7 Evidence-Based Ways to Get a Better Sleep Tonight

Quality sleep is greatly underrated in terms of our health and well-being. Dr. Cutler shares her top strategies and tips for a better night’s sleep.

When it comes to our health we often focus on nutrition and exercise, which are great, but if we are not providing our body with adequate rest, our efforts may go unnoticed. Studies show that 1 in 3 adults don’t sleep enough. I am sharing my top strategies and tips for a better night’s sleep.

7 Evidence-Backed Ways to a Better Sleep Tonight
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1. Establish sleep stability.

Generally, we want to be waking and sleeping at the same time each day. This is important because our bodies follow a circadian rhythm. When our circadian rhythm is disrupted, several outcomes may occur including unintentional weight gain, increases in leptin (the hunger hormone) and insulin, increased impulsivity, and slower cognitive responses.

7 Evidence-Backed Ways to a Better Sleep Tonight

Our sleep-wake circadian rhythm is highly based on light. Opening the blinds in the morning upon waking can help increase wakefulness in the day, and sleep quality at night.

2. Avoid substances like caffeine and alcohol in the evening.

We are each affected by caffeine differently, so this is something we each need to experiment with. Recent research actually found that coffee and tea consumption before bed didn’t affect sleep, much to my surprise! Meanwhile, alcohol and nicotine before bed did disrupt sleep.

7 Evidence-Based Ways to Get a Better Sleep Tonight

Personally, I know caffeine can provoke anxiety, so I keep it to a minimum. Try a calming tea instead like ashwagandha or turmeric.

3. Turn off electronics 1-2 hours before bed.

You may be hearing a lot about blue light lately. We are exposed to blue light from light sources like the sun, lightbulbs, and electronics. During the day sunlight is very beneficial. However, the blue light from our electronic devices, which most of us are using in the evening, may impair our production of melatonin. Melatonin is critical for sleep. One study found that evening blue light exposure decreased sleep quality. Opting for a book, music, or a podcast in the evening can limit our blue light exposure.

If being on devices is a must, there are programs available that can block blue light, such as F.lux or night mode on our phones. However, we don’t have studies yet to determine how effective these programs are. Blue light blocking glasses are available, too, which experts think may be more effective than screen programs.

7 Evidence-Backed Ways to a Better Sleep Tonight

4. Supplement with magnesium.

Magnesium supplementation can have several benefits including more restful sleep. One symptom of magnesium deficiency can be insomnia or restless sleep. Magnesium helps maintain GABA production which is essential for relaxation and sleep. A few studies have shown that magnesium can improve insomnia. In addition, magnesium intake has been positively associated with depression (a known factor in insomnia). I stir Natural Calm magnesium powder in cold water or hot tea before I crawl into bed to wind down for sleep.

7 Evidence-Based Ways to Get a Better Sleep Tonight
Foods high in magnesium include leafy greens, avocado, bananas, nuts, and seeds.

5. Meditate.

Since creating a meditation routine before bed, I have become excited when it is time for bed (this is quite a feat for a workaholic like myself). Meditation is one way to elicit the relaxation response. It has been shown to improve sleep quality even more effectively than sleep hygiene education. There are several apps available, like Headspace or Calm, as well as this free meditation by Jason Stephenson.

7 Evidence-Based Ways to Get a Better Sleep Tonight

6. Gentle yoga.

Another way to elicit the relaxation response is through yoga. Regular yoga has been shown to improve sleep and quality of life. I opt for free yoga in the comfort of my home. I find it much easier to maintain a practice when I can sneak in 20 minutes here or there instead of making an additional trip to attend an hour-long class at a studio. Youtuber Yoga With Adriene is a great resource. 

7 Evidence-Based Ways to Get a Better Sleep Tonight

7. Avoid news, work, or other stressful triggers.

I know this one is easier said than done, and I am still working on this myself. But every stimulus can have some kind impact on our minds and bodies, particularly our nervous systems. I try to avoid the news and current events in the evenings. It can also help to let the people around you know that this is a boundary that you have set for your well-being. 

