If you suffer from insomnia you’re not alone. Half of all Americans do, too. 42 million prescriptions for sleep aids were filled last year, and an estimated 60 million Americans suffer with insomnia. Life is difficult enough during waking hours, and it gets even more difficult when you’re not sleeping properly.
Sleep is so important to us because it is the only time the body really heals itself. Think about it. Did you ever have a cut that healed during the day? No. You woke up the next morning and it had scabbed over, and eventually was gone. Did you ever have a skin blemish that went away during the day? No. You woke up one morning and it was gone. That is because the body can only heal itself when it shuts down at night during sleep.
Sleep regulates all of your body’s hormones, slows the aging process, improves brain function, reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and boosts the immune system through the release of melatonin.
When you don’t sleep you increase your risk of Type II Diabetes, heart disease, mental disorders including depression, hormone imbalance and ultimately cancer. That’s right, if you don’t sleep cancer is one of the things you can end up with. In nearly a decade of clinical experience one of the common threads linking patients with a cancer diagnosis is poor sleep quality.
You need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, minimum, and more than that in the winter months when daylight hours are shorter. That’s because we are designed to be in-sync with the light-dark cycles of the sun and moon. When the sun goes down, we are supposed to go down with it. That’s because we can’t see in the dark. If we were out roaming around in the dark, we’d be just as likely to get eaten by some predator!
The longer you stay awake after the sun goes down and stay in bed after the sun comes up the more your hormones become imbalanced and your immune system becomes suppressed. Your mood plummets, your energy dips, and you are more easily stressed by life’s daily imperfections.
Try the following tips at least 4-5 nights per week to enjoy the best sleep of your life!
If you are night owl and don’t go to bed until after 10:30pm, then you should definitely start hitting your mattress earlier! Studies show that our brain produces more anti-aging/health-promoting hormones between 9pm and midnight than at any other time of the day. When you go to bed later than that you’re missing out on your window of opportunity to slow cellular aging processes.
The trick: Changing your bedtime drastically may not work out well for most people, so start going to bed 15 minutes earlier than you do right now until you are in bed before 10pm.
Even the smallest light from your smoke detector, alarm clock, or various bathroom gadgets can prevent you from reaching the deeper phases of sleep. Studies show that sleeping subjects in a dark room exposed to the smallest amount of light have their melatonin production severely reduced until the light exposure stops. Use dark, thick blinds and drapes to prevent street lights and moonlight from coming through your window.
If you can’t get your bedroom extremely dark at night, then wear an eyemask to keep unwanted light from hitting your retina. THIS MIGHT BE THE MOST IMPORTANT TRICK TO GETTING HIGH QUALITY SLEEP. The skin on your eyelids is very thin, and light will travel through to your retina easily. When light hits your retina your brain is tricked into thinking it’s daytime, and this prevents your brain from making melatonin, your number 1 anti-aging hormone.
I never travel without my eye mask whether I’m vacationing out-of-town or staying at a friend’s house overnight. Wearing an eye mask has improved my sleep quality so dramatically over the past few years that I’m unsure how I ever lived without one. Wearing an eye mask has also helped all of my patients who struggled severely with insomnia for years–it’s practically a magic bullet.
HINT: a contoured sleep mask like this one will not rest on your eyes directly, and is more comfortable for most people
Favor table lamps rather than overhead lighting. Use a candle every once in a while…it’s romantic! Don’t want to burn down the house? Use LED candles available every from Jewel-Osco to Target. Those bright overhead lights trick your brain into thinking the sun is still up, and your brain won’t produce it’s healing and anti-aging hormones.
The blue-green light waves from the TV trick your brain into thinking it’s day time which creates hormone imbalance. The rays from the setting sun are red-yellow and meant to induce sleepiness by triggering our brain to produce melatonin. The harmful blue-green waves from iPads, TVs, computer monitors, etc. do the opposite.
