Updated: Dec 29, 2021
One of the FIRST things to change when changing your health, and your life.
Sleep is a... Funny thing. It's absolutely necessary for health and vitality, yet many of us have trouble getting enough. Whether that is self induced, or because of impeding factors inhibiting from getting adequate ZZZs.
It's hard, or impossible, to pinpoint any one thing that is the CAUSE of your sleep issues, as sleep issues can stem from a multitude of factors. Research shows that sleep quality is directly correlated to every aspect of your health, and every essential of health. Addressing every one of these essentials is, well, essential! Optimizing sleep is a delicate balance between proper nervous system functioning, nutrition and nutrient balance, gut health, hormonal balance, stress and psychological health, etc.
Why Value your ZZZ's??
Well.. what happens when we are sleep DEPRIVED???
Dramatically impaired performance.. Physically and mentally. (...earth shattering, I know).
Just a few more hours a week can significantly improve your memory and performance in literally every aspect.
Significantly depresses immune system
Negatively impacted HRV (heart rate variability), and how your nervous system is able to adapt to stress.
Reduced recovery and healing
Majority of these vital processes take place during sleep!!
Can lead to a pre-diabetic state (Affects blood sugar regulation)
Melatonin production (Improves ability to fall asleep, as well as other positive physiological effects such as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits).
When circadian rhythms are off, melatonin production drops... which also hinders your mind and body to fall asleep, and get a restful night. Melatonin is also a strong antioxidant that combats nasty free radicals.
Melatonin is released by pituitary gland 'keeping you looking young'
Sleep deprivation leads to dysregulation of hormone production:
Growth hormone is primarily released at night! Testosterone is also released in higher quantities at night. Depriving your body of these normal fluctuations reduces the body's ability to recover and heal.
Cortisol spikes after 11pm to keep you awake.. so get to bed earlier! Take advantage of the time without excess cortisol running through your body.
Tumors have been shown to grow 2-3X faster (lab animals w/sleep dysfunction)
Increased heart disease and blood pressure
Along with other stress related issues; ulcers, constipation, mood disorders.
"Sleepiness affects vigilance, reaction times, learning abilities, alertness, mood, hand-eye coordination, and the accuracy of short-term memory. Sleepiness has been identified as the cause of a growing number of on-the-job accidents, automobile crashes and multi-model transportation tragedies."
Mental Benefits of Sleep
• One night of good sleep can improve your ability to learn new motor skills by 20%.
• Eight hours of quality sleep increases your ability to gain new insight into complex problems by 50%.
• Improves neuronal activity
• Improves memory consolidation
• Reduces risk of neurological conditions
• Needed to flush out and detoxify brain
Physical Benefits of Sleep
• Good sleep promotes skin health and a youthful appearance.
• Sleep improves hormonal balance:
:increases testosterone and growth hormone levels.
:Sleep controls optimal insulin secretion.
• Sleep increases athletic performance.
• Improves Recovery and Heart rate variability
• Sleep strengthens your immune system.
Who does this affect?
50-70 Million Americans
"National data shows that poor sleep health is a common problem with 25 percent of U.S. adults reporting insufficient sleep or rest at least 15 out of every 30 days.3"1
"More than 50 million Americans already suffer from over 80 different sleep disorders and another 20 to 30 million suffer intermittent sleep problems each year. At least 25 million Americans (1 in 5 adults) suffer from sleep apnea, a serious sleep and breathing condition linked to hypertension, cognitive impairment, heart disease and stroke. Chronic insomnia affects at least 10 percent of Americans."
" National surveys show that more than 60 percent of adults have never been asked about the quality of their sleep by a physician, and fewer than 20 percent – have ever initiated such a discussion.4"
Easy Hacks to Sleep Better
3 -2 -1 Rule:
3 Hour before bed: Last meal
2 Hours: Stop checking/replying to business related emails/texts/etc.
1 Hour: Put phone on AIRPLANE MODE: Turn off social media, TV, LED lights (and other bright lights), and other outside stimulating sources.
10 Hours: Stop ALL caffeine consumption
5 hours: Last rigorous Exercise
Calm your NERVOUS SYSTEM
• Many of us are STUCK in a sympathetic state.
Yes, addressing stresses in life can help... but let's face it. Stress, to some degree, will ALWAYS be there.
There are ways to tap into calming/balancing your nervous system.
Sleep, breath work, humming, tapping, essential oils, CBD, sauna, etc. We'll cover some of that.
