Naturally sleep has a direct impact on the performance of every function of the body, to be reflected by your energy, immune system, happiness, love-life, ability to manage stress, mental acuity, and many other things. And yet studies show that insomnia is a problem for nearly half of our population. Collectively, we’re a sleep-deprived people.
So, let’s figure this one out. Below are my best tips for a good night’s rest:
Consideration should be given to the bed you’re sleeping on and maintaining a good bedroom environment. After all, consider we spend a significant part of our lives in bed! So what you sleep on is important. Spring beds are the most common, but they’re not always without their flaws, one of them being the flame-retardant materials that they’re made out of which produces toxic off-gassing. And most mattress pads are also made from petroleum products that produce similar off-gas. This wouldn’t be a major concern with infrequent exposure, but, again, we’re talking a substantial portion of our time spent with these pollutants.
There are beds made from natural materials, making them healthier. Beds made of natural latex are becoming much more common. That’s my preference. Another option are futons consisting of purely cotton. Also sheets should be pure cotton or other natural materials, not petroleum-based polyester. And avoid blankets that are insulated with polyester too. Wash your sheets using only natural detergents. Stay away from the fragrant stuff. Again, the idea is to create a pure sleeping environment.
Cool temperatures seem to be more conducive to sleep for most people, but go with whatever makes you comfortable. I suggest cracking a window (assuming you’re not living next to the interstate). After all, oxygen is the most restorative thing we put into our body. Keep things quiet. The white noise from a fan turned on low can be very effective at counteracting background noise. There are “noise machines” made specifically for the purpose of sleep. And earplugs can be an outstanding tool to thwart the common late night distractions like the neighbor’s barking dog and bed mate’s snoring—especially when coupled with white noise.
The darker your bedroom the better. The brain produces melatonin in dark environments, so naturally this means turn off anything that emits any light. If you have an alarm clock, make sure the display is exclusively red light. Red light is the only light that doesn’t interfere with the brain’s production of melatonin. Still, even if your alarm clock is red light, I suggest blocking it from your view while you’re in bed. If you can see your alarm clock, you may find that you have a tendency to wake up at the same time every night. It un-instinctively trains the brain in a way most of us would not prefer. And personally when I wake up in the middle of the night, I fall back asleep much easier when I don’t know what time it is. An eye mask can also be a brilliant tool if making your room very dark is not possible.
On the odd nights where you find yourself tossing and turning, it can be helpful to get up and go into another room for five minutes. It may take a moderate amount of willpower. Go pet the dog. Or throw a jacket on and go outside on your patio to get some air and take a look at the stars. Then back under the covers.
Side note: it’s generally more restorative to sleep on your back and sides, rather than your stomach, at least for the majority of the night. Sleeping on your back and sides allows for deeper breathing versus sleeping on your stomach.
My philosophy is to use only plant-based supplements. That’s why I created Infinity Sleep, a sleep supplement designed to promote healthy and restorative sleep. It is made of passionflower, skullcap, and chamomile, known for their effectiveness in aiding with insomnia and providing benefits for improved neurological health. The powerful blend of these superfoods creates a unique synergy that makes Infinity Sleep superior to other sleep supplements. It can also help restore balance from daily stress and anxiety. These natural herbs have been utilized for thousands of years, and they can work for many people.
Sedative herbs like valerian root and kava-kava can potentially be effective sleep aides. But they are slightly toxic for the liver and the body’s tolerance generally goes up with these herbs in just a few days. I view them as something to be used for the short term only when you really need them.
Simple chamomile tea may be helpful. Try it with a teaspoon of honey. In fact, honey alone is effective for promoting sleep as it supports the body’s making of melatonin. If you’re making tea, try using only a little water making it concentrated to avoid the extra liquid intake for the reasons we discussed above.
The commonly known sleep supplement melatonin may be helpful in the short term, but one thing about melatonin in supplements that people don’t know is that it’s extracted from cow pineal glands. Yup. That’s a little weird in my opinion. These are the melatonin products labeled as “natural.” There are also melatonin supplements labeled as “vegan,” the downside being that they’re artificially lab-formulated.