In health,

Dr. Dylan Cutler

This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.

Disclaimer: As the sole author of Phruitful Dish, I have based my posts on my own experiences and personal knowledge. However, I am not a medical doctor or a licensed nutritionist. The information in this blog is not intended as medical advice, and it is not endorsed by my employers or institutions I am affiliated with. Nutritional and supplemental choices should be made in consultation with your health care provider. This blog is intended to inspire and encourage readers to educate themselves on how nutrition and lifestyle are important and often overlooked aspects of health. Therefore, please use the information at your own risk. Occasional links may be provided leading to third party websites. The existence of these links does not infer a responsibility or an endorsement of the linked site, its operator, or its contents.

5 Tips to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, can give many of us the winter blues. Here are Dr. Cutler’s top 5 tips to combat SAD.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, impacts around 17% of Canadians each year with varying levels of intensity. SAD usually begins around the months of fall and continues through the winter months. The symptoms are the same as major depression, with the only difference being the time of year of onset.

1. Sunshine

Get outside! Even if only for a short while (yes, it is cold), sunshine on our skin may help increase serotonin production. Depression is often linked with low serotonin levels. Decreased serotonin can also affect our energy, appetite, and sex drive. I’ve experienced, many times, how a short walk in my neighborhood can shift my mood and perception of the day.

Morning Tip: Open your blinds and let the light in as soon as you wake up. This can support our circadian rhythms, as well.

SAD Tip #1: Dr Dylan Cutler Outside Getting Sunshine

2. Sweat

Exercise has various health benefits, one of which is boosting our mood.

Studies have shown that exercise can be an effective anti-depressant for mild to moderate levels of depression. It doesn’t take much either! Researchers have estimated that 35 minutes of physical activity is enough to reduce the risk of depression. One study found that walking for 60 minutes a day (or running for 15 minutes) can reduce the risk of depression by 26%.

Exercise works by increasing blood flow to the brain, supporting neural growth, reducing inflammation in the brain, and releasing “feel good” endorphins.

Physical activity at a moderate intensity level seems to have the best effect on mental well-being (as opposed to intense levels).

SAD Tip #2: Dr Dylan Cutler Loves to Exercise Outdoors

3. Sleep

Sleep is vital all-year-round. However, during the holiday season it may be extra necessary to prioritize sleep. Schedules often get busier, responsibilities mount, and stress levels can rise.

Sufficient sleep (around 7-9 hours a night) can help stabilize our mood. People who are sleep deprived are at 10x greater risk of developing depression! Sleep is our time for restoration. If falling asleep or staying asleep is an issue, prioritizing a regular bedtime routine, along with daily activity and time outside, can be helpful.

SAD Tip #3: Sleep

4. Supplement

Evidence suggests that the removal and decline of magnesium from foods has resulted in various mood disorders in the Western world. Up to 75% of Americans are not obtaining the recommended amount of daily magnesium.

A randomized controlled trial from 2008 found that 450 mg of magnesium supplementation was as effective as Imipramine (an antidepressant) for treating major depression. This study was conducted in a group of elderly patients with type 2 diabetes and depression.

I enjoy popping a couple of Natural Calm magnesium gummies throughout the day (they feel like a chewy, sweet treat). Then, before bed, I mix Natural Calm magnesium powder in water and sip for a sound sleep. Both these products are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, and made with less than 1 gram of sugar.

SAD Tip #4: Natural Calm Magnesium Citrate Powder

5. Support Network

In the darker months, it can be tempting to hibernate on the couch with a blanket and a good book, which at times is what our bodies need. However, too much isolation may result in worsened SAD.

Studies have shown that having a solid support network is an important determinant of health. Adults with flourishing support networks are more likely to be happier, have high life satisfaction, and more likely to report “very good” or “excellent” mental health.

SAD Tip #5: Dr Dylan Cutler and her social support in Whistler, B.C.

SAD Recap

So pop a magnesium gummy, get some sleep, and invite a friend for a hike in the outdoors!

