Nutrition is the science behind the foods we eat, but there’s so much more to it than that. We all know about sports nutrition, the science around food and athletes and sports performance. You may have even heard of nutrition psychology, the science of foods for the mind and mental health. But have you heard of Chrononutrition? Researchers are now diving into the science of the timing of foods and how they affect our biological rhythms. 

Specifically, chrononutrition involves how the timing of food intake and biological rhythms may affect health, metabolism, and overall nutritional balance. It also includes how the composition and size of a meal may affect our internal clock system. Our internal clock system is more of a network of circadian clocks which impose rhythmic control over virtually every aspect of our biology. This circadian network controls our moods, behavioral cycles, such as when we sleep and eat, through to our cellular rhythms in gene expression and energy metabolism. After all, “Chrono” is derived from the Greek word “Chronos” meaning time. This nutrition science is still at its inauguration, the term “chrononutrition” is less than 20 years old, and nutrition researchers are eager to see the potential health benefits that specific chrononutrition interventions can make. 

So why is this important? Well since the industrial revolution, the invention of electric lighting, and advancing technologies our lifestyles have changed. We’ve gone from being awake, active and eating during daylight hours, to longer work schedules, meal skipping, evening screen time and late-night meals. This change has led to disruptions in circadian rhythms and increased metabolic risk. We know that dietary nutrition plays a significant impact on sleeping wellness. The many sleep supplements available on the market shows that consumers are trying to benefit their sleep wellness. However, the relationship between nutritional components, medical health, and sleep is complicated. Research around chrononutrition can help to refine vitamin and mineral intake, polyphenol content, and precise dietary recommendations to prevent underrecognized lifestyle disease from our modern way of life. 

What’s the research saying then? Let’s start with the negative health concerns. Conclusively, research shows that skipping breakfast, consuming higher-energy meals in the evening, and greater eating and snack frequency is linked with a higher risk of being overweight or obese and with adverse metabolic effects. Cross-sectional studies suggest that people with evening chronotype are associated with a lower intake of fruits and vegetables and higher intake of energy drinks, alcoholic, sugary, and caffeinated beverages, as well as higher energy intake from fat.

Now to the positive, Time-restricted eating is a dietary pattern that limits the daily food window to a period of 4 to 12 hours. It is a simple and well-tolerated diet that generates many beneficial health effects such as sustained weight loss, improvement in sleep patterns, lowering blood pressure, reduction in oxidative stress markers and, also a reduction in increased insulin sensitivity. In general, diets rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and anti-inflammatory nutrients and lower in saturated fat (eg, Mediterranean diet) were associated with better sleep quality. Chrononutrition principles and time restricted eating are particularly encouraged among the shift working population, to lower the increased risk of metabolic disease from their working lifestyle. 

How long now until we see more and more clinicians adapting this scientific approach? Perhaps it’s the new wellness trend but at least the science behind it is there and growing. Keeping up to date with nutrition science is a great way to avoid misinformation, fad diets and dilute out the nonsense that the wellness industry attracts. Check my socials for more information on nutrition and sleep coaching, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions. 

Image source: Canva

Time Restricted Eating On Dog Watch

Let’s talk about the timing of the foods we eat. I’ve touched on this in previous blogs, but the WHEN we eat is very important for shift workers. I’m a big fan of intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is the mindful practice of eating when you feel hungry and stopping when you feel full, but when you’re working a night shift you can’t trust your hunger hormones (see my previous blog for why).

When it comes to time management of your meals, start with an assessment of your eating window. What time is your first calorie dense meal or drink of the day? And when is the last of the day? If your morning coffee on full cream is at 6am, and your last is a beer at 8:30pm then that means your eating window is 14.5 hours in a 24 hour period. Time restricted eating is changing the eating window to a shorter period of time, by doing this we can limit our total calorie intake, support digestion and lay a foundation for our internal body clock. Time restricted eating can be eating within a period of 6-12 hours depending on your schedule, shifts, and lifestyle.

