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The Truth About Sleep...

I often have a big old moan about TV programmes and newspaper articles dishing out pseudo research on health advice. But I wanted to let you know about a couple of programmes which have recently caught my eye and I think you'll like...



The recent BBC programme The Truth About Sleep (available on iPlayer) was an easy to digest exploration of how poor sleep can significantly affect our overall health and in particular our weight.

With statistics from recent studies suggesting half of people who sleep for less than 5 hours a night are obese, the impact of poor sleep on blood sugar control is concerning for all of us.

The programme contained a small study of volunteers who slept for less than seven hours a night and monitored their blood sugar levels. The effects of the disrupted sleep was clearly seen with elevated blood sugar levels and increased cravings for sweet and sugary foods.

The programme also looked in to changes in gut microbes when sleep was disrupted. The bacteria found in the gut contained higher levels of the type of bacteria (Firmicutes) which encourage the body to extract more calories from food. I have come across several studies on this before suggesting the types of bacteria found in our digestive tract gut can contribute to the development of obesity.

Several ways to help with sleep were - eating kiwis, meditation, a hot bath - the most successful being the addition of a prebiotic before bedtime. Not everyone I see in clinic does well with prebiotics and if you have something called SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) it can make symptoms a whole lot worse. However, for some people an increase in prebiotic foods may help.

When I hear of people waking around 2-5am and feeling wide awake I often find this is due to low blood sugar (even if they think it's their bladder waking them up!) I often see huge changes in people's sleep patterns when we start at the other end of the day - with a good protein and fat based breakfast (eggs, fish, sausage, bacon, protein based smoothie, avocado, veggies cooked in coconut oil...)

Just this simple change can have a large effect on balancing blood sugar levels throughout the day - leading to less waking in the night when the blood sugar level can drop too low. Sometimes a small snack (an oatcake with some nut butter or avocado) before bed can also help.

Here are some more tips from the Institute of Functional Medicine on getting a good nights sleep.

Tomorrow night on BBC1 there is a new series of Doctor In The House where Dr Rangan Chatterjee will be going in to people's homes and tackling chronic illness without the use of a prescription pad.

Having heard Rangan speak at the recent IFM conference there was clearly a lot of work going on behind the filming to help these families which won't be shown. But having a Functional Medicine approach on prime time BBC1 can only be a huge leap in the right direction and I will certainly be watching.

Rest well...


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