Nuts and seeds can help your body produce melatonin, and promote better sleepDid you know that being female is a risk factor for insomnia? While the stresses of daily life can affect sleep, hormones also play a big role.

Changes in sleep patterns can start as early as our 20s and 30s when levels of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our sleep and wake cycles, start to decline. Then, when we hit perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause), usually in our 40s – although it can start any time from mid-late 30s or earlier, to early 50s – our ovaries start slowing down production of estrogen and progesterone, both of which help promote sleep.

Throw in other hormonal symptoms like mood swings, stress, and anxiety, along with hot flushes and night sweats (for those experiencing them), as well as day-to-day worries and it’s a wonder any of us are getting any sleep! Waking up tired, irritable and stressed the next day can perpetuate the cycle.

We now know that quality sleep is vital for our wellbeing, with chronic poor sleep linked to a variety of health problems including weight gain, heart disease, diabetes and depression.

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to get a better night’s sleep. Here are a few suggestions:

Take Action

  • Create a wind-down routine: stop using screen-based devices (computers/TV etc.) a couple of hours before bed and instead read a book or magazine; take a hot bath (Epsom salts baths are incredibly relaxing!) or do a few gentle yoga poses, and sip a cup of chamomile or herbal sleep tea
  • Drinking tart cherry juice (a source of melatonin) has also been associated with better sleep. Pineapple, banana, oranges, oats and nuts are other foods that can help the body naturally produce melatonin.
  • Don’t go to bed on a full stomach but try a light snack like nut butter or cheese on wholegrain bread/crackers, or chia/pumpkin/sesame seeds with ¾ cup of natural, unsweetened yoghurt
  • Avoid alcohol within three hours of going to bed, and caffeine after 2.00-3.00pm
  • Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark and cool  – the optimum temperature for sleep is considered to be around 20-22C (68-72F)
  • Pop a few drops of Lavender, Marjoram, Clary Sage, or Roman Chamomile essential oil on your pillow
  • If your sleep problems are more severe or long-lasting, you may want to try an over-the-counter sleep aid, or talk with your health professional