Sounds like fasting to you? Well yeah, time restricted eating is managing a daily fast. Fasting dietary protocols come in a variety of methods, this is just one of them. I’ll happily talk your ear off about fasting methods another time, for now I’ll give you a night shift example of time restricted eating. Say you’re doing a 12 hour night shift from 7pm – 7am, your normal eating window is 5:30pm – 8am which is 14.5 hours, and your normal sleep time is 9am – 4pm 8 hours. Dropping your eating window to 12 hours will show benefits for your digestive system but we’re going to go a step further and drop it to 10 hours. Aim to eat your main meal before your shift at 5:30pm. This should be a large meal, high in protein. Pack a regular sized meal and wholefood snacks for during your shift. Your last meal of the night should be a regular sized meal which you finish before 3:30am. After that time stick to water or herbal teas without milk. By finishing your last meal at 3:30am that gives you a window 5.5 hours before you go to sleep where your body has already begun to start resting and digesting. 

Some flexibility around time restricted eating also needs to be addressed. Just because your eating window is 5:30pm – 3:30am one day doesn’t mean it can also be 4pm – 2am or 7pm – 5am on another. If your eating window is 12 hours 5 days a week, and then 8 hours the other 2 days that is still a controlled method of time restricted eating. For people on a rotating roster shorter eating windows can be used therapeutically on pyjama days. Choose an eating window that aligns with your “daytime”, that is when you are feeling the most alert and awake, this will help you to remain compliant. 

Time restricted eating isn’t easy at first, it can take some time to get used to. Restricting our eating windows is a mental challenge as much as it is a physical challenge. If you’re not consuming enough food to sustain your hunger try focusing on portions of quality fat and proteins and avoiding simple carbohydrates like pastry, white rice and pasta. One of my favourite appetite suppressants is a Yerba mate herbal tea. Yerba mate or green tea are great options for outside your eating, but if you’re trying to avoid caffeine, try mint or chamomile tea.

Oh I didn’t even tell you the long term health benefits of time restricted eating. Although there is ongoing research in the dietary and fasting field, time restricted eating is producing beneficial research in cardiovascular health. Current research shows it can help reduce blood pressure, reduce body weight & fat mass, and improve blood sugar control. These are significant risk factors for shift workers. It definitely can’t hurt to give this eating method a try. For nutritional consultation regarding time restricted eating give me a call.

Sleep, Hormones and Your Health

Our sleep patterns and our hormonal production are like two people, end to end on a tug of war rope. They respond to each other in a way that can either leave you feeling energetic and well, or lethargic and inflamed.

If your hormones are not regulating and pulling their weight, then sleep will be a priority. Your body will be lethargic and craving more rest. If sleep is not taking priority, then the hormones are going to be out of control and increasing inflammation through every body system. Sleep and hormones need to be as strong as each other in a perfect balance to keep the rope steady, and you feeling healthy and thriving.

There are over 50 different hormones in our body and they are responsible for a range of bodily functions, including metabolism, appetite, growth, body temperature sexual function (including drive and reproduction), heart rate, blood pressure, and of course our sleep-wake cycles.

Many hormones act by binding to receptors that are produced within cells. These receptors carry out the hormone’s instructions, either by altering the cell’s existing proteins or by turning on genes that will build a new protein. This hormone-receptor complex switches on or switches off the specific biological processes in cells, tissues, and organs.

Melatonin is the hormone responsible for our sleep-wake cycle. It is produced by the pineal gland and triggered by light to tell us to fall asleep, stay asleep and then wake up. In response to this circadian rhythm nearly every other hormone in our body is released and signaled to react and function. Who knew our hormones were such intricate little clogs in a clockwork system.

The most valuable of hormones that our sleep regulates is cortisol, our stress hormone. Melatonin and cortisol are hormones that have a seesaw effect on each other.

When melatonin is at its peak cortisol should be at its lowest, which is what makes relaxation a powerful tool for a quality deep sleep. In turn, once we wake in the morning cortisol should peak within 30 minutes, setting off its own signal for other hormones to react and get us moving for the day ahead. When sleep is disrupted or when we ignore our tired signs, our cortisol levels can be elevated leaving us in a state of feeling wired but tired.

