Sleep complaints are one of the most common issues I hear in my office. Whether it be troubles falling asleep, troubles staying asleep, sleep feels too light, or not feeling rested in the morning, so many people are struggling.
Sleep is absolutely essential to all things health. Getting less than seven hours of sleep leads to a decline in your immune system, energy, ability to focus, ability to memorize, ability to problem solve, ability to heal, balance your blood sugar, and so many more. It leads to an increase in inflammation, risk of infections, risk of mental/emotional issues, memory loss, hormone imbalances, and so many more.
Decreased sleep quality and quantity leads to an increased risk in almost ALL chronic diseases.
Optimizing sleep is the basis of optimal health.
Tips on How to Optimize Sleep:
Find a way to do some sort of wind-down mechanism 30 minutes before bed. I suggest to patients to either meditate for 5-10 minutes, do some yoga, stretching while deep breathing, or deep breathing while they read in bed. Focus on exhales being longer than inhales.
In order to fall into deep sleep (which happens primarily at the beginning of the night), our heart rate needs to lower. Winding down before bed is the best way to achieve that.
Avoid screens at least 30mins-1hr before bed.
The blue light in the screens can alter melatonin secretion. Blue light blocking glasses can be worn from 6pm and on to really help block out blue light.
Sticking to a schedule is one of the best ways to maintain healthy sleep patterns. Going to bed and waking up around the same time is very beneficial. If you go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 6am on weekdays, it is hard on your body if you go to bed at 12am and wake up at 9am on the weekends.
There are plenty of calm down teas that contain things like Kava, chamomile, etc.
Always consult your health care provider about supplements but magnesium glycinate or threonate are great forms of magnesium that may help you fall asleep faster and harder.
Take about one hour before bed.
Optimal sleeping temperature is actually around 64 degrees F. This can be pretty chilly for some people but making the bedroom colder is necessary for optimal sleep.
There should not be any light in the room while you are sleeping. Yes, even alarm clock lights have been studied and they DO mess with deep sleep. Turn alarm clock lights off, flip phones over, unplug devices that are causing lights to glow in the bedroom, and have blinds/curtains covering the windows. Blackout curtains can be very helpful in the bedroom.
If your partner is a heavy snorer and it is messing with your sleep, have them get their snoring assessed with a sleep study, functional dentist, or functional medicine doctor. Everyone sleeping soundly is very important to not disrupt sleep.
Does your partner hog the covers? Studies have shown that when bed partners use separate blankets, they will get better sleep.
Aim to be in bed at least 8 hours. If we are in bed for about 8 hours we usually only sleep a max of 7-7.5 hours of sleep. This is the bare minimum amount we should be going for. There is endless research on the negative effects of ~6 hours or less of sleep.
Being asleep (not in bed, but actually asleep) for 8 hours is the goal.
Balance blood sugar
This is one people don’t often think of but it plays a huge role.
Snacking before bed = NO.
Aim to stop eating about 3 hours before bed. When you eat before bed and you are digesting and your metabolism is working, your heart rate stays elevated. As stated above, our heart rate needs to lower to fall into deep sleep. People that are eating before bed will get less deep sleep.
What you do during the DAY matters too.
Balancing blood sugar throughout the day allows blood sugar to be more balanced when we sleep. If we have a lot of blood sugar spikes and falls throughout the day, we can see people having issues falling asleep or waking up too early because cortisol is out of whack.
Balance blood sugar throughout the day by eating mostly protein, fat, and fiber. When you have carbohydrates make sure they are healthier carbs (refer back to week 1) and pair them with protein and fats to decrease their blood sugar spiking capabilities.
Waking up too early will decrease the amount of REM sleep we get. REM sleep primarily happens at the second part of the night so waking up too early will hinder that. REM sleep is just as important as deep sleep, they just serve different roles.
Daily exercise allows our body to be more tired when we are going to sleep, increasing our chance for better deep sleep and for a longer time.
Figure out WHY
Are you doing a lot of the above tips and still struggling with sleep issues? Work with a Functional Medicine Doctor to help pinpoint why sleep is dysfunctional and how to solve it naturally.
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