Fortunately there are foods that enhance natural melatonin production in the brain. Few people know this! Bananas, pineapple, kiwi, cherries (especially tart), oats, tomatoes, rice, almonds, and goji berries. These all greatly enhance the melatonin production in the brain. On the flip side of your diet, the idea is to avoid melatonin-depleting foods. Yup, you guessed it—alcohol and sugar.
Another reason alcohol and sugar can interfere with sleep is because of the weakening effect they can have on the liver. Did you know the health of your liver can affect your sleep? This is well known in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. Try drinking milk thistle and dandelion tea, both known to be strengthening for the liver.
Lastly, have dinner at least a few hours before going to bed. Your end of the day meal should be about getting the restorative foods: more protein, less fuel from fats and carbs. And go for easier-to-digest foods. For the late-night snack, when you need it, go for honey with a little yogurt or almond butter.
The idea is to hydrate more during the day and less at night to keep yourself from waking up to make multiple trips to the bathroom. I generally curb my hydration after 6:00 p.m. (of course there are variable factors, like if you’re out dancing late, for instance; then of course you should drink more water). Having to get up once a night is pretty common, but twice a night or more, and you may not be getting an ideal amount of uninterrupted REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It’s approximately four hours of uninterrupted REM that serves as a bit of a “reset” for the nervous system. So avoid drinking lots of fluids in the evening unless necessary and, as you’ll recall from our chapter on water, this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re hydrating properly all day. As for caffeine, it can potentially affect the ability to sleep for up to eight hours. Plan your tea-time accordingly.
Trips to the bathroom, by the way, become a bigger problem for men than women as we get older. An enlarged prostate can lead to urinary frequency. Natural herbal supplements like saw palmetto and pumpkin seed extract (or even the whole pumpkin seeds) can be great support. Another common reason for both men and women having to make the late night trips is from blood pooling in the legs from longs days of sitting at the office. At the end of the day when the body lays flat, these stagnant fluids move around, naturally some of which is to be excreted. Try this: after work, lay flat on your back with your legs elevated for five minutes. If you’re still having to make frequent trips to the bathroom, it’s worth getting checked out by your doctor.
Exercise! This is an important factor when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Fatiguing your body with regular exercise will no question help you sleep better.
Naps. Cut back on long naps. Instead, try this revitalizing technique mid-day when you need it: rest ten minutes lying flat on your back. Lying flat decompresses the joints and muscles. And best of all, it puts the heart on the same level as the rest of the body, helping to re-circulate oxygen-rich blood head to toe. It will also help remedy the challenge I just mentioned above. A short rest on your back can be an outstanding pick me up and it doesn’t interfere with sleep later even if you snooze a bit.
Another lifestyle factor: What are you doing in the evening? When it comes to work-related activity, try to throw in the towel at least a few hours before going to bed, giving yourself time to unwind. Keep your activity before bedtime relaxing. Take a shower, sit outside gazing at the stars, listen to your favorite (relaxing) music, talk to a friend about something that makes you happy, watch a funny movie (no drama), or read something boring (obviously that wouldn’t include this exciting newsletter!).
Keep light low in the evenings, preferably exposing yourself only to incandescent bulbs, not fluorescent. As we discussed, the brain produces more melatonin when there is less light, naturally making you better able to sleep after the sun goes down. During the evening hours reduce your time looking at back-lit screens. That means getting away from your computer—and even more importantly your smartphone since it’s generally held closer to your face. Blue light emitted from screens like these reduces the production of melatonin in the brain. There are glasses made specially for filtering blue light. They may be a worthy consideration, especially if you work late at night.
Synchronize a little more with the sun if you can. This is the science of circadian rhythm. Staying up late can definitely interfere with the body’s natural cycles. Going to bed early and getting up early, if possible, is generally best. If waking up and not being able to fall back to sleep is typical for you, utilize a little discipline to get up earlier, spending a little less time in bed. And keep a regular sleep schedule.
Remember that, to a large degree, sleep is a function of lifestyle. All of these factors combine to affect the quality of your sleep. Take an inventory of what, in your lifestyle, is affecting your time under the covers. Examine your sleep environment. Give it some time to get your sleep rhythms back on track. It may take a week or two, but stick with these protocols and they’ll pay off. Sleep is no minor thing. Remember that it represents about a third of your life. So do it right to give your body the vitamin Z that it needs!
Wishing you sweet dreams,
Billy, Founder Infinity Greens