Train your brain and body for restful sleep. Try these practical inexpensive tips which are proven to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Get exposed to natural light. Studies show that people who aren't exposed to enough natural light during the day have trouble producing melatonin at night. Open the blinds first thing upon waking to take in more natural light. Or, better yet, take the dog for a morning walk.
Drink tart cherry juice. In one study drinking 1oz. of tart cherry juice daily resulted in napping less during the day, sleeping longer and better at night. It appears that the juice stimulates melatonin.
Fuel early fuel well. Start the day with a balance of protein and slow-burning or low-glycemic carbohydrates, such as whole-grain toast and a poached egg to help keep energy on an even keel.
Dine for sleep. Research has suggested that for some people it may be helpful to eat dinner about four hours before bedtime and to include plenty of complex carbohydrates and food high on glycemic index like rice and potatoes. Limit bedtime snack to less than 200 calories, no closer than one hour before bedtime.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine (after noon) and chocolate (six hours prior to bedtime). It may also be helpful to avoid strenuous exercise before bedtime.
Get outside in the early afternoon. Step outside into sunlight. It can help you perk up, delaying that melatonin surge until you really need it.
Exercise. A Stanford study found that those who did aerobics or took brisk 30- to 40-minute walks four times per week for 16 weeks fell asleep faster and slept more deeply and longer.
Power down. One hour before bedtime, settle in and prepare for tomorrow. Journalize your thoughts “out of the brain and onto paper” so they don't race through your head as you're trying to sleep.
Wake up at the same time every day. By getting up at the same time every day including weekends, your “sleep hunger” which builds up throughout the day maxes out at the same time every night.
Create an atmosphere in your bedroom that is conducive to sleeping: low lights or darkness, a humidifier for dry climates, a comfortable temperature, and a good sleep surface. Don't use the bedroom to read, watch television, or work. Turn off the computer, tablets, phones 2 hours before bed.
Calm your thoughts before you sleep. Read, soak in a warm bath, listen to music, or meditate.Picture sunbathing near the ocean or lying beside a quiet creek—whatever image calms you. Use a lavender-scented diffuser in your bedroom. The scent is known to have sedative properties.
Ayurveda practitioners recommend going to bed by 10 pm at the latest to take advantage of your natural circadian rhythms. This allows you to use the sleepier, quieter Kapha time of night to help you fall asleep.
Melatonin is a great supplement to help naturally fall asleep. Most melatonin supplements are synthetic and may not get the results you were hoping for so look for a live source such as Melatonin Liposome from Physica Energetics.
Avoid using electronics at least two hours before bedtime (computer, iPad, iPhone, etc.). These electronic devices, particularly the T.V. and computer, have screens that emit blue light – almost the same as sunlight exposure. When exposed too close to bedtime, your brain shuts down the melatonin production believing it’s still daytime. With a healthy circadian rhythm, the brain begins secreting melatonin between 9 and 10 pm. When excessive light is introduced after sunset, you disrupt this natural cycle which then manifests as insomnia or un-restorative sleep patterns.
Darkness is your friend because a room with light disrupts your internal clock. The pineal gland produces the melatonin and serotonin that is so vital for biological balance; even a tiny glow from a clock or electronic gadget can interfere with sleep. The best remedy is to simply turn face of clock around or cover it.
To ensure the best possible sleep and healthy hormone production, the following is recommended:
Close bedroom door if external light or noise can easily be heard.
Avoid loud alarm clocks; instead get one that has a mellow sound or soft music. Waking
suddenly by jolting the body with loud noise is very stressful to the body.
Eliminate night lights in the bedroom and any light visible from the bedroom, if it cannot be closed off.
When possible use blackout shades, drapes or an eye mask when bedroom is not completely dark.
Keep bedroom temperature cool. Studies show the optimal sleeping room temperature is between 59-64 degrees. When you sleep, your body’s internal temperature drops to its lowest level, usually about four hours after falling asleep. Scientists report a cooler room (ambient air temperature) contributes to a better sleep because it mimics your body’s natural temperature drop. If you’re cold, use warmer nightwear, a lightweight organic down comforter or bedding but don’t raise the overall room temperature.
