Sleep is incredibly important for your mental and physical health. Did you know that you can survive longer without food than you can without sleep? If you are having trouble sleeping lately you are not alone. This has been an incredibly stressful year and since so many of my patients have recently been telling me they are not sleeping well I decided to do another blog on sleep. Here are some general sleep tips to help everyone sleep better. Many of these tips appeared in “Get Your Groove Back” by Dr. Frank Lipman.
It is important to understand that it’s not just what you do at night that affects your sleep. Let’s start with what you can do during the day to help you sleep better at night.
Things you can do during the day:
Use a dawn-simulation device instead of an Alarm. These devices mimic the sunrise by gradually increasing the amount of light in your bedroom, and they are effective at establishing a healthy sleep cycle and gently rousing you from your sleep.Alarm clocks can interrupt the sleep cycle as they awaken you unnaturally, pushing sleep problems into succeeding days.
Take mindfulness breaks. Close your office door, or find a quiet spot somewhere and get comfortable. Take five-minute breaks throughout your day to focus on your breath and become aware of it.
Get some natural sunlight every day. As sunlight enters our eyes, it regulates and resets our biological clocks, which involves triggering our brains and bodies to release specific chemicals and hormones that are vital to healthy sleep, mood, and aging. Try to get at least half an hour exposure to natural sunlight every day.
Exercise regularly. Exercise is one of the best defenses against insomnia because it increases the amplitude of our daily rhythms and signals the body to promote deeper sleep cycles. The best time to exercise is four to six hours before bedtime, but studies also show that people are more likely to stick to a routine if they exercise first thing in the morning. Try to avoid exercising after 8 p.m., since it may be too stimulating to your body.
Cut way back on caffeine. Caffeine, even in small doses, blocks sleep neurotransmitters, the calming chemicals your body produces to make you sleepy. If you are having a problem with sleep, try to eliminate or cut way back on your caffeine intake.
Try an elimination diet. For two weeks, eliminate sugar, corn syrup, sodas, refined grains, and processed foods. These are metabolic disruptors, which overstress the organs involved in hormone regulation and can seriously affect your sleep cycles. In addition, avoid dairy and gluten products, especially wheat, since these can cause food sensitivities that can affect your sleep cycle, too.
Eat in accordance with your body rhythms. Your digestive-system function peaks at lunchtime, so most of your food should be eaten by then. Your metabolism slows down in the late afternoon, leaving you poorly prepared to digest a large dinner, so make a smaller evening meal your standard. Eat at least three hours before going to sleep. Give your body a chance to recover and rebuild, instead of having to work on digestion while you sleep. What you eat at what time of day also makes a big difference. Prioritize proteins and fats throughout the day -they are essential for steady energy. Include healthy carbohydrates at night since they facilitate relaxation.
Review the medications you are taking. Medications such as antihistamines, diuretics, antipsychotics, antidepressants, decongestants, asthma medications, and some blood pressure medicines can cause sleeplessness. Discuss your medication schedule with your healthcare practitioner if you are struggling with sleep.
Things you can do at night:
Create an electronic sundown. By 10 p.m., stop sitting in front of your computer or TV screen and switch off all other electronic devices. They are too stimulating to the brain and inhibit the release of sleep neurotransmitters.
Prepare for sleep. Dim the lights an hour or more before going to bed, take a warm bath, and listen to calming music or soothing sounds.
Practice a relaxation technique. Many people tell me they can’t switch off their racing minds and therefore have trouble sleeping. Do some breathing exercises, restorative yoga, or meditation to shift your brain into a more relaxed, receptive mode.
Create a regular routine. Going to bed around the same time, even on weekends, is the most important thing you can do to establish good sleep habits. The body clock’s ability to regulate healthy sleep patterns depends on consistency.
Keep the room as dark as possible. Our bodies need complete darkness for production of the important sleep hormone melatonin. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of sleep hormones. Cover all the lights of any electronic device – alarm clocks, computers, charging indicators on cell phones, etc., or remove them from the bedroom altogether – and use dark shades to cover the windows.
Keep the room cool. Lowering ambient temperature sends a feedback signal to the brain’s sleep center that it’s nighttime, and that it needs to release more sleep hormones. A sleeping temperature of 60 to 65 degrees F is best for most people, even in the winter.
Block out noise. If noise from the street, an upstairs neighbor, pets, or a snoring bed partner is a problem, try using earplugs, an electronic device that makes “white noise,” or a fan to drown out the sound.
Do not rely on sleeping pills. Sleeping pills mask sleep problems and do not resolve the underlying causes of insomnia. Many sleep studies have concluded that long-term use of sleeping pills can do more harm than good. They can be highly addictive, and studies have found them to be potentially dangerous.
Don’t use alcohol to fall asleep. Although alcohol induces sleep initially, as the body breaks it down, it sends the wrong metabolic signals, which can cause you to wake up later on. It usually impairs sleep during the second half of the night, leading to a reduction in your overall rest.
Take nutrients that calm down the nervous system. Instead of sleeping pills or alcohol, try some mellowing supplements or herbs. Magnesium can be helpful, as can calcium and melatonin. Herbs like lemon balm, passionflower, chamomile, magnolia, and valerian root, can also help.
I recommend Metagenics formula MyoCalm PM to my patients. It contains Valerian root and it also contains magnesium and calcium which help relax muscles.
Continue your Chiropractic care. Many of my patients tell me that the combination of Active Release Technique® and Chiropractic adjustments really helps them sleep better.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly one-third of people who have undergone a chiropractic adjustment say they experience an immediate improvement in sleep.
If you have any questions about this blog or about your health in general, feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org