The importance of sleep
Everyone knows how good it feels to have a complete and restful sleep, waking up feeling refreshed and ready to go. Many things can prevent a completely refreshing sleep. The benefits of sleep are well known and include prevention of obesity, depression, anxiety and dementia. Our brain and body is allowed to detox during our slumber and causes a refreshed feeling upon awakening, that is, if we slept well! Below you will find some helpful hints for good sleep.
Insomnia can come from many causes. Important to make sure you are not doing something that might be contributing. Also, medical conditions and medications can prevent sleep as well. Look up the side effects of the medications and supplements you take to make sure that none of them are contributing. Sleep apnea is a treatable condition that requires prompt attention and consideration to prevent complications.
Tips for better sleep:
1. Since blue light blocks the production and natural secretion of melatonin (the sleep hormone), it is very important to completely block all light from the bedroom. This includes all light from TV’s, clocks, outside of the windows ect. If you must have a nightlight, red light is the best to use to allow for natural circadian rhythms.
2. Intense exercise before sleep can stimulate the release of cortisol and prevent us from being able to sleep well. Try gentle exercise before sleep such as yoga, stretching and walks. Save intense exercise for AM and preferably not for four hours before bed.
Creating space for sleep
3. Create a sacred space for sleep in your bedroom. Do not watch TV, work or read in bed! You want your bed to be a place for sleep and sexual activity only. The mind will begin and continue working in your sleep more likely if you work in your bedroom. Avoid strong scents and make sure your pillows and mattresses are as chemical free as possible. Foam mattresses can outgas harmful chemicals and impair refreshing sleep. A simple mattress cover can help if needed. Organic cotton pillows are often a good option.
4. Do not worry in bed. One thing is for sure, if you worry in bed about sleep, it will serve to perpetuate your insomnia! If you have been in bed for more than 15 minutes and do not feel sleepy, get up and reset. Take a bath with Magnesium salts and perhaps a self massage. Try again when feeling tired. Perhaps a sublingual Melatonin 5mg right before bed.
5. Avoid caffeine. Caffeine has a 4 hour half life, so even some of the caffeine you had in the morning might be around later in the day and evening. It is best to avoid all caffeine after 12 noon and drink filtered water as your drink of choice.
6. Avoid larger meals in the evening. Reflux can trigger issues with awakening and sleep.
7. Avoid MSG and food additives. Some people are sensitive to additives more than others. MSG goes by over 20 names and will often be listed as a “natural flavor”, maltodextrin, yeast extract and many others. Safer to eat foods without labels for your evening meals and note if you sleep better.
8. Avoid artificial colors and preservatives.
Electromagnetics and sleep
9. Avoid artificial electromagnetic energy as much as possible. This likely should be number 1! I have seen a dramatic increase in the incidence of insomnia in my practice. One of the most common side effects of artificial electromagnetic energy is insomnia (other common effects are ringing in the ears, fatigue, tachycardia or rapid heart beat and headaches). This energy is known to heat the brain especially when applied too closely. Cellphones are one form of electromagnetic energy and it is recommended that they not be used against the head.
Remove as many electronic devices from your bedroom as possible including smart phones, wireless clocks and phones, TV’s, wifi routers and yes, baby monitors. Plug wifi into a timer that shuts off every night while it is not needed. Smart Meters too close to the bed can be an issue as well. Start with the things that are easy to change. Turn your phones to nightshift mode at sunset everyday (this can be done in your settings). Shift to airplane mode and leave phone off if possible. You can also try using smart blue blocking glasses at work and in the evenings to improve your sleep. I do not recommend using any fitbit type devices to monitor sleep. If you think electromagnetics are causing some or all of your problems, there are other things you can do to help. Magnesium Threonate can be beneficial. Check for heavy metal levels with hair or provoked urine testing. LessEMF.com sells some devices that may help.
10. Add in nighttime rituals that promote sleep such as stretching, warm epsom salt baths and dim lights. I also like to recommend slow 3-4-5 breaths to help turn off some of the fight or flight mechanism. This is done by inhaling deeply for 3-4 seconds and exhaling for a slow count of at least 5. Try this throughout the day to help calm anxiety as well.
I hope you are sleeping better already!