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It's Not You, It's Your Sleep

Written by:

Darlene Caldrone

Sleep is the cornerstone of health. Without quality sleep, our day to day life isn’t as… lively.

Lack of sleep promotes chaos on every bodily system and our physical health, and impacts everything from relationships, to concentration and cognitive capacity. It’s all connected.

Many people don’t realise that changing our behaviour, habits and routines to prioritise sleep can help us progress and meet our goals with more ease.

If you’re the type of person who feels motivated to exercise more when they have been eating better, chances are poor sleep hygiene is affecting how much you’ve been moving. On the flipside, if you’re a person who regularly gives in to the all or nothing mindset - and you’re not working out because you’re too tired, well you might find that cookie even more satisfying in the moment. In that case you’re not only exhausted, but feeling defeated and helpless too.

How frustrating. The good news is perhaps it’s not about chocolate chip cookie willpower and more about what we need to do to prioritise our sleep. Let me say that again.

It’s not you. It’s your sleep.

If you sleep 5 or 6 hours when you really need 7 or 8, you keep your body in a chronically sleep-deprived state, which hinders your body’s ability to regulate several key hormones such as ghrelin and leptin, and a system of neurotransmitters we have called endocannabinoids.

When we are in a sleep-deprived state:

  • Ghrelin levels rise, triggering hunger.

  • Leptin falls, so it takes longer to feel full.

  • Endocannabinoids increase, making your perception of foods seem more pleasurable.

This explains why we keep reaching for sweets and snacks - and with more awake time, it also means we have more time to eat - we’re averaging around 300 calories extra per day when we’re not sleeping enough. In my opinion, I’d rather you enjoy the cookie and feel good about it on your own terms.

Ever feel like you’re always the one getting sick right when you start a new workout routine or nutrition plan? Sleep affects our immune system quite easily too. You might even notice you’re getting sick a lot more often.

When we are sleep deprived (even just an hour) T-Cells (part of the immune system’s defences) go down, and inflammation goes up. This means our risk of getting sick increases.

We are more vulnerable to viruses, bacteria, and even heart disease or other inflammatory related illnesses. (note: around daylight savings time each year the number of heart attacks have been shown to go up.)

What about your workouts? Sure, maybe you’ve avoided getting sick - but those workouts seem tougher that you thought they would be. When we sleep, our bodies remove metabolites that drain energy, refresh our neurotransmitter levels, and build / repair muscle tissue. If we don’t get the sleep we need we’ll experience a reduced desire to exercise, our endurance, reaction time suffers. We’ll even feel more depressed. No wonder you’re not motivated to get up and workout.

Those neurotransmitters and hormones that are refreshed and regulated during sleep also affect our mood and memory outside the gym and the pantry. Ever notice how our emotions are a little more wild when we’re tired? How do we handle stress differently? How about forgetfulness, concentration and judgement? How often do we realise that if we just had a good-night's sleep, everything (and I mean everything) would be so much better?

Kickstart better sleep hygiene today by asking yourself the following:

How long will I sleep?

(remembering the average adult needs between 7-9 hours sleep)

What time will I wake up?

(base it on your current responsibilities, and if need be, every 3-4 days move the time back by half an hour)

What time will I go to bed?

(count the hours back from how long you need to sleep, and add additional time for those who find it hard to fall asleep right away)

Who does this affect?

(remember this will impact those around you. Having a conversation will really boost your chances of success)

What can I do to help make this manageable and what is my current routine?

Think about your evening, where you might shuffle things around and what you consistently do before bedtime. Some healthy suggestions to try - not all at once.


  • Lighter meals in the evening that include whole foods. Plan these meals 3-4 hours before bedtime where possible.

  • Some foods that are known to help promote quality sleep include chicken, salmon, broccoli, cherries, kiwis, quinoa, sweet potato, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, and almonds.

Technology + Screens:

  • Wear blue-blocking glasses at night if you use any devices (note that putting those devices down is one of the most challenging habits to change, so we’ll opt for low hanging fruit here)

  • Use sleep apps with pink noise, binaural beats, or other sounds to help soothe the mind

  • A sleep/wake light on the bedside table to help with the circadian rhythm


  • Expose yourself to sunlight (even overcast light) first thing in the morning whenever possible, without sunglasses. A sun lamp can also be a good choice here.

  • Turn off overhead lights in the evening, use dimmers.

  • Sleep in an entirely dark room or use a mask


  • Plan a time mid-day to do a brain dump. Schedule as much as possible and as far away from bedtime as you can. This should only take 5-10 minutes and will do wonders for that racing mind.

  • Breathwork (google breathing or breathwork for sleep

  • Listen to guided sleep meditation or NDSR in bed on your favourite streaming service

  • Decide a time to end your workday (no checking your work email 1-2 hours before bedtime)


  • Find ways to move your body through the day

  • Go for a walk in the evening

  • Save intense exercise for the daytime where possible (note, some people sleep better with this at night, like yours truly)

The most important factor out of all of this is consistency over time. Think about your plan and the changes you are going to make right now. It’s okay to choose a late night here or there, right now we want to find 5-6 nights a week where you practise prioritising sleep.

The test:

On a scale of 1-10 how confident are you in what you’ve planned today?

If you’re at 9 or 10 - that is great news. If you’re any less, ask yourself what it might take to get to that 9.

Try your plan for 2 weeks, then reassess. Make more small changes. Be honest and compassionate with yourself.

Those small changes will add up and you’ll stop resisting the rest.

Coach Darlene

Healthy habits are more important now than ever. Healthy living is more than nutrition. It’s mindset, self awareness, stress management, recovery, and designing better habits + routines around your goals values for a better life. That’s why I offer a 360 degree approach to wellness that includes nutrition, movement, sleep, stress management, and behaviour change. It can feel like a lot, especially when you’re a busy professional, but you don’t have to do it alone.

Want coaching, accountability and support on your wellness goals and learn how to enjoy the process too? Explore how to improve on your cognitive flexibility, and benefit on the flexibility you already have - Book a Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching session with me here on Cyno!

Darlene Calderone - Behaviour Change Specialist, Nutrition & Wellness Coach, Personal and Group Fitness Trainer on Cyno

If you want to learn more about how Cyno can help your company, book a call with us!

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