A Nutritionist’s Timeline For The Perfect Night’s Sleep

Megan Hallett shares her tried and tested advice for helping you to sleep better…

A Nutritionist’s Timeline For The Perfect Night’s Sleep

I’m Megan - Women’s Health Expert, Nutritional Therapist and Author. I work with women of all ages, helping them get to the root of their symptoms which may include acne, PMS, fatigue and mood issue to help them balance their hormones for good. Whilst nutritional changes can be game-changing, some of the best results come from those who prioritise rest, self-care and sleep. 

Here, I’ve pulled together my ideal timeline for high-quality, deep sleep which does in fact start from the minute you wake up. When we struggle to drift off, we tend to focus only on our wind-down routines, when in reality, great sleep comes from a regulated nervous system that is a lot about what you get up to throughout your day… 


1. Good Sleep Starts First Thing

Regulating your circadian rhythm can have a big impact on both the quality and quantity of sleep. It’s safe to say that late nights spent scrolling on our phones is the best way to well and truly mess with our body’s natural rhythms and even affect the amount of melatonin, our major sleep hormone, we produce. But well before our heads have even hit the pillow at night, we can work to regulate our body clock. 

A simple trick to tune your body block is to get some natural light as soon (or as close to) as you wake up. This tells your body that it is time to wake up and as a result, your body knows when it is time to sleep later that night. Go for a walk, sit in your garden or simply open your blinds wide and take in the natural light for a good 10 minutes. 


2. Balance Your Blood Sugar Levels 

Maintaining stable blood sugar levels not only helps to keep your energy levels high, hormones balanced and any cravings at bay, but it can also help you bank higher quality sleep. Modern-day lifestyles and diets mean that most of us are riding the blood sugar rollercoaster all day, and our meals and stress levels result in spikes and drops that leave us feeling pretty rubbish. If blood sugar levels are unstable during the day this can interrupt your sleep at night.

Try and make each meal packed with protein (such as poultry, fish, eggs or tofu or tempeh). Look at adding a source of healthy fats too (think avocado, nuts and seeds) and a portion of low GI, fibrous carbohydrates such as whole grains or vegetables. By ensuring that each meal has a balance of these macros, our blood sugar levels remain balanced, preventing the spikes and drops which can help you have a better night. 

3. Keep Coffee To Before Midday

The half-life of caffeine is between four and six hours so half of the amount of the caffeine from that cup of coffee you had at 3pm, will still be present in your body at 9pm. Think of it this way, would you have half a cup of coffee at 9pm when you are winding down for the evening? If the answer is no, rethink the time in which you are consuming your coffee (or caffeinated drink), keeping it to before midday if you can. 

Caffeine impacts us all differently, but it is most likely to have an impact on sleep quality if you are over consuming or having it later on in the day. 

4. Optimise Your Dinner Plate 

To make our main sleep hormone, we convert the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin and then into melatonin, the director of our sleep. Eating foods rich in tryptophan can therefore help boost your melatonin production. Look for foods like poultry, especially turkey, tuna, salmon, eggs, peanuts and pumpkin seeds. To really get the most out of these foods, have a portion of low GI carbohydrates alongside it such as sweet potato, brown rice or quinoa, which increases the uptake of tryptophan in the brain and therefore, the production of melatonin. 

From a blood sugar perspective, ensure you focus on those low GI carbs over refined carbohydrates (like bread and pasta, for example). If you need something sweet, dark chocolate is great or perhaps even a bowl of berries. This both help keep blood sugar levels stable instead of creating a spike. 


5. Smart Supplementation

I am a big fan of nutrition first, and supplements second. We tend to get caught up in all the supplements on the market, forgetting that without the solid foundations of good nutrition and stress management - the supplements will only go so far. 

That being said, there are a number of evidence-based nutrients and herbs that can really help to relax the mind and support deep, quality sleep. These include magnesium bisglycinate and adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha and reishi mushroom. Herbal teas can also be a great addition to your night-time routine. I’ll often sip on a lemon balm and chamomile tea whilst reading in bed.

As with all supplements, different things work for different people. So give your body time to find what works best for you. 

Some of my favourites include Dirtea's Reishi Mushroom Powder, Thorne's Magnesium Bisglycinate, Wild Nutrition's KSM6-66 Ashwagandha and Pukka's Chamomile blend. 


6. Try A Warm Shower Or Bath

A shower or bath a couple of hours before bed will lower your core temperature - another circadian sleep signal. Opt for magnesium-rich products (like the NEOM Magnesium Bath Milk or their NEW Mulit-Mineral Wellbeing Soak) and indulge in soothing scents like lavender essential oil to help relax the mind. Post-bath, make a conscious effort to stay away from your screens. I find that this a nice way to separate the busy day from your calming pre-bedtime routine.

Sleep Hygiene Hack… Tap Into All Your Senses 

Sleep hygiene is the behaviours, habits and environmental influences that help you drift off into a restorative sleep. When it comes to better sleep hygiene, I recommend tapping into all of your senses to find what works best for you. For example, incorporating touch could be opting for soft, fresh bedding whilst smell would be lighting a NEOM sleep candle or using their Pillow Mist. For sound, I like to listen to calming music or a sleepy playlist, and visually, dimming the lights or opting for red light over blue helps to calm the brain and support your melatonin levels. 

Give Yoga Nidra A Go 

During particularly stressful or high anxiety periods, I try to add some type of meditation or breathwork practice into my daily routine. I particularly like Yoga Nidra at the moment, and if I listen to a guided session as I get into bed, I won’t be able to get through a full session without drifting off. It is evidence-based and proven to help increase restorative sleep. If you are struggling with a racing mind, give it a go. There are many free guided videos (I love this one) and audio online to try, even if just for 10 minutes in the evening or as you drift off.


For more expert advice, check out Megan's Instagram or website where you can book a complimentary 15 minute introductory call.

Looking for more sleep advice? We've got plenty more over on our Sleep Hub.