I've always talked about how the essentials of diet, hydration and sunshine are intricately linked together. Well, here’s another one: sleep!
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, and mental health.
During sleep is when everything in body is repaired from the general wear and tear of everyday life. So sleep when it comes to our health is essential.
However, statistically insomnia is a challenge for nearly half of our population. If you think about it, collectively, we are a sleep-deprived nation.
So, let’s figure this one out.
Remember that my emphasis with supplements is to use those that are exclusively from plants.
Many adaptogenic non-sedative herbs can simply have a calming effect on the body’s nervous system. Good examples are lavender, tulsi, chamomile passionflower, and skullcap. These are ingredients included in Infinity Stress Relief. Herbs like these have been utilized for thousands of years, and they can be very effective.
Sedative herbs like valerian root and kava-kava can be effective sleep aides but are toxic for the liver when used frequently. Sedative qualities of hemp CBD products and magnesium may be helpful, however the body can develop a tolerance.
Melatonin supplements can also be helpful, but after a few days the body develops a tolerance for these as well.
Heads up that melatonin supplements are extracted from the pineal gland of cows. Most people don’t know that. 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.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the body, and a healthy lifestyle is a direct link with improved melatonin production.
Fortunately there are foods that can enhance natural melatonin production in the brain. Few people know this! Bananas, pineapple, kiwi, cherries, oatmeal, tomatoes, rice, and almonds. These foods enhance melatonin production in the brain.
On the flip side, alcohol and sugar are melatonin depleting, unsurprisingly.
Sugar and alcohol have a weakening effect on the liver, and the health of your liver can affect your sleep, as well.
Another dietary factor is eating a meal right before bed can be disruptive to your sleep. So do what you can to have dinner a few hours before going to bed.
For the late-night snack, when you need it, go for a little almond butter with honey. Honey also stimulates the production of melatonin.
Late night trips to the bathroom
The idea is to hydrate more during the day and less in the evening in order to prevent the need for making multiple trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I generally curb my hydration after 6:00pm (of course there are variable factors, like if you’re exercising in the evening, for instance). Having to get up once a night is fine, but twice or more, is likely to interfere with your REM sleep (REM standing for ‘rapid eye movement’). REM serves as a reset for the nervous system, and a minimum of approximately four hours of uninterrupted REM is what the brain needs.
So the idea is to avoid drinking lots of fluids in the evening unless necessary and, as you’ll recall from Chapter 9 on water, this won’t be a problem if you’re hydrating properly all day.
As for caffeine, it can affect sleep for up to eight hours. So you might want to plan your tea-time accordingly.
A contributing factor to late-night trips to the bathroom is municipal water often lacks trace minerals including sodium and potassium which are important links for water to be absorbed into the body’s cells. Adding just a pinch of Celtic sea salt to your water can be an effective remedy. Note - this does not include regular table salt which lacks potassium.
These trips to the bathroom, by the way, can become a bigger problem for men than women as we age due to an enlarged prostate. Natural herbal supplements like saw palmetto and pumpkin seed extract (or even whole pumpkin seeds) can offer great support for this purpose.
Yet another cause for making late night trips is from blood pooling in the legs due to the simple forces of gravity and long days of sitting at the office. At night when the body lays flat, these stagnant fluids circulate, some of which are to be eliminated via the bladder.
Try this manual reset for blood flow mid-day: set your timer and rest ten minutes flat on your back. This way the heart is on the same level as the rest of the body, helping to re-circulate oxygen-rich blood head to toe. This can be an outstanding pick me up and it doesn’t interfere with sleep later (like naps can) even if during the ten minutes you snooze a bit.
Cool bedroom temperatures cue the the body’s rhythm for better sleep. Try setting your thermostat between sixty and sixty eight degrees.
I suggest cracking a window for fresh air. After all, oxygen is the most restorative thing we put into our body.
Keeping things quiet. The white noise from a fan turned on low can helpful with 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.
Generally, the darker your bedroom the better. The brain produces melatonin in dark environments. Eye masks can always be useful for this purpose. If you have an alarm clock, make sure the display is red light. Red light is the only light that doesn’t interfere with the body's production of melatonin. If you can see a clock from your bed, you may find that you develop a tendency to wake up at the same time every night. When waking up in the middle of the night, being unaware of the time can be more conducive to falling back asleep.
Consideration should be given to the bed you’re sleeping on. After all, 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 the flaws being the flame-retardant materials of which they are made that emit toxic gas. And most mattress pads are also made from petroleum products that give off similar 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 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 sheets using only natural detergents. Stay away from the fragrant stuff. Again, the idea is to create a pure sleeping environment.
Regular exercise (which we are going to talk about in the next chapter) is a huge influence for good sleep. Additionally, exercise burns stress hormones which is a contributing factor as well.
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. Do your best to keep your activity before bedtime relaxing. Taking a hot shower or bath can be extremely helpful.
If possible, dim the light in your home in the evening, preferably exposing yourself only to incandescent light - not fluorescent light. The brain produces less melatonin when exposed to artificial light. ‘Blue light’ emitted from back-lit screens, like computers and phones, is a challenge for this reason. Glasses are made specially for filtering blue light and are a worthy consideration if you are frequently looking at screens after sunset.
Do what you can to maintain a relatively consistent sleep schedule. This also optimizes the body’s circadian rhythm. And synchronize a little more with the sun if you can. Staying up late can 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 touch of discipline to get up earlier, spending a little less time in bed. And keep that regular sleep schedule.
Nights you find yourself tossing and turning, it can be helpful to get up and sit in another dimly lit room for a reset. Give it ten minutes. Then back to your bedroom and under the covers.
Note that sleeping on your back and sides allows for deeper breathing, versus sleeping on your stomach. Your body has its natural instincts, but try starting out on your back.
There’s no question that your sleep largely determines your health and quality of life. All of the factors we covered link together, 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. Use the right supplements if you have a need for them. Give these protocols I’ve shared some time. It may take a few weeks, 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!