Is your diet spoiling your chances of sleeping well? This is always the first question I ask people when they tell me they can’t sleep. There are the obvious issues like coffee and tea affecting sleep but actually there are more subtle things that can spoil your sleep. Eating red meat regularly at night can affect your sleep negatively for two reasons; firstly, because it gets your digestive system working extra hard to process it and secondly, because Red Meat contains Iron and B12 which are both nutrients that give people an energy boost. Every person’s diet is unique but do some research to find out what you’re putting into your body at night and whether it might be causing issues. I know it’s hard but preparing a meal at home is significantly healthier than buying something which goes in the oven or microwave. People who live on microwave meals think this is silly but I always ask one simple question; could you have tea with nine teaspoons of sugar in it? Most people think that sounds disgusting but they’re totally comfortable having a can of Coke which does have nine teaspoons of sugar in it! If you don’t prepare your food then you really have no idea what’s gone into it.
Getting a good night’s sleep has so many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Yet with all of the distractions that demand our attention, going to sleep on time and getting enough rest has become extremely elusive to many of us. Why is sleep so important and how can we make it a priority?
In this interview series called “Sleep: Why You Should Make Getting A Good Night’s Sleep A Major Priority In Your Life, And How You Can Make That Happen” we are talking to medical and wellness professionals, sleep specialists, and business leaders who sell sleep accessories to share insights from their knowledge and experience about how to make getting a good night’s sleep a priority in your life.
As part of this interview series, we had the pleasure to interview Mitesh Desai.
Mitesh is the CEO of LandysChemist.com. Over the past decade he has built one of the largest independent pharmacy businesses in the UK with a specialist focus on heath food supplements. He is a nutritionist with a long list of clients who regularly seek private consultation because of his bespoke and personal approach.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your backstory? Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this particular career path?
Thanks so much for having me! The truth is that I really stumbled into this industry.I was working in the City of London in finance for five years and when I left the industry and was taking a short break in which I discovered that there was a huge opportunity to help develop the Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements (VMS) industry in the UK. Needless to say I not only developed a deep passion for the products but was also lucky enough to get in at a time when people’s interests were shifting more and more towards their health and wellbeing.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the sleep and wellness fields? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I have spent the past decade speaking to thousands of people about their sleep and I also have the benefit of seeing the trends in terms of what people are buying when it comes to products to aid sleep. As much as Landys Chemist has grown over the past decade I’m pleased to still consider our service to be quite personal; there are lots of customers who still ask for me and our other nutritionists by name and in many cases, we have developed relationships that have lasted a decade. We have ridden highs and lows with so many customers and always done our best to offer bespoke advice to help their overall wellness.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The Mind-Gut connection by Emeran Mayer is an exceptionally well written book which really highlights something I will also end up mentioning at least once more in this interview; our gut is so incredibly important and virtually every other system in our body is connected to it. It’s truly remarkable how many issues, from sleep to stress to immunity can be linked to some imbalance in the gut.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“Success is the ability to move from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm” is something that Winston Churchill said but I may have doctored it slightly over the course of the past twenty years since I first heard it. I think for everyone that has enjoyed any success in their lives it would resonate with them. For people who have endured persistent difficulty they’re possibly reading it and thinking it’s rubbish but I really do believe that sometimes the key to success is perseverance.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with the basics. How much sleep should an adult get? Is there a difference between people who are young, middle-aged, or elderly?
Everyone is different so the exact specifics will vary but broadly the majority of adults, regardless of age, need around eight hours of sleep a night. Because not every person’s sleep cycle is identical for some people it will be closer to seven hours whilst for others it will be around nine. The best way to try and work it out for yourself is to assess how you feel based on different amounts of sleep. If you wake up feeling extremely groggy after eight hours of sleep then it might be because you’ve woken up mid cycle. Try sleeping for seven hours instead (or nine!) and evaluating your overall feeling. Generally waking up in the morning shouldn’t be a desperately labored experience and if that’s how it feels it implies that you’re either not sleeping enough or possibly sleeping too much.
Is the amount of hours the main criteria, or the time that you go to bed? For example, if there was a hypothetical choice between getting to bed at 10AM and getting up at 4AM, for a total of 6 hours, or going to bed at 2AM and getting up at 10AM for a total of 8 hours, is one a better choice for your health? Can you explain?
