
Pick 2 or 3 and see how you get on. Then add in another 1 or 2. And another. And so on.
1. Sleep hygiene starts first thing in the morning
3. Regular bedtimes go alongside regular wake up times. Make time for at least 7 hours of sleep as an adult. (7)
4. Cool your bedroom down. A drop in body temperature helps to signal that it’s time to sleep. A bath can help with this, too.
5. Turn down the lights – electric lights (especially LED ones) and backlit devices disrupt sleep patterns. Turn down the intensity at sunset (blue light blocking glasses, F.lux, sunset modes on devices etc. are all useful, but it is best to just turn them off). Think dimmer switches, candles, romance, fairy lights, incandescent instead of LED light bulbs. (7)
6. Keep your bedroom relaxing and set up for sleeping (and sex). Nothing else though. Maybe a paperback, but nothing too gripping. (7)
7. Reduce stimulating reading or TV materials. Keep it gentle.
8. Reduce or eliminate alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, narcotics. These all have the potential to interfere with sleep. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and directly reduce your sleep capacity. Alcohol interferes with sleep quality. Avoid these in large quantities or close to bedtime. Maybe no caffeine after noon. (7)
9. Don’t eat too close to bedtime. 2-3 hours before bed is ideal.
10. Exercise. Moving your body enhances sleep quality and quantity. Some people find that vigorous exercise too late interferes with sleep, so experiment – see what works for you. (7)
11. Praxctice yoga, breathing and meditation. There are countless guided sessions out in the world, all designed around helping with sleep. Have a look and see what works for you.
12. Take magnesium. Magnesium is generally lacking in our diets, and it has the important job of calming our nervous system. Using magnesium before bed can be very helpful. (8) You can take it as a supplement or apply it topically as a cream or oil.
13. Improve your diet overall. Any diet that leads to blood glucose drops in the night is going to interfere with sleep. An evening meal that is based on vegetables, good quality protein and healthy fats will help.
14. Watch fluid intake before bed. If you find yourself waking up for the bathroom in the night, then maybe restrict fluid intake over a couple of hours before bed. But only if you are well hydrated during the day. If you are a gentleman of a certain age and find yourself getting up frequently, then maybe have a chat with your GP.
15. Manage your stress. Again, there are lots of resources out there that can help. Taking 5 deep slow belly breaths through your nose is a great start. Meditation, yin yoga, healthy social connection, gardening, counselling. Whatever floats your boat. Work on that stress resilience.
16. If you find yourself awake in the night, try not to get frustrated. It’s going to be ok. It is ok. ‘Lying down rest’ that isn’t sleeping still has value. Practising breathing exercises or meditation can be really helpful here. You might find you’ve nodded off.
17. Try herbal sleep aids. Reishi mushrooms, passiflora, valerian, sleep drops, hops (not made into beer!), lavender essential oil, tart cherry, chamomile and many more. (9)
18. Try cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia. (10)
Kirsten Beynon is a registered clinical nutritionist. She has a Master’s degree in science (toxicology) and a diploma in nutrition. Kirsten specializes in environmental and nutritional medicine with a focus on challenging cases.
To find out more, head to: https://kirstenbeynon.co.nz/
Mike has spent most of his life working out what makes people tick and figuring out what they want and why. He co-founded leading advertising agencies; Colenso BBDO and Hutcheson Knowles Marinkovich, and culminated his advertising career in Auckland as Managing Director of Saatchi and Saatchi.
Mike has written four books, and has been a regular television guest and commentator. He writes an Innovation column for Idealog magazine, one of his company’s portfolio. In 2012 he was named Business Columnist of the Year in the Magazine Publisher’s Awards. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and has a Master of Philosophy degree (with 1st Class Honours) his thesis was on the alchemy of innovation in New Zealand business. He has recently been appointed an Adjunct Professor at Auckland University of Technology.
We are lucky enough to have Mike speaking at HPN 2018 and so we interviewed him so you could get a bit of insight into why Mike does what he does.
What is your professional background?
I co-founded advertising agencies; Colenso BBDO and Hutcheson Knowles Marinkovich, and culminated my advertising career in Auckland as Managing Director of Saatchi and Saatchi.
I was also a director of a family building company and in the early 80’s set up Replica Homes, with franchises throughout New Zealand
In 2003 I launched The Lighthouse Ideas Company and in 2008 I helped undertake a management buyout of Image Centre Group; multi-channel communications company, with interests in digital and offset printing, publishing, video-production, retail advertising and web development. I also set up Scarborough Fair, a Fair Trade organic coffee and tea marketing company, planted Lonely Cow vineyard on Waiheke, and have interests in a wine distribution company operating through Nashville, Tennessee.
