HSW 88 – Sleep and Yoga with Dr Carmel Harrington and Jennie Blevins

When it comes to our health, there are many pillars, but none is more important than sleep – especially if you work 24/7!

So in today’s podcast, we’re talking with Dr Carmel Harrington who holds a PhD in Sleep Medicine from Sydney University, along with yoga instructor veteran Jennie Blevins on how a regular practice of yoga can be one of the best ways to foster better sleep.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why sleep is incredibly important for our health, yet many of us are not respecting it
  • What areas of our health become affected by lack of sleep
  • Why we need to be preserving, protecting and prioritizing our sleep as our life depends on it – because it quite literally does!
  • How using yoga to support the nervous system can assist the body in drifting off to sleep
  • Two yoga poses that are great to do prior to sleep to help reduce anxiety, switch off a racing mind, and calm a frazzled nervous system
  • How to use yoga, movement and certain breathing practices to improve alertness and energy

Sleepy Cinnamon and Walnut Latte:

A Beverage for Sleep Deprived Shift Workers

As shift workers, falling asleep and staying asleep can be one of our biggest challenges when working 24/7.  In fact ironically, we can find ourselves in a state where we’re actually too exhausted to sleep – a cruel scenario given all we want to do is catch up on some much needed zeds!

But this “too exhausted to sleep” scenario can happen for a number of reasons (and not just as a result of working shift work), when our bodies become “stuck” in a state of constant overstimulation.  This is essentially when the nervous system becomes so “wired”, that it prevents the body from being able to relax and unwind.

This may occur as a result of a dysregulation in the stress hormone cortisol, a thyroid disorder such as Hashimoto’s, or even due to intestinal parasites being found in the digestive tract – to name a few!

Yewwww!  I know right!

Anyway, whilst it may be necessary to undertake further diagnostic testing to eliminate (or at the very least identify if any of the above scenarios are contributory factors to your insomnia), in the interim this Cinnamon and Walnut Latte may help to improve your sleep.

Now I know what you’re thinking – we can’t drink coffee before bed!

Yes, I agree entirely with you.

Except this “latte” is totally caffeine free.  In fact it’s even dairy free, which is a good thing because consuming dairy can actually trigger an inflammatory response in some people, which in itself sets off a whole cascade of stress hormones that is going to impact on your sleep.

But I’ll save that for another post.  In the meantime, let’s talk all about the Cinnamon and Walnut Latte.

What’s great about it?

  • It contains walnuts which contain melatonin, a sleep regulating hormone that is necessary for sleep to occur.  Research has shown consuming walnuts actually increases blood melatonin concentrations levels.
  • Melatonin in itself, is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the body against oxidative stress, which occurs as a result of toxic molecules called free radicals.
  • Walnuts are a rich source of omega 3 EFA’s (essential fatty acids) which help to improve cognitive function as the brain, which is made up of 60% fat, requires omega 3 fats to function properly.
  • They also contain a variety of other bioactive compounds, such as vitamin E and polyphenols which are phytochemicals found in plant foods that help to protect the body against oxidative stress.

Ingredients (makes 20)

  • 1 cup of walnuts (soaked for 2 hours)
  • 4 cups of filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey, to serve
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon, to serve

How to make them!

Combine the walnuts, water and vanilla paste in a high-speed blender.  Blend for at least 30 seconds.  The longer the better as this will help to create a creamy, white texture.

Pour one cup of walnut “milk” into a saucepan, and heat up gently on the stove top.

Once heated through, pour into a mug and serve with 1 teaspoon of raw honey and cinnamon for a bit of added sweetness.  Both the honey and cinnamon help to balance blood sugar levels, which is vital in preventing intermittent awakenings or that broken sleep which can also be the bane of our existence when we’re trying to optimise our sleep!

Audra x

P.S:  For an even smoother, creamier texture, strain the milk through a fine sieve or nut milk bag to remove the walnut sediment.

Please note:  this beverage is not a sleep elixir, but rather a beverage that, combined with optimal sleep hygiene practices may aid in the process of sleep.



Bozkurt, N, Karbek, B, Cakal, E, Firat, H, Ozbek, M & Delibasi T 2012, ‘The association between severity of obstructive sleep apnea and prevalence of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis’, Endocrinology Journal, vol. 59, no. 11, pp. 981-988.

Bush B & Hudson, T 2010, ‘The role of cortisol in sleep’, Natural Medicine Journal, vol. 2, no. 6.

Ibarra-Coronado, E, Pantaleon-Martinez, A, Velazquez-Moctezuma, J, Prospero-Garcia, O, Mendez-Diaz, M, Perez-Tapia, M, Pavon, L & Morales-Montor, J 2015, ‘The bidirectional relationship between sleep and immunity against infections’, Journal of Immunology Research, vol. 2015.

Reiter, R, Manchester, L & Tan D 2005, ‘Melatonin in walnuts:  influence on levels of melatonin and total antioxidant capacity of blood, Nutrition, vol. 21, no. 9, pp. 920-924.

Sanchez-Gonzalez, C, Ciudad C, Noe, V & Izquierdo-Pulido M 2017, ‘Health benefits of walnut polyphenols:  An exploration beyond their lipid profile’, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, vol. 57, no. 16, pp. 3373-3383.

