I get asked this often… what would you do if you could only advise a woman to do just one thing to shift her endometriosis journey? To make it even harder, can you share something that doesn’t cost any money and is available to any woman from anywhere in the world?
Of course, if I only had to pick one thing and it had to fit all those criteria I would pick something you are probably completely dismissing right now. It is something you do each and every day. It is something you NEED to do each and every day and isn’t optional. Can you guess what it is?
It’s not drinking water – though I would like to use that one. It isn’t breathing, though that is on my 2nd most important thing. No. It is sleeping.
Here is something interesting you may not realise about sleep. It affects your fertility, your immune system and even your gut health. I reckon I could find links with every single body function and how it is affected by sleep. Yet, most of us treat sleep as something to play around with. We think we can push through or we don’t make it a priority to get our sleeping patterns in order.
Here is how sleep affects you:
For your hubby or partner – get them into bed earlier! Studies show that men who have low levels of sleep, also have lower sperm count and mobility and couples therefore had a 42% reduced chance of conception.
Your hormones are hugely affected by sleep and when you don’t stick to a consistent and regular pattern, it will throw out those very hormones you need to ovulate, lower oestrogen, increase progesterone and all the good stuff to make babies happen. Working night shifts are particularly bad for getting pregnant and your health. One study found that with female nurses, 53% reported changes in their menstrual cycles when working shift work.
Research has found that if you are getting less than 7hrs of sleep, you are 15% less likely to get pregnant than if you got 7-8hrs sleep.
Lowers the Immune System
One of the most interesting research about sleep is got to do with NK Cells. These are my favourite cells in the body when it comes to endometriosis.
Their job: find rogue cells in the body and dissolve them. What is endometriosis? A bunch of rogue cells. So, let us ramp up the NK Cells and get them dissolving that endometriosis.
Unfortunately, with lack of sleep, you also get less of the NK Cells. They become depleted. So, guess what they are not going to have time to get rid of? Your rogue endometriosis cells splattered over your abdominal area. Get it? Sleep and boost those NK Cells and they will help you fend off the endometriosis growths.
Of course, lack of sleep also affects all the other important immune regulating jobs and when you don’t get it, you are more likely to get sick and fend off nasty infections. Mmmmm Covid?
Healthy Gut, Healthy Mind
Your anxiety, your lack of nutrients, your imbalances can very likely be brought back to poor gut function. Farting too much? Hiding that bloated tummy? Feel self conscious cos your poo smells so bad? Common, you know that aint normal.
Your gut is crucial for the absorption of nutrients and making sure your body get the fuel it needs to function. It is also important at keeping you level headed, calm and less anxious.
Sleep and lack of sleep is linked here again with an interesting loop – poor sleep affects the gut but poor gut health also affects sleep. My process: heal them both.
Watch this TED Talk too, cos is it super good:
Okay, Mel… you’ve given us heaps here and now I know I need to do something about it but what?
What I don’t recommend:
I don’t recommend Melatonin. This is not a natural way to regulate sleep. It interferes with the natural balance of things and typically the dosages are massively too high for what the body actually needs. We typically only need 0.2mcg and yet prescriptions are roughly 2-3mg. It can suppress fertility and studies don’t indicate a lasting benefit for ongoing insomnia.
Besides, taking Melatonin is like taking the contraceptive pill. You aren’t actually fixing anything but merely covering up a symptom. Your body deserves better than that. Dig deeper and give it what it really needs.
How to get your sleeping on track:
Get a regular routine that you stick with, each and everyday – regardless of whether it is the weekend or not. Ideally aim to be in bed by 10pm and up by 7am.
Make sure your room is dark. This stimulates melatonin naturally and tells your body it is time to sleep. Even street lights have shown to have an effect on sleep. So, make it really dark and cosy in your room.
Do hyper or excitable activities in the morning. Anything that makes you feel more excited or if you are stressed out about something, try and do it in the morning. This is when cortisol is at its peak. Honour that.
Let the sun & natural light into your eyes. Your body is regulated by light and sunshine – get exposed to as much natural light as you can. Walk around outside. Have your lunch at the park. Avoid the bright unnatural light as much as you can.
Switch off from the electronic devices, stimulation, over thinking and get into the right headspace for sleep. The biggest one: get off your phone! Put it away after dinner and let whatever is going on, greet you in the morning. I promise you aren’t missing anything important.
Use your 5 senses to sleep better – it’s an old one but hey, it’s got some extra tips for you.
Eat more pistachio nuts. Yes, these little guys have all the melatonin production stuff your body needs. Just 2 a day is all it takes and you have a healthy source of melatonin without any side-effects.
Okay, I know for some of us the reason for lack of sleep goes deeper than all of this. Maybe you are worried about endometriosis or are anxious about something else? Maybe you feel pain during sleep and it interrupts your sleep. I get it. I do. I’ve been there, remember?
Here is what I can tell you. Make yourself a priority. Make what you eat and how you treat your body a priority. It may not all come at the same time but when you try and when you make decisions to support your body, it will reward you.