Some of the noteworthy hormones affected by both melatonin and cortisol are our hunger hormones – insulin, leptin, and ghrelin. These control our blood sugar regulation, satiety, and appetite. Sleep naturally brings on a time to rest and digest. When normal sleeping patterns are interrupted, say by a rotating roster, suddenly the hormones we rely on to control our food cravings and appetite are no longer working in our favor. This is why people who work night shifts have an increased risk of metabolic disorders and weight gain. Reducing added sugar and limiting the time frame in which you are eating your meals can help to prevent these unwanted side effects of sleep dysregulation.

There are many other endocrine disruptors besides sleep so if you’re having issues with hormonal regulation don’t leave it until it’s spiraling out of control. Seek support for your symptoms and manage it according to your health professional. Correcting nutritional deficiencies, balancing dietary intake and making easy sleep hygiene lifestyle changes can make a world of difference to your energy, fatigue, inflammation and recovery.


On a scale from 1 to 10 where would you rate your energy level right now?
1 being flat on your back can’t get out of bed, and 10 being the energy of a 2 year old?

Wherever you are on that scale you should know that it’s ok for those numbers to rise and fall throughout the day. In fact it’s normal, but if you feel, day after day, like you have lost your spark or that certain gusto, then perhaps it is time to take a closer look at the foods you are fuelling your body with.

The food we eat provides us with energy for our body’s essential functions like breathing, cellular growth and repair, and blood transportation to all our muscles and organs. Every cell in our body contains the “powerhouse” for our energy production which is called the mitochondria. The mitochondria help turn the energy we eat from food into energy that the cell can use to create DNA, control muscle contractions, fire nerve impulses and activate metabolic pathways. All of these biochemical processes aren’t possible without the nutrients we consume from different foods. So energy intake is a lot more in depth than just calorie counting. 

Optimizing energy production can be as simple as 1 or 2 little dietary modifications.

When we feel fatigued we crave quick energy boosting foods like caffeine, sugar and simple carbohydrates. These are foods that will spike energy production in our cells and then leave you crashing down soon after, and then looking for your next energy hit. So for optimal energy levels that are sustained throughout the day we need to start with breakfast. 

High protein for your first meal of the day is key. 20-35 grams can help sustain hunger, reduce daily cravings and reduce your desire for late-night snacking. Data suggests that the addition of breakfast, particularly one rich in protein, is a useful strategy for improving satiety, reducing food motivation and reward, and improving diet quality. The “powerhouse” mitochondria is also a hub for amino acid synthesis, which makes protein for breakfast the ideal choice for kickstarting your cellular energy. 20 grams of protein can look like 2 large eggs, 1 cup greek yoghurt, 3 scoops of protein powder, ½ a can of red kidney beans or a palm-sized portion of meat. 

Next step for boosting your energy is to try ditching the wheat. Whilst wheat is a wholegrain that contains a variety of different nutrients by ditching wheat it opens up your plate to a new world of other wholegrain carbohydrates. Ones that are not highly refined, highly inflammatory and over-farmed.  Complex carbohydrates like amaranth, spelt, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, millet, and quinoa breakdown slowly into the sugars that mitochondria love. Simple wheat-based carbohydrates like white breads, pastries and processed cereals give us short energy spikes, this is from them quickly breaking down into sugars that our cells use rapidly. Wheat in particular is closely linked to non-celiac gluten sensitivity which presents symptoms like fatigue, brain fog and headaches. 

Lastly, everyone knows to eat their greens and boosting your energy levels is the reason why everyone tells you to do it. Remember Popeye always ate his spinach, well it’s because dark green leafy vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals like B complex vitamins, iron, iodine, and magnesium. These nutrients can be found in foods such as spinach, seaweed, broccoli, bok choy, rocket, brussel sprouts and kale. These wonderful foods contain the perfect levels of micronutrients and enzymes to support the mitochondria and keep the cell biochemically healthy and processing optimally. If you aren’t eating these foods regularly that’s when nutritional deficiencies show up and symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, irritability, and poor cognition. 