HSW 51 – Sympathetic Dominance with Dr Wayne Todd.

Healthy Shift Worker Podcast:

Over the past 2 years or so of recording podcast episodes, I’ve occasionally mentioned the words ‘sympathetic dominance’, as it’s a condition that I quite often see in many of my patients who work 24/7, in particular those who struggle to get good quality sleep.

Otherwise known as the ‘fight or flight’ arm of our autonomic nervous system, sympathetic dominance is when our bodies become ‘stuck’ in this fight or flight stress response for long durations at a time.

Unfortunately for shift workers, ongoing sleep deprivation actually makes us quite prone to this overactive stimulation of our nervous system which can lead to a whole host of chronic health complaints from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and weight gain, along with the suppression of our reproductive and immune system.  In addition, it becomes a bit of a Catch-22, in that sympathetic dominance actually switches off our parasympathetic nervous system, which plays a fundamentally important role in our ability to rest and sleep.

To discuss this topic in greater detail, I’ve brought in Dr Wayne Todd who is a chiropractor based in Sale, Victoria, who has written an entire book on sympathetic dominance titled ‘SD Protocol – Achieve greater health by learning to balance your physical, chemical and emotional wellbeing‘.

Tune in to hear Dr Todd go into some of the physical, chemical and emotional causes behind sympathetic dominance, and what we can do as shift workers to help dampen down this stress response.  This will in turn, have a positive flow on effect of reducing some of our risks of developing these chronic health conditions, along with improving the quality of our sleep.

Links mentioned in the podcast:


Insomnia: Is Gut Pathological Testing Really Necessary?

“Pathological testing?  Is it really necessary if I experience insomnia?”

This is a question that I often get asked by my patients who are having trouble falling asleep and/or experiencing ongoing, intermittent awakenings.  However pathological testing, in particular gut pathological testing, can be one of the BEST WAYS to really drill down, and get to the root cause of why someone may be struggling to sleep well.

This is because our gut can affect our sleep, and vice versa.

Of course we know shift work itself plays a huge role in someone’s ability to acquire optimal sleep.

Let’s face it, there are many rosters out there that aren’t exactly “user-friendly” when it comes to getting good quality sleep!

However, shift work is just one piece of what can be a very complex puzzle in those experiencing insomnia.

One of the topics rarely discussed in most therapeutic sleep consultations is how the gut, or our gastrointestinal tract may be influencing our ability to sleep.  This is because many of our neurotransmitters such as GABA (which is a calming amino acid that is crucial for restorative deep sleep) and serotonin (which is the pre-cursor to melatonin, our ‘sleepy hormone’), are located in our gut, and form an integral role in the biochemical pathway to sleep.

Quite simply, the health of our gut plays a HUGE role when it comes to our ability to sleep, and sleep well.

This is because …

  • If there is an undiagnosed parasite infection (for example), it can lead to serious imbalances in the nervous system due to the depletion of GABA and serotonin levels, thereby potentially contributing to insomnia.
  • If there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria, candida, yeast growth and/or parasite infections it can lead to inflammation in the gut, which in turn can contribute to nutritional deficiencies and poor sleep.
  • When we have a good balance of beneficial bacteria in our gut, they are able to produce and regulate hormones and neurotransmitters that can keep you feeling calm and relaxed, which are absolutely necessary in order for restful sleep to occur.
  • When our gut contains a healthy balance of gut microbes they are also able to lower levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone that can keep us awake by making us feel anxious.  Hello tossing and turning, and next-to-no sleep!

So depending on patient signs and symptoms, pathological testing such as a Complete Digestive Stool Analysis or CDSA, together with a Faecal PCR test (which tests for parasites) can be an excellent diagnostic tool (and investment) in patients with unresolved sleep issues.

After a comprehensive analysis of these tests is complete, a personalised treatment plan can then be put together which will help in the restoration of a healthy gut, which in turn, will lead to better quality sleep which is a wonderful thing for anyone working 24/7!

Audra x



Gottesmann, C 2002, ‘GABA mechanisms and sleep’, Neuroscience, vol. 111, no. 2, pp. 231-239.

Yano, J., Yu, K., Donaldson, G., Shastri, G., Ann, P., Ma, L., Nagler, C, Ismagilov, R, Mazmanian, S & Hsiao, E 2015, ‘Indigenous Bacteria from the Gut Microbiota Regulate Host Serotonin Biosynthesis’, Cell, vol. 163, no. 1, p. 264-276.

HSW 48 – Sleep Nutrition with Dr Libby Weaver.

Healthy Shift Worker Podcast:

Both sleep and nutrition are two of the biggest challenges for anyone working 24/7 so this week we chat with one of Australasia’s leading nutritional biochemists, Dr Libby Weaver on this important but often neglected topic – that being Sleep Nutrition.

Dr Libby Weaver is a respected international speaker, author of multiple books, and founder of the plant-based supplement range, Bio Blends, who embraces a unique three-pillared approach that explores the interplay between nutrition, emotions and the biochemistry of the body.

In this episode, Dr Libby talks about sleep-enhancing foods (and practices) that can help to enhance sleep, along with some of the biggest disruptors of sleep and why they’re not great for our stress-producing adrenal glands – particularly when working 24/7!

Links mentioned on the podcast:

To learn more about Dr Libby, visit her website by Clicking Here