I have written four books, and has been a regular television guest and commentator. I write an occasional Innovation column for Idealog magazine. In 2012 I was named Business Columnist of the Year in the Magazine Publisher’s Awards. I am an Adjunct Professor at Auckland University of Technology and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I have a Master of Philosophy degree (with 1st Class Honours) my thesis was on the alchemy of innovation in New Zealand business.
What drives you to do the work that you do?
How would you describe your philosophy about ‘healthy’?
Loose and flexible.
Picture this, you’re living your most perfect day- what does this look like?
On a boat, fishing.
Now, what’s your actual typical day look like?
In an office, working.
What’s your typical meal for….
First thing upon waking:
Get up and go to the gym
Protein smoothie and poached eggs
Sushi or sandwich
Lamb chops, spuds and peas
Snacks or sweets:
What’s one of the biggest health misconceptions in your opinion?
That a normal balanced diet is unhealthy.
What things do you do to keep up to date with your profession?
I read every relevant blog and article I can.
Post by Emily White
Do you stick to your diet to a tee during the week, only to find yourself blowing out on the weekends? Despite your best intentions, you get home on a Friday evening, tired and hungry, and start reaching for the foods that you have been avoiding all week? Do the Friday night indulgences then set you up for a weekend of over consuming food and alcohol leaving you disappointed and annoyed come Monday morning?
This weekend overeating habit is all too common with one study showing that majority of individuals will lose weight during the week and gain in the weekends which leads to a viscous ‘yo-yo’ diet cycle.
If overeating on the weekends has been sabotaging your progress there are a few changes you can make to prevent this.
Julia Rucklidge is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Canterbury. She has published many peer reviewed scholarly articles on nutrition as it relates to psychiatric symptom reduction. For more than a decade, Dr. Rucklidge has played a key role in forefront nutrition-mental health research, including extensive research using micronutrients.
We interviewed her so you could get a bit of insight into why Julia does what she does.
Dr Lara Briden is a naturopathic doctor and the period revolutionary—leading the change to better periods.
She first worked as a researcher and evolutionary biologist at the University of Calgary. She then went on to graduate as a naturopathic doctor from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM).
Her mission is to empower women to have easy, symptomless periods and join the worldwide "period revolution."
We interviewed her so that you can get some insight into what she does.
Sol Orwell is an entrepreneur and business developer, most known for his work as the co-founder of Examine.com. He was recognised as a 2014 Game Changer by Men’s Fitness and profiled by Forbes as a seven-figure entrepreneur. Most people "teaching" entrepreneurship are unqualified - a mixture of little success and little experience. Sol? He has lived it. 15+ years, 6 companies, over 8 figures generated.
We interviewed Sol so you can get a bit of insight into why he does what he does.
Post by Emily White
As the mornings get colder in New Zealand and winter looms on the horizon, many of us are booking warm holidays to escape the grips of the Southern Hemisphere winter. However with long-haul travel comes the inevitable dreaded jet lag. When we travel to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. Some individuals try taking over-the-counter or prescription pills to improve symptoms while others rely on coffee and adrenaline to get them through. Emerging research has discovered a game changing strategy to fight jet lag: fasting before and during the flight.
By Cliff Harvey
What does this have to do with nutrition?
Nada, nothing, not a bean.
BUT - I do know a little about training. Along with being a qualified trainer and having previously worked as a strength-coach for over a decade, I also won a few All-Round Weightlifting World Champs and set a few world strength records back in the day...
Nowadays I don't have the time to do much strength coaching at all, and hell, even my own training can suffer due to demands of writing, researching, speaking, and eating cookies with milk...
This program is a 'go to' for me. I hate (strong word I know) complicated, long training programs. Whenever I start adding too much to a plan, I lose interest, and find myself heading back to simplified, reduced volume plans. Sometimes I'd feel a bit guilty for that but at our recent HPN Conference our buddy 'The Glute Guy' Bret Contreras PhD gave a great keynote presentation on training program design, and one of the key 'take home' messages for me, was, do what you dig doing!
So, what's the 3-5 plan?
Read the full post here at Patreon
Kirsten Beynon is a registered clinical nutritionist and health science geek who is passionate about helping people find and maintain their best possible health through sustainable diet and lifestyle changes.
She has many years of experience in the medical field, and has a broad and deep knowledge of medications and complex medical conditions that she can apply to my practice of nutrition.
Kirsten holds a BSc (Honours) in Biomedical Sciences, a Masters degree in Toxicology and a Diploma in Nutrition. These complement each other to provide great background knowledge of health and nutrition along with strong research and problem solving skills.
We interviewed Kirsten so you can get a bit of insight into why she does what she does.
By Cliff Harvey
A quick search for “Are Protein Isolates Dangerous” on the interwebs provides a lot of links that suggest a whole host of risks from taking a protein isolate. But how valid are these claims?
TL:DR - NO. Don't be scared of protein isolates homie!
Some of the more common 'risks' are....
Read the full article here at patreon
Research and popular science articles by the members and faculty of the Holistic Performance Institute.