• BUT, unleashing your body's ability to function and heal at it's highest capacity will be the most important, and most powerful factor. Which is why we START with the nervous system and the structure that surrounds the most important system to our existence.
Addressing dysfunction in the spine (and in particular.. the upper cervical spine) will allow the very system that controls sleep to function optimally. NO amount of medication, yoga, essential oils, melatonin, herbs, tinctures, etc etc can affect a structural/neural dysfunction that ultimately affects the state of your nervous system.
So get your spine/nervous system checked by a doctor that specializes in this!! (Chiropractor)
Addressing spinal dysfunction will:
Improve overall nervous system balance; parasympathetic and vagal tone, cerebral spinal fluid flow, blood flow.
Your stress response will be more balanced through improving your HPA-axis (system that regulates neurotransmitter production and release to stimulate the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones)
Reduce stress, tension, pain, other nagging symptoms, and other issues that may keep you up at night; preventing you from getting a full nights sleep, or quality sleep.
Breath-work and Meditation
•Calm your Mind, Body, and Soul.
•Practice calming breath work
4 second inhale, 4 second hold, 4 second exhale
Tap into your parasympathetics:
4 sec inhale -- 6-8 second hold-- 6 to 8 sec exhale
I like to do this while doing some easy mobility/stretching/fascial work/yoga flow
Meditate (Guided meditation apps - i.e headspace)
Wholetones / Binaural beats (can YouTube these... but... commercials..)
Mouth Taping (if you're a 'mouth-breather' while sleeping)
Yes, taping your mouth shut. The practice of (more like the ability to) nasal breathing is essential for optimal respiratory function. Which, in turn, improves every aspect of health.
Make a HABIT out of going to bed earlier
For most of us, our sleep/wake cycle is best kept close(r) to that of Mother Nature. Obviously, it may not be conducive to going to bed at 5pm in the winter, or going to bed at 10pm
This all begins at night:
Prep everything you'll need for the following day.. the night before. Scrambling every morning to get out the door is NOT an ideal way to start the day.
Update your plan for the following day.. and even the rest of the week!
Prepare what you will need physically the next day. Lunch, snacks, gym clothes, etc.
Having a rock-solid morning routine is irreplaceable as well. Having things to look forward to makes going to sleep much easier. Things that are not stressors that keep your mind racing. (Inspect the other article discussing how to produce a rock-solid morning routine)
Set an alarm, for your bed time!
Keep your bed time/routine consistent!
Make a habit of turning off your phone/other electronics at least an hour before heading to bed. Spend this time with family, planning the following day, breath, stretch, READ -- from an actual book.
Read a book
Fictional: Utilize your more creative side of your brain. We are also terrible at truly multitasking, as much as we like to believe we're good at it. So reading something fictional takes your mind off of all the other clutter in your world.
Self development, fulfilling, re-fueling type of book.
Fill your spirit and soul
Journal + Gratitude journal
Reserve your bed/bed room for sleep
Annnnnd.... maybe a few other things... ;)
Many of us like to eat/watch TV/do EVERYTHING in our bed rooms. Keep this as a sacred, peaceful area that your mind/body/soul delve into sleep mode as soon as you step foot into the room.
• Lying on your back while support the natural CURVES of your spine to keep a healthy spine will ultimately support a healthy nervous system. (cervical and lumbar support)
•Lying on your side (without the right support), or on your back with multiple pillows under your head, will force your spine into an unnatural state; stressing your nervous system.
Dirty Electricity and Blue light
Poor sleep has never been at the epidemic levels that it is today.. much of which can be attributed to the overuse and abuse of electronics. Between the EMF that is emitted, to the blue light that is constantly bombarding your eyes, nervous system, and stress your mitochondria.
Turn off ALL electronics. Unplug ones near bed.
Put phone on airplane mode
Only use incandescent light bulbs at night, or very soft, redish light (avoid keeping the bright LEDs on)
Get in touch with NATURE throughout the day
Get Grounded! Walking barefoot on the earth is a powerful, yet simple practice to literally balance the electric energy within your body. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378297/
Grounding pad or sheet.
Shoot for total darkness in the bedroom. Blackout curtains/whatever you need to do.
Blue light filters for your devices: Our eyes/brains are not designed to take in all wavelengths of light at night. It inhibits melatonin production and keeps your mind in a wakeful state.
Most devices have a setting to activate. Otherwise: download an app that takes out blue light waves. You probably shouldn't be taking in all wavelengths of light at night, just as you would in the day. https://justgetflux.com/
IRIS is good too!
