Believe it or not, 95% of what causes sleep issues is about what you are doing during the day and has very little to do with issues once you hit the pillow.
Most people have experienced some type of sleep issues and there are many causes, ranging from blood sugar irregularity, bladder weakness, swelling in the prostate, hormonal imbalance, cortisol dysregulation, restless leg (from magnesium deficiency, iron or B vitamin anemias), thyroid issues, and many more. This article will focus on lifestyle changes that will help create a better environment for easy and restful sleep. Some of these you may have heard before and some might be new tricks!
Daytime therapies to enhance sleep:
- Upon waking sit in a well lit room with full sun on your face (within 10 min of waking).
- Eat a substantial breakfast with abundant protein (20-30 g), and try to consume 80% of your daily protein requirements at breakfast and lunch.
- Engage in some outdoor activity during the bright daylight hours around noon, even if it is only a 20-minute walk on the lunch hour. Bright, natural light suppresses melatonin, and helps to establish the normal daily rhythm, with the melatonin rising again as sleep approaches. If possible, do your daily exercise in the daylight hours before 1 PM. This allows the body’s metabolism to cool down before sleep. Physical exercise after sunset may be detrimental to sleep.
- Have an early dinner and ensure the stomach is empty before going to bed. Five to six hours after the last meal is optimal, but at least three hours is necessary. The body metabolism increases in response to food, and this elevation can promote insomnia.
- Don’t engage in intense mental activity for at least two hours before bedtime. Light reading is okay.
- Turn off all bright lights as soon as possible after sunset, and very strictly for the last hour before bedtime. Use gentle candlelight instead of bright room light if possible.
- Avoid the night cap- alcohol might help you fall asleep but it will keep you from reaching the deeper levels of REM sleep and can cause spikes in blood sugar, cortisol dysregulation, restless leg, and trips to the bathroom- all of which will wake you up!
- Create a sleep regimen. What the heck is a sleep regime? Well, most likely you are already doing some semblance of this. Taking a shower, brushing your teeth, reading on your phone and then turning out the light. But by adding (or subtracting) just a few steps in(to) your nightly routine you might really improve the quality of your sleep. The important bit here is that your sleep regimen be whatever works for you!
Here are some suggestions:
Take a bath- In the last 45-90 minutes before bed, take a neutral bath (not a hot bath). In a neutral bath, the water temperature should be 92-97 degrees F. It should feel somewhere between natural temperature and slightly warm to the individual. Add warm water as necessary to keep the bath from feeling cool. A treatment for insomnia could last from 15-60 minutes. During the last part of the bath, let the water cool down somewhat so it feels cool to the touch. The bathroom should be dimly lit, as with candlelight. A few drops of lavender essential oil may be added to the bath. Soft pleasant music may also be played. This treatment cools and slows the metabolism, while relaxing the nervous system. Lie down and rest in a horizontal position as soon as possible after the bath.
- Take a dose of mild sedative herbs 30-60 minutes before bed.
- Make herbal tea (Nighty-Night by Traditional Medicinals or Sleepy-time by Yogi Teas)
- Spray your pillow down with lavender essential oil or hydrosol
Cut Down on Mental Chatter
- Write down your to-do list so you don’t have to worry about it all night
- Try meditation or deep breathing exercises
When you lay down move your eyes from side to side with them closed. This simulates the Rapid Eye Movement phase of sleep and distracts your mind and it works amazingly well. Way better than counting ducks- or sheep or whatever barn animal your heart desires.
Lessen Ambient Light
- Use an eye cover
- Invest in black out curtains
- Read (NO TV or COMPUTER)
- Use black electrical tape and hunt down every blasted little blinking red, green, or blue light.They might be small, but they add up and can decrease production of melatonin.
- Choose your bed time and wake time so that you get 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep. Make this the same time every night, as this helps with sleep immensely!
- Do not get up and do anything (unless to use the restroom)-If you wake up before 8.5 hours of sleep, take another dose of your tincture, roll over and try to go back to sleep.
For recovery from sleep deficit, stay in bed for at least 9.5 hours, and take a twenty-minute nap in the mid-afternoon.
What does your sleep regimen look like? Do you have any favorite helpful tips to improve your quality of sleep or help you fall asleep? We want to hear about them!