If you need to fall asleep with the TV on, use the timer option to have it turn itself off. You do not want it playing while you’re ‘sleeping’! Even better, try a fan or nature sounds CD for light noise during the night. When we were little babies in the womb we could hear our mother’s heartbeat. Sleeping near the ocean is so peaceful because of the constant and predictable ebb and flow of the tides. You might find if you use audio you won’t need to fall asleep with the TV on. Then you’ll be able to take your TV out of your bedroom altogether and use your bedroom what it was really designed for!
This includes bedtime, reading a book, cleaning the kitchen, setting out your outfit for the next day, etc. How much easier is it for you to fall asleep if you have everything on your checklist marked off?
Once you’re settled into bed, take deep breaths in and out while making yourself consciously aware of your contact with the sheets, mattress, pillow, etc. This will bring you into the moment, and at this particular moment you don’t need to be thinking about grocery shopping, waking the kids up in the morning, or anything else but sleep! Repeat these words in your mind: “Breathe and rest. Breathe…and rest……Breathe……and…rest.” As soon as an outside thought jumps in, catch it! And go back to your mantra. Breathe…and…rest…
The body needs to cool off at night, so try to sleep in temperatures below 70 degrees for starters. 66-68 degrees would be better. You can always set the timer on your heating unit to kick on 15 minutes before you wake up so your room will be nice and toasty. We don’t want our room to be toasty while we’re sleeping, as this will inhibit melatonin production by the brain, and the brain can’t make melatonin during the day.
For heaven’s sake don’t obsess about your wake-up time. Studies show that the mere thought of what time you have to wake up triggers your body to release stress hormones. Releasing stress hormones is the LAST thing we want to do before bed! Get an alarm clock you trust, and trust in your alarm clock to wake you up. Set the alarm quickly and erase the time from your mind as soon as the alarm is set and start thinking about something else instead. Remember: there are worse things than being late for school or work. No really, there are.
Avoid consuming gluten or dairy products at dinner. They cause inflammation in your digestive system. This inflammation tricks your body into thinking a Tiger is trying to eat you which causes the release of stress hormones which will prevent you from reaching the deepest phases of sleep at night. No deep sleep means no anti-aging effects of melatonin and growth hormone.
The best way to ensure your body’s ability to lower inflammation naturally is to be as hydrated as possible–that means drinking at least half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day while avoiding drinking caffeinated substances like coffee and black tea that will dehydrate you.
The number 1 sign that your dehydration is affecting your sleep is if you wake up between the 1 – 4am. These are the hours your body has designated as “detoxification time”. Detoxification requires ample hydration, and if you’re not adequately hydrated you will wake up during the hours that your body is supposed to be detoxing.
Utilizing the tips & tricks listed above 4-5 nights/week will help about 60% of those who seriously apply these techniques. The other 40% who experience no improvement in sleep after implementing these strategies have an underlying nutritional deficiency of a vitamin and/or mineral that must be corrected. If left untreated the nutritional deficiency will begin to effect the hormone system and further health issues will come in the future.
In our office we have had the experience of helping hundreds of people overcome insomnia to experience the best sleep of their lives. The toughest case we ever solved was a patient who historically had been unable to fall asleep until 5 a.m. regardless of what time they went to bed. After assessing their nutritional deficiencies we recommended 2 natural supplements, and within 2 days the patient e-mailed to say they were falling asleep at 9pm and sleeping all the way through the night!
YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIVE WITH YOUR INSOMNIA!!
When lifestyle modifications listed below fail to restore healthy sleep then we utilize a customized nutritional supplement program to repair the underlying nutritional deficiencies present in the individual to restore healthy brain balance enabling natural sleep to occur. After 6 years and hundreds of insomnia cases solved we have discovered 3 different natural supplement programs that will work to restore healthy sleep.
We know these programs can work for you, too, as long as your committed to the 10 Tips & Tricks listed in this article. If you find that after 1 week of trying these tips & tricks doesn’t produce the improvements in sleep that you’re looking for and you’re interested in learning more about natural supplements to promote better sleep, then please leave a comment at the bottom of this article and we will respond with information on how to proceed.
Thank you for your interest in creating deeper and more fulfilling sleep for yourself.
Dr. Michael E. McGovern, DC