For more information on energy support and fatigue management, or for individualized sleep and nutritional support contact Dog Watch Nutrition. 

Image Source: pexels-hannah-nelson-1456951


Alcohol. Whether it’s at the pub with mates, or relaxing on the deck with a cheese platter, alcohol is a classic way to wind down after a long work week. Well I’m about to give you some facts that you might not like, but here we go. 

ALCOHOL IS NOT AN ESSENTIAL COMPONENT OF THE DIET. It is high energy, nutrient poor and classified a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages traveling between the brain and the body.

ALCOHOL SHOULD BE ELIMINATED WHEN ATTEMPTING TO LOSE WEIGHT. One of the biggest health complaints from shift workers is weight gain. If you want to lose weight and get back under that magic number that makes you feel healthy again then you need to quit drinking the booze. A big mistake that people make is to just increase their exercise to help with weight loss and do nothing else. Alcohol intake directly impairs rehydration and recovery processes when exercising regularly.

Current dietary recommendations for alcohol in Australia are:

  • Aim for two alcohol free days per week.
  • When drinking alcohol, try to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks such as water or soda water.
  • Try a wine spritzer with mineral or soda water instead of a full glass of wine.
  • If having a glass of wine, don’t fill it to the top. One standard drink equals 100mL (less than half a cup).
  • Avoid snacking on foods high in salt. Not only is too much salt unhealthy, but it can also increase the likelihood of having another drink.
  • Avoid pre-mixed drinks with added sugars. These are very high in both kilojoules and sugars.
  • Avoid mixing alcohol with energy drinks. The caffeine reduces your ability to manage your alcohol intake. This can lead to a higher risk of alcohol-related harm.

Some other common complaints for shift workers include poor quality sleep, no energy, depression, brain fog. Keep these benefits of quitting in mind when you want to have those extra few beers or wines. Reducing your alcohol intake:

  • improves your mood 
  • Improves your sleep
  • increases your energy
  • improves your relationships with your loved ones
  • helps you perform better at work
  • lowers your risk of long-term health problems such as cancer and heart disease
  • saves you money
  • supports healthy digestion

Don’t get me wrong I love to have a few every now and again too. Reducing is only going to benefit you. Dry July and Sober February are a good place to start.


This is something I am very passionate about. After 5 years of working in a retail health food shop and now practicing clinical nutrition, this is one of the most underestimated, important factors of nutritional medicine. Hence why this blog is longer than most of my others. So how do you know what supplements are good quality? 

First of all, look for the AUST L number in packaging of the supplement. This number shows that the product is included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). The AUST L number is used for the prevention of diseases and health conditions. This shows that the supplement has been assessed for safety, quality and effectiveness or that the ingredients used in the supplement are all pre-approved, low-risk ingredients. Australian and some New Zealand product ranges, will specify this on the label. Know the difference between a supplement and a food product. Supplements will have a AUST L number and food products won’t. Food products are often sports health products and/or wellness superfoods. Get in touch if you have more questions about food products. 

Most Importantly! Be aware of buying supplements online. Supplements in Australia are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) whereas the laws for the consumption of products are different in foreign companies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They may be regulated differently due to dosage or ingredients, and it is best to consult your health care practitioner before buying online. I recently had a patient that was prepared to buy a supplement online for her 5 year old child that was not TGA approved and 5x the dosage that should’ve been given to a child that age. Please be careful. 

Where you can, support local business. Look to your local health food shop or compounding pharmacy. They will have qualified staff available to offer you expert advice. They will be able to direct you to supplements that offer scientific research articles with their products. (HINT: For other practitioners or retail staff this is usually in the product manual!)

Okay, so back to the labelling. Quality supplements will state on the label “free from gluten, dairy” etc, you should use this as an indication of what excipients are being used in the formula. These are the other ingredients, alongside the “active ingredients”, that make up the capsule, tablet or powder. Excipients can include anticaking agents, fillers, bulking agents and stabilizers.