In health,

Dr Dylan Cutler

This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.

Does CBD Oil Decrease Anxiety?

Learn about the latest research on CBD oil and its therapeutic use in managing anxiety.

CBD, or cannabidiol, contains cannabinoids, which are important players in our body’s endocannabinoid system. CBD oil is non-psychoactive but may help regulate mood. One endocannabinoid, called anandamide, that is produced in our bodies is actually referred to as the “bliss molecule”. Low levels of anandamide have been linked to decreased happiness and increased anxiety. Particular foods can increase our production of anandamide, like dark chocolate. CBD can prevent the breakdown of anandamide, and therefore, create more bliss.

In a previous article, I discussed the potential for CBD to decrease inflammation and alleviate migraines. Other reported health benefits include decreasing stress and anxiety. This article discusses the peer-reviewed studies that examine the mood-boosting effects of CBD.

Anxiety Disorders

A poll in 2018 surveyed 1500 Canadians and 41% reported experiencing anxiety. One-third of responders had been formally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It is estimated that anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults. Therefore, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in both Canada and the U.S.

Anxiety disorders can include the following: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Individuals that suffer from anxiety disorders are six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders. Anxiety is often accompanied by depression.

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PCOS and Anxiety

While the research on the connection between decreased mental health and PCOS is sparse, there is evidence that anxiety is more prevalent in women with PCOS. A study from 2009 found that anxiety symptoms were present in 50% of women with PCOS versus 39% of women without PCOS. More recently this association was confirmed in a study I led during my doctoral research. When women with PCOS were compared to women without PCOS, the women with PCOS had significantly higher levels of anxiety. In particular, I found that women with hyperandrogenic PCOS had greater symptoms of anxiety than women with non-hyperandrogenic PCOS. I hypothesized that the external appearance of hyperandrogenic PCOS (which can include increased body/facial hair, acne, and balding) strays from the societal beauty norms placed on women.

“Expectations of female beauty are rooted in Western societies and being hairless is one major social norm of femininity.”

D. Cutler, UBC Doctoral Thesis, 2019

This may be one explanation for increased anxiety in women with hyperandrogenic PCOS. PCOS has even been nicknamed “The Thief of Womanhood” for similar reasons. In addition, I found that reproductive hormone levels (including estradiol and androstenedione) were associated with increased anxiety.

Use code Phruitful10 for 10$ off your first order of Icaria – Vancouver CBD Oil for Busy Female Professionals, based in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

How CBD Affects Anxiety

In 2019 a clinical study was published which included 72 people. These adult subjects were given 25 mg of phytocannabinoids per day. After one month, 79% of the anxiety-sufferers experienced improvements in their reported anxiety scores. Also worth noting is that many cases of insomnia are tied to anxiety. The same study found that 67% of those suffering from poor sleep experienced improved sleep after one month. However, over time, this effect didn’t remain.

In a study from 2011, CBD was found to decrease anxiety of public speaking in 24 subjects with social anxiety disorder. While this is a small study, there appears to be potential for CBD to be a safe, effective method of managing social anxiety disorder. This was further demonstrated in 2019 in a double-blind trial. CBD was found to be comparable to the medication Paroxetine at decreasing symptoms of social anxiety disorder in teenagers.

Is CBD safe?

There have been a few reported side-effects, including fatigue, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Otherwise, CBD has been deemed relatively safe. Precautions should be made to avoid interactions if you are taking medications, or if pregnant/breast-feeding. It is important to always discuss the use of herbs and supplements with your healthcare provider.

In health, Dr. Dylan Cutler, Ph.D.

The post was sponsored by Icaria – Vancouver CBD Oil for Busy Female Professionals, based in North Vancouver, British Columbia. Use code Phruitful10 for 10$ off your first order.

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Use code Phruitful10 for 10$ off your first order of Icaria – Vancouver CBD Oil for Busy Female Professionals, based in North Vancouver, British Columbia. This post was sponsored.