Having troubles getting to sleep or staying asleep is a common issue for many of us. I feel sometime like a broken record when I mention to patients simple things that can be done at home to help with sleep. Obviously if someone is having issues sleeping above and beyond not being able to shut their mind off and get to sleep, there are a ton of things that can be done to help. Read below or check out the video to learn how you can get the best sleep of your life tonight!
Sleep Hygiene - The Basics
We're constantly exposed to screens - during the day, into the evenings, even our alarm clocks are now our phones. What do we NOT do with our phones these days?! All the more reasons to shut that stuff down about 1-2 hours before bed. Trust me, you'll thank me once you feel the liberating freedom you can experience when you separate yourself from your phone.
If you're using a device to read a book, you can change the screen lighting to a nighttime mode or a sepia mode, which makes the screen have a yellow film over it. The yellow tint can help lessen the impact screens have on our brains in the evening and allow our bodies to adhere to a natural circadian rhythm. This means we're better able to produce adequate amounts of melatonin in the evenings to help us get to sleep and stay asleep.
Overhead lighting is another offender of natural melatonin production. Our bodies can get confused about what time of day it is when we're constantly exposed to overhead lighting in the evenings. I spoke about this in my last post (which you can find HERE). The point is - shut down overhead lighting and put on table lamps in the evening. Better yet, use salt lamps, or lamps that cast about 60 LUX intensity of light. This is technically the amount that we're still able to naturally produce melatonin at in the evenings.
A cooler place to sleep
The hypothalamus, an area in the brain involved in sleep regulation, requires a cooler environment to get to sleep at night. Ever try to get to sleep in the dead of summer on a sweltering hot night? You'll understand what I mean - it's difficult and can cause us to become rather restless. Make sure your bedroom is a couple degrees cooler than the rest of your house if you're able to. But obviously not so cold that you're freezing during the night. Slightly cooler means better sleep.
Stop drinking liquids after 8pm, or 2 hours before you go to bed
This can help tremendously in preventing you from having to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. While some people, women especially, still aren't able to hold their bladders throughout the night, it's still worthy trying this out so you can prevent having to get out of bed for reasons that can easily be prevented.
Lifestyle Measures and Supplements
Cut the caffeine
Caffeine has a half life of about 8 hours in our bodies, meaning whatever time you to go sleep at, stop drinking coffee about 8hrs prior to that. Better yet, try to cut out the coffee and caffeinated tea after 2pm completely. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine that others and the effects of caffeine can linger far longer than 8 hours in these people. If you're someone who's like that, I'd try cutting caffeine out of your diet completely for about a week to see how much improvement you can get with the quality of your sleep. After all, if you're able to get to sleep at night, chances are you won't NEED to have caffeine to get yourself going the next day.
Get your vitamin B12 and cortisol levels checked
Low vitamin B12 is classically linked to waking around 2-3am. If you notice you're constantly waking at this time, it might be worth getting your vitamin B12 level checked. Cortisol dysregulation can also cause the classic 2-3am waking and there are a couple tests that can be done to check to see how exactly your body is utilizing and breaking down cortisol in your system. This is something your local naturopathic doctor can help you with.
Herbs and nutrients for sleep
This is something that I HIGHLY recommend you see a naturopathic doctor for. Herbs and orthomolecular doses of nutrients should be properly prescribed by a naturopathic doctor who is knowledgable about your health history and any medications you might be taking. Herbs and nutrients should be treated like pharmaceuticals and aren't something to go around self-prescribing all the time.
That being said, there are a couple herbs that are safe to try out before bed. Chamomile and peppermint are readily available and easy enough to find at your local grocery store. Organic is always best and you can even make your own peppermint tea yourself by infusing organic, fresh peppermint leaves into hot water for about 10 minutes. Try sipping a chamomile and/or peppermint tea about an hour before bed. It's harmless to do and can provide added relaxation into the evenings.
For nutrients, magnesium is a relatively safe product to try in the evenings, although dose and type of magnesium are things that, once again, your naturopath can help you with. Taking a couple hundred milligrams of magnesium before bed can help calm down your brain and encourage relaxation. Same with L-theanine, an extract from green tea. L-theanine is a relatively safe product that has little to no side effects or drug interactions. L-theanine can drive our brain into alpha wave state, which is our focus and concentration state. L-theanine is great for a worried mind in the evenings - it can help focus those scattered thoughts and get you focused on sleep.
Stress management for the win!
A broken record here...again...but stress management is such a HUGE part of our lives that I feel many of us don't quite understand or implement properly. Our lives are busy and demanding and it's no wonder that we also can't sleep at night because of it. All the more reason I've created a FREE stress management masterclass! You can sign up and get all the details about it HERE. Join me on March 30th at 5pm AST to learn what you can do to help with your stress levels so you can have more energy, get better sleep and feel a little bit more like yourself.
You don't have to toss and turn every night. There's hope. Try these simple steps tonight so you can get the best sleep of your life! And if you need any other help, I'm always here - you can schedule a visit with me by contacting me HERE.