By Dr. Dana Myatt
Having a good night of sleep is essential for having a good day.
Lack of sleep can cause mental fogginess and fatigue the following day. This in itself decreases mental clarity but it also decreases willpower. Perhaps this explains why lack of sleep is associated with weight gain. When a person feels fatigued, they often reach for junk food as a self-medicating “pick me up.”
The real cure for all of this is to get back to sleeping well.
It may take a few days and night of experimentation, but the long-term benefits of “sleep hygiene” are well worth the effort. Plus, a good night’s sleep naturally is MUCH safer than merely “doing a Mikey” (Michael Jackson) and drugging yourself to sleep. For a refresher course, you can learn about the extreme danger of sleep drugs here:
- Ambien Dangers – Maybe We’re Right After All?
- Popular Sleeping Pill Sends Thousands to Emergency Rooms
- Kavinace Or The Lunesta Moth? You Decide!
- Dying For A Good Night’s Sleep?
- Got PTSD? Want To Make It Worse? Just Take This Drug!
Here is your checklist for sleeping soundly.
First, The Basics
1.) Daily activity/exercise. If your only daily activity is jumping to conclusions while you work at your desk, you’ll find it much more difficult to get a good night’s rest. Do something daily that uses your entire body. Walking, biking, yoga, strength training are all good. Or go wash your car. Just be sure to engage in 20-30 minutes of full-body activity most every day of the week.
Be sure not to exercise too close to bedtime as this can have a stimulating effect. Early in the day is best for circadian rhythm setting and for rest-of-the-day motivation, but any time before dinner will work. Just not right before bedtime unless it is gentle stretching or yoga.
2.) Watch what you eat at night. If you are waking up between midnight and 3 a.m., your diet could be the problem. A dinner or late-night snack with simple carbohydrates or alcohol often triggers “reactive hypoglycemia” in the wee hours of the morning. As a result, the body releases adrenaline and BOOM! Being wide-awake, often with mind racing, is the result.
If you have a dinner with high simple carbs (which I don’t recommend for many other reasons), be sure to include fiber, protein and fat which will cause the carbs to be released more slowly, thus preventing a middle-of-the-night blood sugar drop.
3.) Regular bedtimes. Preferably 10 p.m. but no later than 11 p.m. “Night owls,” you’ve been warned. Regular bedtimes are important to good sleep for many reasons. Here are two of the most important ones.
First, the body manufactures melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone and potent antioxidant, during darkness but specifically during the hours of 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Being in bed with eyes closed during these times maximizes natural melatonin production.
Second, our 24-hour “circadian rhythms,” which sets the pace for hormones released during a 24-hour cycle, is set by what time we go to bed and also what time we exposed to natural daylight in the morning. “Early to bed and early to rise” was actually very healthy advice.
If you are used to staying up late, you can re-set your circadian rhythms by going to bed 1/2 hour earlier every night for a week. Turn back your bed time by 1/2 hour each week until you are at your target bedtime. And do get up at a regular time, usually just before or shortly after sunrise.
It may take a few weeks to reset your natural circadian rhythms but the health benefit will be well worth your effort.
4.) Evaluate your sleep space. You need a dark, quiet sleep space with a comfortable mattress. Noise, light or a bad mattress can all interfere with a good night’s sleep.
5.) Manage nighttime urination. If you get up to urinate at night, try minimizing fluid intake after 6 p.m. This doesn’t mean don’t have fluids, but only drink what you need to take supplements, etc. and no extra unless you are truly thirsty. If you DO get up to urinate, go right back to bed. Don’t “spook around” the house. Don’t turn bright lights on. Don’t check email or eat a snack. You will find that you fall quickly back asleep if you minimize your “up time.”
6.) Maintain good hormone balance. Hormone deficiencies can cause night sweats, hot flashes and lighter sleep in both women and men. If you are over the age of 40, maintaining good hormone balance should be a part of your successful aging process anyway.
7.) Correct nutrition deficiencies. A lack of magnesium (a common dietary deficiency), protein (amino acids are needed for neurotransmitter production) or deficient digestion can all contribute to disturbed sleep.
Next, The “Extras”
If you have implemented all of the above and are still having trouble sleeping, then something “extra” (a sleep aid) might be in order. These should not replace the basics listed above, however.
1.) Magnesium: These are plenty of great ways to take this to aid sleep. Try 200mg by mouth near bedtime. Or rub magnesium oil into your calves or elsewhere. Or soak your feet in hot water with epsom salts added before bedtime. Since magnesium is a relaxing mineral and also the most common mineral deficiency in the US, getting an extra dose at bedtime is often all that is needed to improve sleep.
2.) Melatonin: 3mg at bedtime. Use either a sublingual or a timed-release formula. If you are deficient in melatonin (production declines with age), this will help, sometimes greatly. An additional health benefit is that melatonin is a potent antioxidant that crosses the blood-brain barrier, meaning that it provides good protection for the brain and nervous system.
3.) Lavender: Long used in hospital medicine in Europe, the aroma of lavender reduces anxiety and induces sleep. Dosages of pain-relieving drugs can often be reduced just by adding lavender (scent) to the pillow. That’s powerful stuff!
To use, put 2-3 drops of lavender essential oil on a cotton ball and slip in inside your pillow case. Or use lavendar herb in a little “pillow” under your sleeping pillow.
Or try “Lavella,” an encapsulated form of lavender with good clinical studies showing it effective in reducing anxiety. We have free samples at Wellness Club and we’ll be happy to send a sample with your next order
4.) Kavinace: 1-2 caps at bedtime. This is an amino acid formula that is highly effective for many. It is one of our best-selling sleep aids. Begin with only 1 cap, that may be all you need.
Experiment with the above suggestions. If your sleep doesn’t get a lot better in short order, consider scheduling a brief consult with me. We’ll put our heads together to see what is causing the disruption.
As you know, sleep is most important to both your daytime energy AND your clear thinking. So let’s “git ‘er fixed”!
To your good night’s sleep,
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