Skip to main content

24 Jan, 2022

Celebrating the pillars of health: How to specialise in sleep with Phoebe Liebling

The third pillar of health is sleep. Not only is sleeping a huge part of our daily routine, as humans spend 1/3 of their time sleeping, but it has a massive part to play on maintaining our energy levels, and strengthening our immune systems, heart and brain health, and digestion. Sleep is an equally important pillar as nutrition in building a healthy gut and microbiome. Here, Nutritional Therapist and Clinical Director, Phoebe Liebling, considers sleep, and how to specialise in it, to help on your journey to improving your overall health and wellbeing.


Our bodies are working equally, if not harder, when we are at rest than when we are awake, and if we do not give them the time to complete their tasks we will cumulatively acquire more burden over time and feel less well as a result. When you are sleeping, it is important to let the body focus on regenerating and recuperating, as well as the household tasks, rather than digesting and absorbing. Eating too close to bedtime is likely to affect the quality of your sleep. And, whilst striving for quantity of sleep so that the body is given the opportunity to function as best as it can, the quality of sleep can also affect the body's functionality, in particular cognitive abilities, consolidated memory, a boosted immune system and muscle repair.

Studies have shown that poor quality and quantity of sleep can result in metabolic dysregulation. A study investigating the links between sleep and metabolism collected health and sleep data from over 130,000 adults, and discovered that anyone sleeping less than 6, or more than 10, hours per night had an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

What's more, there has been a clear parallel drawn between sleep and the gut. Poor sleep will cause our cortisol (stress hormone) levels to rise, which can negatively impact the permeability of our intestine, or more colloquially, a 'leaky gut'. A 'leaky gut' can trigger stomach pains, inflammation, bloating and intolerances.

Hence, it is really important to nurture an effective sleep routine that lends itself to the quality of our sleep cycle, and to ensure we are getting as much sleep as we can. Here are some top tips:

  1. Try and eat 3 hours before going to sleep to ensure sufficient digestion.
  2. Aim to switch off all devices at least 1 hour, 2 is better, before you go to bed in order to reduce exposure to blue light and wifi radio-frequency.
  3. Create a restful environment through low lighting, a warm temperature and calm music, if you have some that puts you at ease. It's amazing how much your environment can contribute in the quality of your sleep.
  4. Take up an analogue hobby (I favour crosswords).
  5. Aim to read a chapter of a book before you turn your light off each night to help distract from any stresses and anxiety-inducing thoughts you may have.
  6. Those who sleep optimally will never need to set an alarm. They will wake at the same time every day as their natural body clock (circadian rhythm) will hormonally dictate when they sleep and when they wake. Start by setting an alarm at the same time each morning and then try and go to bed at the same time every day, including weekends, and soon your body will move into a natural rhythm.