If you're struggling with sleep, this post is for you.
I used to have terrible time sleeping. I didn't realize what was going on, because I thought I ate healthy and exercised enough… Well I worked out a ton! But came out, I didn't eat enough. I was a hormonal mess, and in addition to losing my period, I also lost my sleep.
These days, my sleep is much better. Instead of 5 hours I used to get per night, I'm now sleeping 7-8 per night and feel a million times better.
Most of it is thanks to simply eating loads more, stopping training, and putting on weight. My body likes to carry higher fat to work best. I realized how my sleep improved gradually as I was recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea and gaining weight. I even started liking the belly fat that I used to hate, because I realized that that's what's making my sleep possible.
However, not all nights are the same. Sometimes I still struggle. That's why I've been implementing some practices to sleep even better. Maybe you find them useful too!
Don't Take Your Phone to Bed With You
Recently I heard a conversation were two people were talking about waking up at night and not being able to fall back asleep. One of them said that when that happens, she typically scrolls through Instagram to see what's going on there, while she's waiting to fall asleep again.
In my opinion, this is one of the worst things to do if you want to fall asleep again. When you check your Instagram (or any other social media) at night, you expose your mind, your brain, your senses to millions of colors, stories, emotions, thoughts.
Not ideal for sleep! Your goal is to calm your mind down, not to activate it in the middle of the night!
Several months ago, scrolling through my phone was the last thing that I did before going to sleep. Then I stopped doing it because I realized it's making my brain wired. I started leaving my phone in the other room so I can't check it before I go to sleep or when I wake up at night. I started using a regular, old-school alarm clock for my alarm in mornings when I needed it.
Turn Off the WiFi
There are studies that suggest that WiFI waves may cause sleep problems… I decided to see what happened if I turned it off for night.
My sleep got better.
Because I started leaving my phone in the other room, I didn't really need WiFi in my bedroom anyway. I started reading instead of doing stuff online.
It would be perfect to read real books, but to save some space in our pretty small house, we mostly read books on our Kindles. But I don't need WiFi to read, so I turn it off on my tablet as soon as I get to bed, and read.
You've probably heard it a million times: Meditation and deep breathing help you to calm your mind and fall asleep better at night. Maybe you even tried it but it didn't work… But can it be that you didn't do it consistently?
I was sceptical at first too, but now I see that meditating really helps me. I meditate either first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening, and I've found that if I skip it for several days in a row, my sleep stops being as great again.
In this January, I took a break from meditation and deep breathing practice for about a month. As you can tell, I'm not much of a new year's resolution person… When most people started new health, fitness and mindfulness practices, I stopped it.
It wasn't intentional, but somehow it just happened. That's how it is with most new habits — it takes time to really become super consistent with them.
At first, I couldn't realize why my sleep went worse, because I hadn't changed much in my fitness or food and my stress levels hadn't really changed. It took me a minute to realize that I hadn't meditated for a while.
Things got better when I picked meditating up again. I really started to sleep better. I still occasionally miss a day or two of meditation, but I'm generally pretty consistent with it and I do sleep better.
My meditation isn't anything super complicated and I don't use the coolest app out there for it. I simply set my timer for 7-10 minutes and listen to either piano music or some nature tracks, like falling rain. I usually light a candle too to make the experience feel even nicer. That's really it!
Soaking in hot water before sleep can really improve the quality of your zzzzzzs.
My favorite way to do it is to put some good stuff in my bath.
Lavender and camomile bubble bath — this bubble bath is nice and calming and doesn't have a crazy intense scent. Just enough to make you feel really good!
Lavender and hops essential oil — lavender is known to have a calming effect and it can also decrease anxiety. I put about 10 drops of lavender essential oil into my bath.
Epsom salt — Epsom salt is great for relaxing muscles and getting you ready for sleep. It's been used for a long time to reduce pains and aches in the body. It contains magnesium which is also great for better sleep. By the way, magnesium is one of the minerals that is helpful with any sort of period problems, including amenorrhea, irregular periods or very painful periods.
Sometimes it's hunger that wakes you up in the middle of the night. Maybe you've tried going to bed hungry because you want to lose weight…
I don't recommend you do that, and I do recommend to have a snack before bed to hold you over until morning. That's especially important if you're recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea and shouldn't go hungry for a very long period of time. (Read more about hypothalamic amenorrhea and nutrition here or watch the video here.)
It's important to have fat with your last meal or snack before bed. Fat is satisfying and stabilizes your blood sugar, which in turn will help you sleep without problems.
Once in a while, I still wake up hungry at night and when I think what I had for dinner, I realize that there really wasn't much fat in my meal. Actually it just happened last night. We had sushi for dinner, which obviously doesn't have much fat. I woke up around 4am because I was hungry! I got up and ate a banana that I dipped in peanut butter… No holding back on the peanut butter! I was able to fall asleep again soon after that.
I hope these tips help you to sleep better if you're having problems with it! As you notice, a lot of it has to do with calming your mind down (meditation, bath, no phone, reading) and making your belly happy (eating fat). At the same time, don't forget that if you're overtraining and under eating, these tips alone will not fix your sleep until you start giving your body more rest so that it can come back to its natural balance.
Do you have hypothalamic amenorrhea? Learn how to eat to recover from it.
You can also apply for 1:1 coaching with me!