Eliminate all electronic devices because the electro-magnetic fields (EMF’s) disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, the same as light does. If you want to prove to yourself how much exposure is emitted from these devices, buy a Gauss Meter. They are available online and range from $49 to $250. For those that are already victims of an immune system disorder or reactive to EMF’s it is recommended to shut down all power to the bedroom by pulling that circuit breaker before going to bed. Remember that EMF’s are emitted especially by chargers (cell & cordless phones, iPads, etc.) and, therefore, should be kept as far from the bedrooms as possible, preferably at over 15-20 feet.
Your bed is for sleeping; not for watching T.V., reading, using an iPad, iPhone or listening to music. This room should always be your sanctuary for rest and rejuvenation and free from anything that stimulates the brain; even bright colors.
Avoid sharing your bed with pets, restless sleepers and those who snore. Recent studies show that many sleep disorders are actually from sharing a bed with someone that constantly interferes with your sleep. In these cases, you might be forced to sleep in a separate bed or even bedroom in order to get good quality and restorative sleep. I do know of individuals who sleep with their pets because it’s calming, if that’s the case and you don’t have allergies to them, enjoy but it is not healthy to sleep with your pets as much as you love them.
What encourages healthy sleep?
Avoid consuming liquids 2 hours before going to bed; this will eliminate or minimize trips to the bathroom that disrupts sleep. Be sure to void your bladder just before going to bed.
Maintain continuity in times you go to bed and awaken – even on weekends and holidays. Sleeping in, even occasionally, will disrupt your natural circadian rhythm. Your body recharges between 11 p.m. and 2: a.m. and is also the time your gallbladder “dumps” toxins. If you’re awake, those toxins may back-up into your liver – your chemical processing plant. We should take lessons from history when our ancestors went to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and Mother Nature intended for us as well.
Create a bedtime routine that includes medications/supplements, deep breathing, personal care, etc. Do whatever you need to maintain a pattern that becomes automatic so it’s stress free, even laying out your wardrobe or packing your brief case for the next day so you don’t have to think about it.
Consume a high protein snack a couple of hours before bedtime; this helps provide L-tryptophan needed for production of melatonin and serotonin – a neurotransmitter that controls our “feelings” such as depression, hunger, thirst, sleep and other “moods.” Turkey is my preferred snack because it’s high in natural L-tryptophan; the following foods also contain good levels
Baked potatoes with their skin
Gruyere (a type of Swiss cheese)
Meat (including red meats)
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Eat a small piece of fruit because it helps transport tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier.
Avoid grains and sugars before bed; they raise blood sugar and delay sleep. The sugar causes an unhealthy rise in blood sugar and when it “dumps” it can cause you to wake up and then unable to fall back asleep. Create a Zen space for relaxation before bed; a hot bath with organic sea salts and/or an
essential oil that is calming like lavender, hot shower, or even a steam bath. Your body temperature is naturally raised in the late evening and it will fall at bedtime helping to induce sleep – signaling the body it’s time for bed.
If you’re one of those who’s feet are always cold, consider placing a hot water bottle or microwaveable pack at the foot of your bed. If your feet are cold you will have trouble getting and staying asleep. I like an electric bed-warmer pad; I heat the bed about one-hour before bedtime and then unplug it before getting in to avoid EMFs.
Do not do any work at least two hours before bedtime so your brain can “unwind.”
If you’re as sensitive to caffeine as most of my clients, avoid anything that contains it after 2 p.m. Studies show caffeine is not efficiently metabolized in some people and they may feel its stimulating effects long after consumption. Also,keep in mind that some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, contain caffeine, know what you’re consuming!
Don’t exercise atleast two hours before bedtime as it will stimulate your body and mind rather than relaxing it; studies show exercise in the morning is best.
Studies show that sleep apnea can be caused by excess weight. If you need to lose those extra pounds, maybe knowing it can affect your sleep will provide that added incentive.
Avoid alcohol;the short-lived calming effect will have the reverse effect hours later because it prevents you from entering those deeper stages of sleep so necessary for repairing and rejuvenation.
Karen Johnson is a Certified Naturopathic Practitioner (ND)
Karen can be reached at KJ Wellness Solutions in San Juan Capistrano.