When we were young, we took sleep for granted. Regardless of how little we slept in our teens to early twenties, we always seemed to be able to bounce up that next day with a pep in our step. As we aged, slowly we started to realize the value in sleep. Sleep is a necessity. It helps restore the body and mind and helps us maintain our mental and physical health. It helps regulate vital circadian rhythms throughout our body, including memory, repair and rejuvenation of cells, regulation of the immune system, and regulate melatonin, DHEA, and sex hormones. Here are some general tips to help improve your sleep hygiene:
- Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, sleeping as much as possible before midnight. Less than 7 hours of sleep can lead to health problems such as increased inflammation, heart disease, insulin resistance, depression, mood swings, weight gain, sex hormone imbalances, and immune imbalances.
- Remove stimuli (TV, smart phone, computer, tablet) for at least 1 hour before bed
- Practice relaxation (dim lighting, music, warm tea, hot bath) during the 30-45 minutes before bed
- Read a relaxing novel, devotional, or book of inspirational stories.
- Consider writing down the next day’s tasks so you can relax your mind knowing all your “worries” will not be forgotten in the morning
- Try to get to bed at the same time each night
- Reduce caffeine consumption. Avoid all stimulants in the evening, including coffees, teas, chocolate, caffeinated sodas as they will delay sleep and increase your chance of waking during the night
- Sleep in total darkness- Use room darkening shades, utilize alarm clocks with red number display as it does not disrupt natural melatonin secretion.
- Disconnect from your phone in the bedroom- If you have to use it as your alarm, turn it to airplane mode before bed so that texts/calls/emails will not disturb you during your rest
Insomnia is a very common disorder. 1 in 3 adults in the US have insomnia occasionally. 1 in 10 adults have chronic or reoccurring insomnia. Complaining about poor sleep habits to your primary care, you often walk out with a sleep medication prescription that is only masking the problem. Use these with caution, some prescription and non-prescription drugs can deplete melatonin and chronic use can lead to sleep disorders. There are so many useful natural supplements available to us for sleep. If used correctly they can improve your sleep patterns.
Neurotransmitter balance is vital for sleep, since the sleep cycle is regulated primarily in the brain. Serotonin and GABA are calming neurotransmitters that slow down the brain, promote relaxation and induce sleep. A natural solution for increasing neurotransmitters levels can be provided by amino acids, such as 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). It converts into serotonin and melatonin in the brain and has been shown to be effective in treating insomnia, especially in improving Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. It also has been shown to increase deep-sleep stages three and four without lengthening total sleep time. Dosing is dependent on your current sleep cycle, so it should be monitored by a healthcare professional.