I think lots of people will argue about this but the truth is that in theory there should be no difference. The truth is that there are a variety of factors that might dictate why a person has a lifestyle that would result in their sleeping at 4am every day and those other factors are likely to impact the quality of the sleep that person is having. I think that is why a lot of people argue that sleeping earlier is better quality sleep; it’s because it really says more about the rest of your day in general; you probably ate dinner at a reasonable time, didn’t go to a nightclub or drink your body weight in beer.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for our readers. Let’s imagine a hypothetical 35 year old adult who was not getting enough sleep. After working diligently at it for 6 months he or she began to sleep well and got the requisite hours of sleep. How will this person’s life improve? Can you help articulate some of the benefits this person will see after starting to get enough sleep? Can you explain?
The important thing to remember here is that sleep is a biological function. During sleep your body carries out a lot of basic maintenance and does useful things like repairing your DNA. How many times have you said to yourself, “I’ll sleep it off”? People use phrases like that because instinctively they realize that sleep is restorative; not just for our minds but for our bodies too.
If a 35 year old like you’ve mentioned in your question started to sleep more each night the biggest difference would be their general energy levels; they would wake up feeling better and have more energy throughout the day. There’s also a good chance they would look better; skin tends to improve in quality the longer you sleep and sleeping well can help to slow down the aging process. It’s also likely that the person would find they got sick less often; sleep is restorative and generally we find that people that sleep better also have better immune systems.
Many things provide benefits but they aren’t necessarily a priority. Should we make getting a good night’s sleep a major priority in our life? Can you explain what you mean?
I think the truth is that a lot of people could sleep longer but waste time on pointless stuff towards the end of the day. The trouble is that we all work five days a week and in many cases also commute a lot to get to and from work. The result is that as it gets towards the end of the day people will play on their phones or browse the internet and avoid going to bed to stretch out leisure time. I think this is because they feel like going to bed means that the next thing that will happen is the alarm clock will sound and the cycle starts again.
There are simple habits that people can adapt which can make the idea of going to bed easier; read a book or listen to a podcast on the commute so that it becomes a part of the day to look forward to. Create a little more structure around your leisure time to ensure that you “do” something whenever you have free time and don’t feel like you’ve wasted an evening or weekend. When George Bush Jnr was the president of the USA he was able to get to bed by 10pm every night so I really don’t believe any of us have a valid excuse to not prioritize a good night’s sleep.
The truth is that most of us know that it’s important to get better sleep. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives? How should we remove those obstacles?
I think lots of people make bad choices which make it hard to have a good night of sleep. I think they often let other parts of their lives seep into the time that should be segmented for sleep and nothing else. How many of us are guilty of keeping our phone on our bedsides and reaching for it every times it vibrates when we’re settling in to sleep? How many people get into bed and turn on the TV?
If you went to work and started playing a guitar you would probably get in trouble. If you went home and started playing computer games when your partner was talking to you then you’d quickly find yourself single! If we recognize that different parts of our life, particularly sleep, deserve our full undivided attention then I think we would sleep better and probably also have improved personal relationships and probably be a bit more productive at work!
Do you think getting “good sleep” is more difficult today than it was in the past?
I think it’s definitely a lot easier to get distracted because of all the gadgets and the access to entertainment. In some respects all the on-demand access services can be unhealthy because they encourage you to binge on one more episode but that can often be to the detriment of your sleep. Depending on where you live there’s also a lot more cars and general street noise than there used to be which doesn’t help.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share “5 things you need to know to get the sleep you need and wake up refreshed and energized”? If you can, kindly share a story or example for each.
If it’s ok I am going to approach the question slightly differently and tell you the three questions that everyone should ask themselves if they’re struggling to sleep.
- Is your diet spoiling your chances of sleeping well? This is always the first question I ask people when they tell me they can’t sleep. There are the obvious issues like coffee and tea affecting sleep but actually there are more subtle things that can spoil your sleep. Eating red meat regularly at night can affect your sleep negatively for two reasons; firstly, because it gets your digestive system working extra hard to process it and secondly, because Red Meat contains Iron and B12 which are both nutrients that give people an energy boost. Every person’s diet is unique but do some research to find out what you’re putting into your body at night and whether it might be causing issues. I know it’s hard but preparing a meal at home is significantly healthier than buying something which goes in the oven or microwave. People who live on microwave meals think this is silly but I always ask one simple question; could you have tea with nine teaspoons of sugar in it? Most people think that sounds disgusting but they’re totally comfortable having a can of Coke which does have nine teaspoons of sugar in it! If you don’t prepare your food then you really have no idea what’s gone into it.
