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Is this bedtime habit ruining your sleep?

If you regularly wake up in the middle of the night, nutritional therapist Elena Rolt might have the answer to your problems.

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Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
30 January 2024
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How did you sleep last night? If you woke up mid-slumber, you're probably not feeling as well-rested as you could be today.

While feeling tired is annoying, there are more serious implications of disrupted sleep, according to registered nutritional therapist Elena Rolt. "Ongoing sleep fragmentation will be affecting pretty much every single physiological function in your body, from immune system and metabolism to mood regulation and food choices," she warned.

As for the benefits of unbroken sleep, Elena listed better memory, more creativity, better metabolic health, reduced food cravings, feeling less anxious and depressed, plus a lower risk of diabetes, dementia, cancer, heart attacks, flus and colds – suddenly disrupted sleep seems like something to pay attention to, rather than just hoping to sleep through the night next time.

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Elena Rolt is a nutritional therapist

While there are of course many reasons we might wake up during the night, Elena explained that there's one nighttime habit many of us indulge in that is making us wake up.

Why do I wake up in the night?

"Eating too close to bedtime could significantly impact the sleep quality for several reasons," cautions Elena.

"We become less insulin sensitive towards the evening, which means that your body works extra hard to regulate the blood sugar after a heavy meal eaten late in the evening, particularly carbohydrates heavy, such as pasta, pizza or potatoes."

Elena explains that a carb-heavy meal eaten in the evening can cause an insulin spike while you're sleeping, followed by a sharp decrease in blood sugar levels which your body finds stressful.

Woman leaning into fridge at night searching for food with bad diet habits.© Getty
Eating late can cause sleep issues

To counteract the low blood sugar, your body releases cortisol (the stress hormone), which will cause you to wake up, disrupting your sleep cycle.

Elena adds that digesting a heavy meal late at night is an energy-demanding process that will raise a core body temperature. "This also prevents you from going into a restful sleep and may well wake you up at night, as restorative sleep requires lower core body temperature."

How to sleep through the night

With this in mind, Elena recommends no food for two hours before bed – so if you plan for a 10pm bedtime, aim to stop eating by 8pm to ensure a solid sleep.

This makes up part of Elena's 'Nocturnal No-Nos: 1-2-3-4 Rule,' which she explained to HELLO! when we met her at The Londoner, where she is the resident functional nutritional therapist.

READ: I spent £150 a week trying to cure my insomnia – here's what actually works 

"One hour before bedtime, implement a no screens rule," Elena explains. "Two hours before bed, avoid food. Three hours before bed stop drinking alcohol and four hours before bed avoid intensive exercise, such as HIIT workouts, intense cardio or heavy weight lifting.

"Caffeine is another big stimulant. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours, which means that six hours after you had your coffee, you still have half of that caffeine circulating in your bloodstream. Try to stop drinking coffee after 12pm and see if your sleep quality improves," Elena advises.

Keen to impart her wisdom to anyone who might be struggling with sleep and other health woes, Elena created the Stay & Rejuvenate wellness package at The Londoner, which sees guests treated to an overnight stay at the luxury hotel, plus a bespoke consultation with Elena and access to the hotel's spa, The Retreat.

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The package includes a body treatment hand-selected by Elena, combining a body scrub and a scalp massage, designed to ease tension, support lymph flow and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.

The combination of elements creates a state of tranquillity setting you up for a restorative night’s sleep. While the treatment is undeniably blissful, the sumptuous rooms at the Londoner are sure to have a helping hand in a restful sleep, with plush blush pink décor, the fluffiest hotel slippers in the world and ambient lighting to lull you into a deep sleep.

The spa at The Londoner© Instagram
The spa at The Londoner is divine

As for the consultation with Elena – you'll definitely find it eye-opening. During a 20-minute chat, Elena touched on everything from gut health to sleeplessness to hormone health, explaining everything in an accessible, non-intimidating way.

I've met with nutritional therapists before and come out of the session feeling more baffled than when I went in, but Elena gives no-nonsense, actionable guidance that's easy to fit into your lifestyle. She's not asking clients to overhaul their lives but to simply make small, manageable changes that will make all the difference.

Book The Londone's Stay & Rejuvenate wellness package, available until 29 February 2024.

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