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Improving your sleep: as a bad sleeper, this topic is on my mind a lot! Living a healthy lifestyle is nice and all, but if you sleep poorly, it can be difficult to maintain your healthy habits. Poor sleep can cause unbalanced eating behavior, because you need more energy during the day. Energy = calories, which you get from food, and so you want to eat more. When sleepy, we tend to choose ready-made, fatty, sugary products. How can you avoid this cycle, improve your sleeping pattern and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

How your eating pattern can affect your sleep

What you eat and drink can have a major impact on your sleep. Certain foods can delay you from falling asleep or cause poor sleep quality. This can have consequences for your weight, as you have read above. If you don’t sleep well or suffer from insomnia, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be quite a challenge. Fortunately, there are still things you can do to change this, for example by looking at your diet and eating pattern more closely.

Snacking

Improve your sleep with this exercise: map your (eating) behaviour

Answer the questions below and find out how your your eating behaviour affects your sleeping pattern.

1. Do you eat a large meal in the hour before you go to sleep?

A heavy meal puts pressure on the stomach for a long time. If you’re still hungry, try to have something small in the hour before you go to sleep. Has it become a habit to eat before bedtime? Then it might be that you’re not listening well to your hunger cues, especially if you’re eating out of habit or emotions. I’ve recently written a blog about how to be more in tune with your hunger and satiety cues.

2. Do you drink coffee, tea, ice tea, (diet) Coke, energy drinks, or eat chocolate in the hour before you go to sleep?

Coffee contains the stimulant caffeine, which can prevent you from falling asleep. Tea, ice tea, Coca Cola, energy drinks or chocolate also contain stimulants. Try not to take these products before going to bed, but drink some water or herbal tea, for example. Smoking can also disrupt sleep because it contains the stimulant nicotine.

Drinking alcohol before bedtime may help you fall asleep, but you will not sleep as well because alcohol negatively influences the quality of your sleep. Your sleep is also less deep and often restless, so you’ll wake up still tired. Try replacing (some of the) alcohol by water (possibly flavoured) or herbal tea. It may take you time to make this a habit, but you’ll soon experience an improvement in your sleep quality.

3. Do you look at your smartphone, tablet or other screen before going to sleep?

Constantly looking at screens keeps you awake, causing extra stimuli that keep you alert and prevent your body from relaxing fully. Try not to look at a screen before going to sleep, but dim the lights and for example read a bit. Pick a calm activity to prepare your body for sleep.

4. Are you very active before going to sleep (e.g. do you drive, attend meetings, do complicated work, sport intensively)?

This keeps you active, making it harder to fall asleep. Try to do these activities during the day or early evening. Then you will be more rested in the evening and your body will be better prepared for sleep.

Doorslapen

If you have trouble sleeping through the night: another (soporific) exercise

Lying awake in bed has often become a habit. But: you can unlearn a habit and form a new one. The following exercise can help you with this. Be careful, you may get bored and fall asleep…

 

  1. This week, go to bed for the sole purpose of sleeping. No reading or other activities in the bed!
  2. Are you still awake after 30 minutes? Then get up and go to another room.
  3. Carry out a boring activity there. For example: read a part of a book that you never really get around to because it’s boring, do a difficult puzzle you’re not in the mood for, wash dirty cups by hand, write the numbers 1 to 100 on a piece of paper (the letters, not the digits!), or think of something else ultra-boring (my solution: read my partner’s law books).
  4. Go back to bed when you become sleepy and only then.
  5. If you don’t sleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed again.
  6. Repeat your boring activity until you feel sleepy again.
  7. Go back to bed.
  8. Still having trouble falling asleep? Then keep repeating the boring activity until you fall asleep. This is a way to no longer associate your bed and the bedroom with lying awake.
  9. Do this exercise for several days to a week.
    Slapen

    These tips can also help with a good night’s sleep

    • Make your bedroom inviting to sleep in: keep it neat and clean, keep it cool (air your bedroom for at least half an hour every day) and provide nice duvets, pillows and sheets.
    • Your bedroom should not have any screens in it, so leave your mobile phone downstairs (yes, you too) and don’t put a TV in your bedroom. The bedroom is only for sleeping and sex (try doing that more, that’s always good. Bonus: it can make you nice and sleepy).
    • Limit your time in bed to 7-8 hours at most.
    • Go to bed at a fixed time every night. This way you program your body to prepare for sleep at the same time every evening.
    Nachtrust

    More reliable tips to improve your sleep

    I hope the above tips are helpful to you. A good night’s sleep is so important and makes it easier to live healthy. The websites below als offer reliable advice.

    If you keep having problems sleeping, contact your doctor to see how they can help. If your energy levels are low it’s more difficult to work, enjoy your hobbies and take care of kids. You’re also at greater risk of suffering from a depression. So ask for help when it’s not yet too bad ­čÖé.

    Best wishes,

    Femke