- Is your sleep environment conducive to a good night of sleep? You should be spending around 33% of your entire life in bed — have you invested in your sleep? Most people simply aren’t willing to invest in a mattress, particularly if they’re renting an apartment, but I think that’s crazy. I can’t begin to say how many benefits accrue to people that have a good quality mattress. The most essential benefit is that a good mattress will help you sleep with good posture. If your body is in good posture then you will be more comfortable and will be able to stay asleep for longer periods. This isn’t the only consideration when it comes to your sleep environment though. Sleep is a biological function but there are lots of things we can do to improve our chances of having a better sleep; remove clutter, ensure your curtains do a good job of blocking out the light and make sure there’s nothing weird to draw your attention when you’re supposed to be switching off. If you want to treat yourself there are pillow sprays which contain natural herbs like lavender that can help you sleep a bit better.
- If you struggle to sleep, do you struggle to switch off from the day or are you tired but unable to sleep? Not every person who can’t sleep is the same and there are different ways to try and aid different issues. Some people get into bed with a bit of anxiety ingrained in them; they know they should sleep, they know they want to sleep but they know it’s hard for them to achieve this. The minute sleep doesn’t hit them instantly the panic sets in. For these people I often recommend supplements like an amino acid called 5-HTP or L-Theanine with Lemon Balm. These are both great natural supplements that help to get the anxiety element of not sleeping under control and give you a better chance of relaxing and falling asleep. If you do consider this route then please remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day! Give the supplement at least 4 weeks to start having an effect; take it consistently and you should start to see an improvement.
- If you’re tired but you still can’t sleep then this might imply there’s a chemical imbalance in either your brain or gut which might be making it hard for you to sleep properly. There’s an important chemical in the body called Melatonin which helps regulate your body clock and improve sleep. I NEVER recommend people take melatonin supplements, even though these are available over the counter in lots of countries. The reason I advise against these is because when you start taking melatonin your body can get lazy over time and start producing less and less of it. That means that over time you can become dependent on melatonin supplements to sleep. That said there are good options out there; morello cherries can help to boost your body’s ability to make its own melatonin; this is a much better long term solution because eventually your body will produce enough melatonin of its own to help you sleep more consistently. You can buy supplements which have a concentrate of cherries that can help you to start sleeping better quite quickly.
- If you’re struggling to sleep and find none of the above has helped then it’s time to give your gut some attention. There are studies that have shown that taking prebiotics can improve your sleep. A prebiotic like Fructooligosacharides (FOS) essentially provides the food that the good bacteria in your stomach needs to thrive. As the good bacteria in your tummy starts to multiply and grow this means they can secrete more of the healthy chemicals that stimulate all the other systems in the body, including your sleep.
What would you advise someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep?
If this is happening to you then I would imagine it’s a combination of some chemical imbalance that is causing you to wake up in the first place and then a bit of anxiety which stops you from getting back to bed. I’d advise supplements for both before bed which would enhance your chances of sleeping through the night and not panicking too much if you do still wake up. L-Theanine and Lemon Balm is an excellent supplement to keep on your bedside table because it takes action for most people in ten to fifteen minutes so can provide an immediate calming effect when you need it.
What are your thoughts about taking a nap during the day? Is that a good idea, or can it affect the ability to sleep well at night?
Naps are lovely but you have to be disciplined about them. Naps which last between twenty and forty five minutes are great because they let you have a little break but your body doesn’t drift into the deep sleep part of the cycle. This is good because you don’t want to wake up feeling groggy and your body doesn’t like being woken up in the middle of deep sleep. If you’re exhausted a short nap doesn’t sound like it will help but you’d be surprised by how much more spritely you’ll feel after a half hour nap.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
If I thought my wife wasn’t going to read this then I’d say Selena Gomez but since she probably will I’ll go for John W Henry. I’m a Liverpool FC fan and used to be a trader so I feel like we’d have a good conversation.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can read our lifestyle blog at LandysChemist.com. I regularly contribute there ☺
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!