When looking at probiotics supplements, they should list the genus, species and strain of bacteria on the label. For herbal formulations, they should specify the common name and the botanical name on the label, in case of adulterated botanical species, or renamed species. Labelling laws will require supplements to have specific facts such as active ingredients and dosage, but the more upfront a company is about the ingredients they use the more you can trust them to be providing you with a quality product. 

Now, let’s talk about pricing. Generally quality supplements are more expensive than budget products, this is because they have higher quality ingredients and those ingredients will cost more, hence the higher RRP. I always like to put this in perspective for people, you wouldn’t look at budget tools if you were an expert tradie and expect them to do the job you need to do, you would buy the best quality tools so you can be more efficient in the work you do. The body is the same, give it the best quality supplements in order for the body to effectively utilize the nutrients. 

Bigger isn’t always better, it’s how you use it. I’m talking about dosage of course! Some health food and pharmaceutical companies choose to give high doses, less often, and for some people this is quite effective and they have the research articles to prove it. I want you to know that you are an individual! You have a different dietary intake, health conditions, possibly medications, and genetic make up to those around you. Speak to your healthcare practitioner and they can help you understand the correct dosage and formulation for you. 

Still unsure about what to buy? Most brands will have a company contact number on the back of the product, call the company and ask some questions:

  • About the manufacturing process
  • Where they are manufactured
  • Where they source their ingredients for the formulation
  • For fridge products, how they maintain stable environments during transportation
  • Patented ingredients
  • If they can send you any research studies on their products

Ask for help. If you are unsure if the supplement is the right one for you please see your practitioner or ring the product company and ask if they have a practitioner on hand to answer your questions. Don’t be afraid to contact your practitioner, if they have prescribed a product that you are not sure, is the right one for you. AND organise a supplementation review, if you are planning pregnancy, are pregnant, lactating, begin any new medications, or are undergoing any medical procedures. Click here to book your supplement review now.


Well first of all define “healthy” – Australian dietary standards are a great guide, but EVERYONE is different. What is healthy for some may be a trigger to flare in symptoms to others. Not everyone should cut carbs or avoid meat, so I am going to teach you how to pack a healthy “lunch” for night shift.

Pick a protein you can tolerate – you know your body better than anyone else so listen to it.  If steak sits too heavy in your stomach or legumes cause gas and bloating, then try something else. You want a palm size worth in your crib box, that’s about 2 eggs, or 1 burger pattie. Don’t forget there’s a lot of variety you can have here mix it up. Don’t just have chicken every day. Try tofu, kangaroo, protein powder, nuts, chickpeas, venison, sardines, or tempeh. A variety of protein will keep you interested in your meals and nourish you with a range of different amino acids. 

Add your dark green leafy vegetables. Everyone needs to be eating more of these foods. Yes they are bitter and probably not the thing you are craving. Dark green leafy vegetables will provide you with a variety or B vitamins for energy to get you through the night. Try a range of different ones but here is a guide to start – rocket, broccoli, kale, mesculin, spinach, bok choy, and beetroot leaves. You can just buy a bag of big greens from the supermarket if you have to, but just get a good handful into your lunchbox. 

Top it off with some tasty, tasty fat. Healthy fats will keep your brain stimulated to concentrate until the sun comes up and it’s bedtime. You want to have around 1 – 2 tablespoons worth of fat in your meal. Favourites to include can be: 

  • Avocado or olives, that you can mix through your salad leaves
  • Olive oil, either fresh dressed over a salad or that you have cooked your vegetables and meat in.
  • Fish, two in one deal proteins and fats. Sardines, salmon and tuna are easy canned foods. 
  • Coconut, think curries and stews, mixing coconut cream with a variety of spices to make a delicious based for your protein and vegetables
  • Milk, another two in one deal with protein. This can be your coffee for the shift or in your lunch smoothie. Just avoid having coffee 6 hours before you have to go to bed.
  • Seeds, either added into your salad, blended in you smoothie, or mixed with your nuts

THAT’S ALL FOLKS! Keep it simple. Use a similar formulation for your day and evening shifts and you will soon see a dramatic change in your mood, energy and overall health. It might sound like a lot of food, so listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Just because it is smoko time, doesn’t mean you have to eat.