Use incandescent light bulbs around the house, or at least where you spend most of your time before bed.
Get some blue light blocking glasses!
These ones are actually decent looking.. https://www.swanwicksleep.com/products/swannies-blue-light-blocking-glasses
Any light will disrupt your natural sleep processes. Light will inhibit your pineal gland from producing the necessary melatonin to induce sleep (actually, light stimiluates the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which inhibits the pineal gland from producing melatonin).
Turn off all blinking/glowing things.
**Soak in natural sunlight throughout the day.
Expose your bare balls, eye balls without sunglasses that is, to the morning and evening sun.
Just get outside and get moving! You'll feel refreshed, and ready to hit the sack later. It's a great way to balance your natural circadian rhythms!
Keep it Cool
Keep that thermostat below 70 degrees.
Comfortably cover core-- leave extremities open.
Shunts blood to important areas that require healing during sleep.
Helps body let off heat.
Eat REAL food. Plenty of posts diving deeper into proper nutrition.
Avoid eating within a few hours of going to bed.
Your body is busy healing and repairing. You have plenty of energy stores to carry out these processes. Many other metabolically taxing systems are not engaged at night. Digestion will be.. not ideal. And you will disrupt your deep sleep stages.
Avoid (excess) sugars (throughout the day. most days. or, just everyday) but especially before bed. A dump of insulin at night is not favorable.
Shoot for your last meal to consist of good quality proteins, healthy fats and nutrient dense veggies. (soooo... kinda like the rest of your meals..)
Ditch processed foods with synthetic dyes, additives, preservatives, and other toxic compounds that will disrupt gut health, nervous system function, hormones... basically everything in your body.
Just as the word suggests... they're 'supplemental' to your lifestyle and dietary choices.
Key ingredients for Restorative Sleep
Melatonin helps you get to sleep quick obtaining a faster and deeper sleep, increased REM sleep, and reset the Body clock.
5-HTP releases critical brain neurotransmiters burned out by modern day stressors, increasing calm feelings of well being.
L-Theanine helps you to sleep for longer periods, awakened less often by feelings of anxiety and stress, while feeling awake and refreshed.
GABA: Plays a key role in healthy sleep patterns. GABA is produced within the VLPO, and is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that plays many roles within the central nervous system. One such role is to lower the resting membrane potential of neurons, hence making them less susceptible to be stimulated. More specifically, the neurons in the 'neocortex' (interprets the environment around us-temperature, touch, sound, pain, movement, interpreting communication and integrating all of these together) are inhibited, so you are not responsive/don't wake up to small sensory inputs from the environment. Supplementation is controversial as many products do not adequately supply the brain with GABA, or any GABA. You will have to find a particular form of GABA called 'phGABA' that is able to cross the blood brain barrier.
My favorite sleep combo supplements:
3 Essential Vitamins for sleep
These vitamins are notoriously deficient/insufficient in the majority of the population, and are associated with a whole host of physiological dysfunctions. Including sleep!
Attaining these vitamins from whole food sources will be best, but proper supplementation can also be necessary and quite helpful. And lets be real, all other vitamins are necessary when it comes to overall health, and even your sleep cycles. So eating a wide variety of high quality foods to obtain these nutrients in their most natural state is going to be ideal!
When supplementing with these, make sure you are getting high quality sources. Look for 'methylcobalamin' when looking for B12 sources (as well as other methylated forms of B vitamins). Many vitamin C sources are junk, so look for supplements that are sourced from real foods. And the best way to get your vitamin D is from the source that Mother Nature provides; the SUN. If supplementing with it, you will want to look into magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and copper balance.
3 Essential Minerals
Each of these plays critical roles in nervous system function and balance. Which includes the production of certain neurotransmitters, like GABA. Each has been shown to affect different stages of sleep, which impacts the overall quality of sleep.
Eating a wide variety of whole, organic, high quality foods will provide your body with a natural plethora of nutrients; including a wide spectrum of minerals. Add some Celtic sea salt, or Himalayan salt to your cooking.
In terms of supplementing, magnesium is probably the one to start with as the vast majority of our population is deficient and do not tend to get enough from our food. I like magnesium glycinate and threonate for calming the nervous system (lactate for the gut).
Aromatherapy with Essential Oils
Apply to chest, back of neck, and bottom of feet with an organic oil (fractionated coconut, almond, etc)
These oils are POWERFUL. Which is why you want the highest quality oils possible. To get your $$$ worth and greatest possible benefits. More and more companies are coming out with good products.