A Sleep Expert Reveals Why You’re Not Sleeping Well

Sleep is essential for health, but most Brits don’t get enough of it.

While we generally seek to improve our bedtime routine, an expert has revealed the morning habits that are destroying your sleep.

Only one in 10 adults get a good night’s sleep every night, according to new survey results.

Motion Nutrition, makers of the Unplug sleep aid capsules, surveyed 2,000 UK adults and found that around 17% never woke up feeling rested and half of them described their sleep as fragmented.

The result of poor quality sleep unsurprisingly leaves seven out of ten feeling tired, with less energy, throughout the day.

Phoebe Liebling, a Harley Street functional nutritionist, revealed to The Sun how you can sleep better by refining your morning routine.

1. Sitting straight in front of the computer

Phoebe said the first thing you should do in the morning, to help you sleep, is stand in natural daylight – before looking at your phone or computer.

She told The Sun: “Our sleep and wake cycle – our circadian rhythm – is dictated by the production of the hormones cortisol in the morning and melatonin at night.

Phoebe Liebling recommends not going to a computer screen after getting out of bed.

“So if you want your body to produce really good quality melatonin at night to help you fall asleep, you need to make sure that your cortisol peaks in the morning – which is triggered very effectively by outdoor daylight.

“Natural daylight, even on gray and cloudy days, reaches around 10,000 lux.

male bedroom
Absorbing natural light in the morning is essential to fall asleep more easily at night.

“Whereas if you walk into an operating room in a hospital, which is probably the brightest electronic light you’ll get is around 1,000 lux.

“If you’re just going to sit in front of a computer, you’re probably getting between 20 and 30 lux.

“It can leave you groggy for the rest of the day, and then come evening we produce a melatonin spike and we just don’t fall asleep properly.”

Phoebe explained that this is why people have a burst of energy in the evening, which makes them less likely to sleep.

She said: “They’re starting to sit down and watch TV, which is quite empowering. And that increases their stress level. [cortisol] what they didn’t do during the day. And that kind of fuels this negative cycle.

2. Protein missing from breakfast

Phoebe said a good night’s sleep is all about keeping her blood sugar stable throughout the day.

She said it’s “pretty much dictated by the first thing you put in your mouth in the morning and then escalated over the course of the day.”

“The worst breakfast in the world for most people is porridge because it’s just pure carbs and your blood sugar will hate it,” Phoebe warned.

Instead, she always recommends slow-release carbs with a 20-30 gram serving of protein, like eggs, smoked salmon, or edamame beans.

She recommended a dose of protein, like nuts, a boiled egg or yogurt, before any sweet snacks like fruit.

Fresh scrambled eggs with bacon and vegetables.  Domestic eggs for breakfast.  Breakfast athletes.  Preparation of eggs.  Protein diet.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein for breakfast.

Phoebe explained the importance of keeping blood sugar stable, saying: “If you eat something and sugar gets into your bloodstream, you get a spike and your body will respond to it with insulin.

“It mixes into storage, or if your blood sugar drops too low, you release glycogen from your liver, which brings it back up.”

If insulin is too high in the evening, it can cause trouble sleeping, Phoebe said.

“You should always have regular energy in your body, including when you sleep, because your body is always functioning,” she said.

“But if you have high insulin at night, you’ll store most of it and you won’t have enough capacity in your circulating sugars to keep you asleep.

“Your body wakes you up because it thinks ‘we need energy’. This causes your liver to release glycogen so you have more sugar circulating again.

She said it can cause people to wake up at night, especially around 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.

3. Do cardio

Many gym-goers will opt for a high-intensity or cardio class.

But Phoebe said it can make sleep worse, especially in women.

She said: “A lot of people assume they really should be doing intense cardio exercise [in the morning]which works very well in men and terribly in women.

“It forces them to hold on to fat, but it also makes them sleep poorly later in the day because they’ve put so much stress on their bodies.

Low angle side view of fit woman running in park with Manhattan Skyline
Liebling advises women not to jog early in the morning.

“For someone who’s not sleeping well, I actually tell them to stop doing cardio exercise.

“You’re not going to feel awake in the morning, you lack energy.

“The worst thing you can do is go and perform at your absolute optimum.”

Instead, Phoebe recommends a brisk 20-30 minute walk that gets your heart rate up, and some extra strength training if you can.

“You can just do squats or very gentle arm exercises with cans or water bottles at home, or for someone going to the gym, a Pilates class.

“What you’ve done is you’ve told your body to be awake and to start using energy appropriately, which makes you feel more energized.

“You sleep better that night because your body started working efficiently in the morning.”

4. Make coffee on autopilot

Phoebe said when people have a bad sleep routine, it’s common for “the first thing they do is go make coffee” – and potentially several more.

This triggers a stress response, she says, since coffee is a stimulant.

While this may help wake you up, it may contribute to the disruption of your natural sleep and wake hormones.

Businesswoman balancing empty coffee cups.  Photo taken in 2012.
Drinking more coffee will disrupt your sleep routine more, says nutritionist Phoebe Liebling.

Phoebe said, “You have to practice [to wean off coffee].

“It’s not great to start with, but give it a week.

“Have a coffee 15 minutes later each day, then at the end of the week you’ll realize it’s noon and you haven’t had any coffee and you’re feeling great.”

This article originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission.

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