Dietary Analysis & DNA Testing for Nutritional Balance & Wellness

You eat every meal, you make sure you have your veggies, and try not to eat too many sweets. How do you know if you’re getting your ideal daily intake of all of your vitamins and minerals? Maybe you occasionally take a multivitamin incase. 

Well you can individualise your dietary plan using dietary analysis and DNA testing. So why would you want to individualise your diet. Because everyone is different. Yes, the government has recommended daily dietary intakes based on your age and sex, but those intakes don’t take into account your symptoms, weight, height, genes, medical conditions, medications or supplements. The same way that the paleo diet doesn’t suit everyone, keto diet doesn’t suit everyone and so on. Embrace your individuality and tailor your eating and health habits to improve your wellbeing and overall health.

Dietary Analysis: what is it and how can it help? Dietary analysis is an in-depth look at your nutritional status, and simple recommendations for bringing balance to your current diet. Dietary analysis involves tracking your diet over a 7 day period either via paper and pen or a diary tracking app. Based on this you are provided with a complete nutritional summary including a macro and micro nutrient breakdown, energy intake breakdown, recommended intakes and food sources.

Dietary analysis is a great way to make sure you are getting a variety of vitamins and minerals. Especially if you have excluded particular food groups from your regular diet. For example if you have decided to go dairy free and want to know if you are still getting your recommended calcium intake for the day. To see an example of a Dietary Analysis report click below.

Food diary keeping not your thing? Well that’s where DNA testing can be used  as an alternative or addition to dietary analysis. Did you know DNA can tell us a lot about our individual nutritional requirements? The interaction between nutrients and genes is referred to as nutrigenomics. Nutrigenomics is a fascinating area of science and dietary factors may differentially alter the effect of one or more genes SNPs to increase or decrease disease risk.

DNA testing helps to determine genetic factors that contribute to, without being the cause of, your body weight, vitamin needs and other aspects of your wellbeing. You’ll be guided to make dietary and lifestyle changes for a healthier life by choosing the nutrition and exercise regimens that are more in line with your genetic make up. And the best thing is that you can do the test at home, as it’s just a mouth swab that’s required. Get in touch to find out how to order yours. For a sample DNA Wellness report click below. 

Shoot me a message if you want to know more about improving you nutritional balance.


Have you ever thought about how our sleep has changed compared to our ancestors? Well that’s what we’re going to be exploring for the last part of the Sleep Awareness Week blog series. 

We touched on some of the biological reasons why we sleep in Sleep Health Some Basics, summarizing the stages of the sleep-wake cycle. Quick recap sleep allows our:

– muscles and tissue to recover and repair
– immune system is activated and on a cellular level begins to modulate immune defense against infecting pathogens
– brain to grow and develop; through improving cognitive function, consolidating memories, improving creativity, improving problem solving and regulating emotions.

The mechanism that allows our body to do this is the circadian rhythm which is governed by multiple factors such as darkness, brightness, environment, genetics, hormones, and medications.

Well these biological functions have been a part of our gene expression and the homeostasis of our bodies since the age of man, caveman, paleolithic times. Science tells us that multiple genes play a significant role in our sleep and the neurotransmitter production for circadian rhythm and time of sleep. What this tells us is that according to our chronotype we could be early risers; “Morning Larks” or late night people; “Night Owls” because of our ancestors. Most people usually have a fair indication of whether or not they are larks or owls, however this is also largely influenced by their lifestyle and environment, which brings me to the evolution of sleep.

