There’s nothing like a really good night’s sleep to get you through practically anything. Ever wondered why? Sleep produces several really positive factors for the body such as increasing concentration, boosting your immune system, helping you look younger and feel happier.
One of the most influential side effects to sleep is the decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone secreted by your adrenal gland in response to stress. Cortisol along with adrenalin is necessary during times of stress to mount our fight or flight response. The problem is that most of us can be a constant state of stress due to work, relationships, finance, etc…
This stressed state leads to higher than optimal levels of stress hormones which may influence health problems in our body such as: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and increased accumulation of fat around our abdomen. Sufficient rest and recuperation effectively reduces our stress hormone, cortisol. When we are sleep deprived, cortisol levels rise. As you can see regular, deep sleep has a huge impact on our overall health.
I think we’ve all experienced those lack-luster moments and even days when a decent sleep was merely a nice dream.
There have been countless studies to determine the various factors that can get in the way of a good night’s sleep – which we will come to in a moment, but the most important result was always the same in each study. Sleep is a most valuable feature in maintaining your total wellness.
So, what keeps your eyes open and your mind on “go”?
Here are some suggestions that may be contributing to your lack of rest…
or some thoughts to remedy the situation:
- 5-10 minutes of breathing exercises before going to bed or while lying in bed. This will help to calm the mind and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (your rest and digest system) which is necessary for relaxed and regenerative states…it is the “chill-out” system.
- Play some soft relaxing music that will stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system while doing your breathing exercises…this way you incorporate 2 processes at one time.
- If you have a ton of mental chatter going on in your head before bed, take 5-10 minutes and empty your thoughts onto a journal. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be a very powerful way to empty the mental chatter…the key is to write them down instead oft running through them in your head!
- Aim for a regular sleep schedule. If you are going to bed and waking up at different times every night your body has a difficult time getting into a rhythm. This includes napping. If you nap stick to naps no longer than 20 minutes otherwise you may have difficulty falling asleep at bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool and if you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the washroom, use only a night light or small light to guide your way. Light, especially fluorescent lights will decrease a hormone called melatonin which is essential for your sleep/wake cycle.
- Exercise earlier in the day. This will help to decrease stress, circulation and relax the body.
- Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep/night. The optimal time to fall asleep is before 10-11pm when our adrenal glands are re-cooperating.
- Avoid any stimulating beverages or supplements during the day. For example coffee, tea, pop, cappuccino’s and certain weight loss supplements etc… These products should be eliminated if you are having difficulty sleeping. They stimulate adrenal stress hormones that will rev you up and keep you awake. Switch to non-caffeinated herbal teas and more water.
- Avoid drinking fluids 2-3 hours before bed and empty your bladder before retiring for the night. This will prevent you from going to the washroom at 2 in the morning.
- Avoid eating too late at night. When we eat before bed our digestive tract has to work overnight, preventing us from getting a restful sleep. If you find that your blood sugar drops in the middle of the night and you wake up hungry then you may benefit from having a small snack about 1 – ½ hour before bed. An ideal snack to help balance blood sugar would be something with a small amount of carbohydrates, fat and protein such as a small piece of toast with almond butter or 8-12 almonds.
- Avoid exercise at night. Exercise is extremely beneficial but if you are having troubles sleeping then exercise at night should be avoided as it will increase your temperature and may be too stimulating to have a restful sleep.
There are many supplements that may be helpful in achieving a restful sleep but I would implement the above strategies first before starting another product. Remember that supplements only “supplement” the real work that you must do on your own. Once diet, and lifestyle have been addressed supplements can always be added in if they are necessary.
A very safe supplement that many people are often deficient in and can have huge benefits with sleep is magnesium. Magnesium, in doses of approximately 250 milligrams, may help induce sleep. Magnesium deficiency can be responsible for nervousness that prevents sleep. Magnesium-rich foods include kelp, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, and brewer’s yeast.
By incorporating more of these foods into your diet or supplementing with 250mg of magnesium citrate or glycinate before bed in conjunction with the above strategies you may find yourself drifting off to sleep with the ease and comfort that it was intended to be!