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The Health Index

In industrialised countries, sleep deprivation is pervasive.  Data suggests that, over the past several decades, we have been getting less and less sleep.  In some studies, only 3% of children were found to be actually acquiring the recommended 9 hours of sleep per night – and this is the recommendation for adults. Children even need a few hours more.

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Almost every single bodily system depends on regular restful sleep for recovery and maintenance, notably the heart, the brain and nervous system, the digestive tract, the hormonal system, the reproductive organs, and the immune system. We need to sleep to be able to handle stress and to fight inflammation.  A 2009 review of the scientific literature declared public health education on the benefits of sleep a priority.


Work takes priority in many people’s lives, and long working hours mean that social and family life is reduced to late evenings and weekends. Sleep, for many, seems like a luxury not a lot of people can afford.  In our performance-centred world, sleeping may even be seen as a sign of laziness and weakness. At the same time, many really want to sleep, but for external (e.g. noise) or internal (e.g. worries) reasons, just can’t. There are many possible reasons why sleep might be elusive. Working with a nutrition practitioner can help you uncover what is keeping you up at night.

What are the causes of sleep disturbances?

Trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, snoring, sleep apnoea, tingling or restless legs, dozing off several times a day;  sleep problems have many faces and causes. Sometimes several reasons come together. The main causes of insomnia are: 

  • Use of stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, tobacco

  • Unfavourable sleeping environment (temperature, airflow, light, noise etc.)

  • Upset sleep-wake rhythm due to jet lag or shift work

  • Stress and burn-out

  • Medication, sleeping pills

  • Pregnancy 

  • Heart disease

  • Respiratory diseases

  • Heartburn, gastro-intestinal disturbances (pain, diarrhoea)

  • Chronic joint pain 

  • Fibromyalgia 

  • Headaches/migraines

  • Hormonal influences, for example night sweats during the menopause

  • Thyroid diseases

  • Urge to urinate, kidney diseases, prostate disorders

  • Neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Tinnitus

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Cancer

Image by Peter Kasprzyk

How can a nutrition practitioner help?

Your nutrition practitioner’s recommendation will depend on the nature of your sleep problems and the possible underlying reasons. They will ask you about your sleeping environment, bedtime routines and the use of stimulants. If your doctor has identified the cause (e.g. prostate problems, menopause, fibromyalgia) your nutrition practitioner will address those underlying issues.


A nutrition practitioner will look at your food diary to see where there may be room for improvement. They practitioner may also recommend functional testing to assess your nutrition or hormone status, or your digestive health. They will then develop a customised diet, supplement and lifestyle plan for you.

Find your Sleep


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