Having Trouble Sleeping?

Happy October!

I used to lay in bed at night for hours before falling asleep. Why the heck wasn’t I tired? I was working 3 jobs, working out everyday, AND presumably taking good care of myself. I had no idea that some of my daily habits were actually HARMING my sleep.

On average we need about 7-8 hours of sleep each night. This process of regeneration is crucial to our mental and physical health. I have compiled a list of things below to improve your sleep quality. And if your sleep is already great, forward this email to your insomniac friend who could use some help!

Aside from shutting electronics off before bed and creating a calming nighttime ritual, here are a few things you may be doing wrong that are decreasing your sleep quality:

  1. You are eating large fatty meals before bed. At night our digestive system goes into rest and digest mode. Fat stays in the stomach much longer compared to protein and carbohydrates, making a giant steak and french fries the worst pre-bedtime meal. Forget what anyone ever told you about eating carbs late at night, carbohydrates can lower the stress hormones cortisol and help regulate blood sugar throughout the night. Love your late night popcorn routine?! Keep it up and avoid large high-fat meals 2-3 hours before hitting the pillow.

  2. You are drinking alcohol 1-2 hours before going to bed. You may feel like a few glasses of wine before bed knocks you out, so shouldn't alcohol be helping? Alcohol allows you to fall asleep faster but it decreases your sleep quality making you more restless throughout the night. Try to close your tab ~2 hours before hitting the sheets.

  3. Your Hormones are out of whack: Having not enough or too much of certain hormones is very common and often overlooked as a reason why our sleep is off. Low progesterone, melatonin, testosterone, and cortisol are just a few common culprits. On the other end, estrogen dominance and high cortisol are also enemies to a good night's sleep. Test don’t guess. Have your levels checked by your provider to rule these out.

  4. You think caffeine doesn’t affect you: This doesn’t just mean coffee and energy drinks. Teas and chocolate contain caffeine that can affect your sleep quality. Aim to avoid all caffeine and caffeine containing foods after 2 pm.

  5. You are turning up the heat in the house. Especially with the cooler weather rolling in, it can be tempting to crank the heat up. Optimal sleep temperature is around 65°F as it aligns with your body's natural circadian rhythm, preparing you to wind down. Save a few extra dollars on your electric bill this month and turn down the heat!

  6. You are working out late at night: Exercise is great because it gives us energy, increases blood flow to the brain and tissues, and improves overall health. Exercising too close to bed (1-2 hours before) can interrupt your body's natural circadian rhythm, making it harder to wind down at night. If you must work out late at night, aim for something more relaxing like yoga or a light walk for some of the same health benefits.

The recipe of this week is one that seems to impress. I include this meal as an option for the clients that I meal prep for, and so far no bad reviews!

Butternut squash and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

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Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts

  • 1 cup roasted and lightly salted almonds pulsed in a blender to create smaller chopped pieces (dont pulse too much or else you will have almond flour!)

  • 2 cups gluten free bread crumbs (I used this brand because it doesn’t have xanthan gum in it)

  • 4 oz goat cheese

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into small cubes

  • 1 Tbsp thyme, chopped  

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1 tsp sea salt, divided

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 380°F

  2. Peel the butternut squash, scoop out the seeds, and chop into small cubes.

  3. Place the squash on a foil lined baking sheet with 1 Tbsp of oil so that the squash is covered (I use my hands to massage the oil into the squash)

  4. Bake the squash for 20-25 minutes or until squash is soft enough for a fork to glide through.

  5. In a large bowl, add the thyme, chopped almonds, bread crumbs, minced garlic, and ½ tsp sea salt.

  6. In a small bowl, add the lightly beaten eggs.

  7. Once the squash is done, make a slit in the side of each chicken breasts creating a small pocket. Stuff each chicken breast with about 2 Tbsp squash and about 2 Tbsp goat cheese. Use a toothpick to secure the pocket shut while breading.

  8. Dip the chicken breast in the egg and then the breading mix, making sure that the entire breast is well coated. Then remove the toothpick.

  9. Place each breast on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle each breast with a little bit of olive oil.

  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the breading turn a hint of golden brown.

  11. Enjoy!