Back in caveman days people would wake and sleep with the sun, especially the young kids and the elder adults. Whereas the teens and young adults were left to guard the group from predators. The only other factors for circadian rhythm influence being the moon and seasonal temperature. Fast forward to today, we know that the first day 10 years of our lives we tend to be larks, then move into owl habits as young adults, and then as work/life schedule comes into play we switch back to larks and require less sleep as we age. The difference being that from birth we are stimulating our brains with light from homes, traffic, screens and technology, our work hours dictate our wake time and city life is 24/7. Ever notice that you sleep better when you’re camping out under the stars, away from it all.

Well this is why everyone is raving about sleep hygiene, meditation and reducing screen time. Eye masks, ear plugs, block out blinds, and blue light blocking glasses, all of these sleep hygiene products just for the reduction of stimulating lights from our modern lives. While we can’t change our modern day living, we can alter our small habits and use the knowledge of our chronotype to help increase productivity. Lark or owl, you can schedule your life to peak physical and mental performance. The down side to this is that some modern day professions such as rotating shift workers, means that we are required to compromise our physical and mental health by working outside our biological sleep time. 

Supporting every body system to the best of its ability, knowing your physical and mental limits, and acknowledging when you need help, is the best way to move forward if you are working against your biological clock.


There are many symptoms that you can be experiencing in relation to your sleep. Most of them can be fairly self explanatory but let’s just define some of the conditions associated with those symptoms. Once you can correctly identify what’s going on with your sleep then you work out what to do about it.

Insomnia is first on the list; this is when you have trouble getting to sleep also called sleep onset. When you go to bed, lay your head down on the pillow and close your eyes, it should only take 10-20 minutes to fall asleep. Insomnia can also be described as; once you get to sleep you have trouble staying asleep. So waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or because of the kids, then it takes longer than 20 minutes to go back to sleep.

Usually trouble getting to sleep is from an overstimulated mind. Think use of screens before bed, daytime stressors, anxiety, medications, or other drugs like caffeine. The spiral issue with insomnia is that once you have one bad night’s sleep, the fear and worry behind having another bad night and missing out on your recommended 8 hours, can be the trigger for the next night. Managing stress, anxiety and being mindful about your sleep hygiene everyday is the key to managing insomnia.

Snoring, it is so common, but no one ever thinks about it as its own sleep condition. Snoring is what happens when there is partial closure of the airway; reducing the flow of breath from the mouth or nose into the lungs. It’s loud and unpleasant, and can lead to some very annoyed family members. People often describe the snoring as worsening after drinking alcohol, this is because it relaxes the muscles in the throat causing the restricted airway. There are many off the shelf mouth devices designed to help reduce snoring but if you are a really heavy snorer then best to speak to your GP about an overnight sleep study.

Obstructive sleep apnea is complete closure of your airways so you lose control over your ability to breathe. Apneas often go hand-in-hand with heavy snoring and are usually picked up by family members witnessing the lack of breathing. Other symptoms of sleep apnea can include waking up gasping for air, waking up the morning after sleep with a headache or raised blood pressure. Treatment for sleep apnea is to use a continuous positive air pressure device, this creates an air splint to keep the muscles of the airway open. If you think you may have sleep apnea then best to speak to your GP about an overnight sleep study, test for snoring and sleep apnea at the same time. Win. Win. As snoring and sleep apnea are respiratory conditions as well as sleep conditions, nasal breathing exercise and techniques can be very effective for improving lung capacity.

The last condition I’m going to talk about is Restless Legs Syndrome. It’s described as an uncomfortable pain in the lower limbs which is worse at night. Everyone describes the uncomfortable feeling differently like pins and needles, tightness, pulling. A strong urge to move the limbs is often required, making it difficult to sleep and leaving you feeling fatigued and irritable. Muscular support such as massage, stretches, gentle exercise and warm baths can help relieve tension. Poor diet and nutritional deficiencies can be underlying factors for restless legs syndrome. Consider increasing your mineral intake in your diet or supplementing with magnesium.

Theses are just a few conditions to get you thinking about what your sleep might be telling you. Sleep affects all our different body systems, the conditions above describe how the nervous system, respiratory system and the musculoskeletal system can all be involved in a bad night’s sleep. Sleep hygiene is just one piece of the puzzle.