Updated: Aug 4
Half of Australians suffer from poor sleep quality, and many go undiagnosed.
Dietary and lifestyle habits can either hinder or benefit sleep disturbances.
There are many different types of sleep disorders and insomnia has become the most common sleep disorder among the Australian population. Many Australians consider it a secondary condition or are unaware of the severity that rarely gets diagnosed. This can make it a challenge to measure the prevalence and its incline. In a 2019 survey, more than 60% of Australian adults suffer from sleep disorders, and symptoms vary with age and gender.
Poor sleep can be associated with stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, medications and poor sleep hygiene, altering the body's circadian rhythm. If your sleep affects your quality of life, I have listed some remedies that may help change your quality and quantity of sleep.
Magnesium and Omega-3
Nutrients such as magnesium and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may positively affect sleep quality and latency, regulating hormones and chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) and improving stress and anxiety.
Magnesium is present in various plant foods and essential to over 600 cellular reactions, including lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and helping in sleep preparation. Dietary magnesium intake has long-term benefits in reducing daytime sleepiness and enhancing sleep and relaxation. Magnesium-rich foods throughout the day prevent daytime sleepiness and relax the brain chatter during sleep preparation through the production of melatonin and GABA
these foods include:
Dark leafy greens
Oily fish, mackerel and salmon
On a chemical level, magnesium plays a role in many pathways.
Magnesium activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which relaxes the brain during the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) cycle, also known as your"deep sleep".
Magnesium sends signals to the brain, blocking stimulatory neurotransmitters and binding to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors; these receptors help the brain relax and quiet the mind during sleep.
Magnesium also regulates melatonin production during the sleep cycle and is responsible for sleep latency and quality.
Dietary omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid, and (EPA) help improve brain function, influence sleep quality and enhance frequent dreaming affected by stress. Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) and vitamin D found in oily fish, eggs and seeds can improve sleep efficiency and regulate serotonin which is responsible for induced sleep and the waking cycle. Omega-3 fatty acids may positively impact depressive status with the interaction with dopaminergic and serotoninergic transmission, including release, uptake, metabolism, and receptor function.
A Mediterranean diet is a low GI diet with high amounts of fruits and vegetables, pulses, whole grains, and oily fish rich in omega-3s has been shown to decrease the risk of sleep disorders, reduce BMI, and other metabolic disorders.
Light exposure is essential for sleep due to cortisol levels in our bodies. Cortisol is known as our stress hormone. However, it is also integral to our sleep/wake cycle. As we wake, cortisol levels rise as a natural alarm system, and light exposure promotes the release of cortisol, driving wakefulness. The opposite occurs as nightfall begins; our cortisol levels decrease in preparation for sleep. Excessive exposure to bright or blue lights can elevate cortisol at night, keeping the mind awake. Studies have shown that lowering exposure to bright lighting at night may also help with sleep quality. Reducing exposure to blue light by restricting light sources- dimming the house lighting to either lamp lighting or dimmer switches four hours before bed and exposure to bright natural light upon waking for 30 minutes to balance circadian misalignment.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can affect your brain and nervous system activity. It can disrupt your natural body clock, making it hard for you to fall asleep. It blocks the sleep-promoting chemical adenosine. The brain naturally builds up adenosine throughout the day when you consume caffeine it acts as an antagonist and blocks adenosine receptors promoting wakefulness.
Studies have shown that caffeine consumed within six hours before bedtime can disrupt sleep duration by one hour in individuals with insomnia.
High GI foods
Discretionary foods with a high glycaemic index (GI), refined carbohydrates, sugary foods can interrupt sleep quality. Excessive amounts of highly processed foods are associated with changes in the gut microbiome and elevate specific hormones that negatively impact melatonin production.
Moderate to vigorous exercise can improve quality and help reducing sleep onset and elleivate daytime sleepiness. Best times to go is in the morning or during the day as many people find that exercising late can have a reverse affect as it stimulates the brain and releases endorphins causing the mind to stay awake especially with aerobic exercise.
Keep your room cool and dark, I like to put the aircon on as I am preparing for bed.
Avoid screen time 1-2 hours before bed- blue light can stimulate brain activity
Wear comfortable loose clothing or sleep in your birthday suit.
Avoid heavy meals before bed, dinner should be the lightest meal at least 2 hours before bed
Moisturise with jojoba oil infused with lavender essential oil after a hot bath or shower