After having children, I discovered how much I love sleep….because I was not getting any! Oh wonderful, beautiful, elusive sleep. In my on-going exploration of health and nutrition I decided to investigate sleep optimization, and here is I found to work the best for me and my family.
First, if you are having trouble sleeping, you should try to get to the source of your insomnia and eliminate that source if possible.
Getting to the source…
Dr. Andrew Weil lists the potential causes of insomnia:
- Exposure to extreme temperature fluctuations or environmental noise
- Disruption in sleep/wake patterns due to jet lag, work schedules, or other reasons
- Side effects of medications
- A change in the surrounding environment
- Premenstrual syndrome, menstruation, pregnancy or menopause
- Depression (the most common cause)
- Chronic pain
- Kidney disease
- Restless leg syndrome
- Heart failure
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sleep apnea
If no source of your insomnia is discovered, then try my tips…
1) Cut out caffeine (caffeine can stay in our systems for anywhere from 5-15 hours!). If you can’t cut it out completely, then go half-caff and have your last cup no later than noon. Caffeine is in chocolate too, sorry to burst your bubble.
2) Eat the majority of your harder to digest protein earlier in the day. Meat is harder for your body to digest (especially if you don’t chew it well enough) and if you eat a large meal that focuses heavily on meat later in the evening, your body will be focusing on digestion all night instead of restful sleep and detoxification. Gelatin is a great source of easy to digest protein. Stir some gelatin into your tea or have a cup of bone broth. Gelatin also helps with sleep.
3) Buy a bed that is right for you. For example: a sleep number bed. My husband likes firm and I prefer soft. A good bed is a great investment!
4) Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary:
- Block out all light… I mean it! Even the tiniest amount of light can decrease melatonin production
- Install blinds that black out your windows
- Turn alarm clocks to face the other direction, so you can’t see the glowing numbers. Try a more natural alarm clock that uses gentle light to wake you up in the morning: a wake-up light
- Wear a night mask
- Wear earplugs if you need to or turn on some white noise like a fan or a noise machine. There are tons of white noise apps out there to!
- Get the TV out of your bedroom…absolutely…go do it right now, I’ll wait
- Keep the temperature of your bedroom below 70 degrees
5) Install F.lux on your electronic devices so you aren’t exposed to blue light emissions in the evening hours (this also decreases melatonin production). F.lux is free so what are you waiting for?
6) Turn your lights down in the evening hours as the sun goes down, or use candle light. This naturally stimulates melatonin production and starts our sleep-cycle. On the flip-side you will also want to make sure you have exposure to the wide-spectrum light (natural day light) during the day. This boosts serotonin levels, which increases melatonin production later in the day for restful sleep. Bright light is especially important to get earlier in the day so get outside in the morning!
7) Go to bed when you start to feel tired, or before. Don’t force yourself to stay up and watch all of your favorite recorded TV shows so you can “relax” at the end of your busy day. If you feel tired then go to bed. You will be much happier you chose to forgo TV and get some extra (much needed!!!) sleep.
8) Avoid alcohol before bedtime. It increases wakefulness and decreases sleep quality.
9) Avoid sugar before bedtime. This can cause blood sugar fluctuations that can wake you up in the middle of the night. Blood sugar drops, cortisol spikes and you wake up.
10) Invest in some orange safety glasses. These also block blue light emissions. I wear mine every night, whether my husband likes it or not!
11) Supplement when absolutely necessary, and only temporarily:
- Melatonin: this is generally recommended to take when adjusting to jet-lag and traveling across time zones. Not recommended to use regularly, remember it is a hormone after all
- Tryptophan/5-HTP: boosts serotonin and thus increases melatonin production
- Chammomile tea: a mild sedative and anti-anxiety agent, helps you relax and fall asleep
- Kava tea: a mild sedative used for it’s ability to treat insomnia, restlessness and other nervous disorders
12) Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Yes even on the weekends. This allows your body to get into a sort of sleep routine. Plus, on the weekends you can really get a lot done around the house in the morning. I sure do!
13) Make sure you are getting enough magnesium. Magnesium has a calming effect on the nervous system and allows you achieve a deeper level of sleep. It also decreases cortisol production. Every noise waking you up at night? You might be low in magnesium. Do you get leg cramps at night? You might be low in magnesium. You can supplement orally with supplements like Natural Calm or make your own magnesium oil to apply topically. I use my homemade magnesium oil every night. You can also take a bath with epsom salts.
14) Stop drinking water 2 hours before bedtime (the exception being your sleepy time tea). This way you wont be getting up to go pee right after you fall asleep.
15) De-stress! How do you expect to fall asleep when your mind is running a million miles an hour and you are rigid with tension? Practice meditation, get a massage, get regular exercise, do yoga, or practice deep breathing.
What tips and tricks do you use to fall asleep? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to give them a try!