Tossing and turning. Too much on the mind. Frequently getting up to use the bathroom. Wide awake. Can't sleep.
Does any of this sound familiar? Many people these days struggle with getting quality sleep. This is problematic based on how important sleep is and how deprivation can lead to a slew of negative health consequences.
Sleep is a time when the repair mechanisms of the body are initiated. The body can finally recalibrate and rejuvenate from a day of expending energy in whatever capacities. These repair mechanisms can help decrease levels of inflammation and stress in the body, can create better heart health, better mood, better memory and alertness and can even help lead to better weight control. Getting quality sleep is a major facet of overall good health. So lets take a look at some ways we can optimize sleep and ultimately elevate our health.
Creating a habit and routine as far as going to bed at the same time each night is important. The body likes consistency and so I'd recommend going to bed between 10:00 pm and 11:00 pm if possible. Strive for between 7-9 hours of sleep every night to allow the body to transition between the different sleep cycles. A dark room with no artificial light coming in is ideal to help maintain proper circadian rhythms.
There are a number of things that are important prior to going to bed maximize quality sleep. Blue light exposure from electronics can interfere with proper melatonin production and the circadian rhythm. Ideally an hour before bed electronics are not used or minimally used. Blue light limiting glasses can be beneficial to restrict blue light from exerting its effects on the brain and body. Reading before bed is a great way to wind down and phase into sleep. The practice of either writing out or verbalizing things we're grateful for is very beneficial to allow the mind to be in a positive arena as opposed to a negative space bringing on more toxic stress. Caffeine can stay in the system for hours, between 4-8 hours even. I'd recommend not consuming caffeine after 2:00 pm. Limiting much fluid consumption prior to bed is smart as to prevent the necessity of getting up to use the bathroom through the night. Snacking an hour before bed on something light can be okay, however I'd caution against anything more heavy as this can interfere with blood glucose levels, insulin sensitivity and ultimately proper sleeping. Valerian and Kava are herbs that show much promise in calming the body and initiating restful sleep. Lavender is an essential oil that has calming properties and can be diffused prior to bed. This aromatherapy helps to modulate cortisol levels to promote an easier time falling asleep.
Blue light exposure from a mobile phone can disrupt melatonin production & circadian rhythms.
These are some of my top tips to help patients optimize sleep. Try to start implementing some of these key concepts to not only have more restful sleep but to help the body heal and rejuvenate properly. I believe you will start waking up more refreshed, have more energy and be excited and ready to tackle the day.
Dr. Seamus Allen
CFMP, DACBN, DC