When I saw the flashing lights in my rearview mirror, I knew exactly what the problem was. The state trooper was nice enough, and I think he believed me when my Breathalyzer read “0 mg/dL.” I told him when he approached my window that I was just really tired.
Going through a divorce, I was commuting about 2 hours to and from work, and I was suffering from sleep deprivation and my poor driving reflected that. I was suffering from insomnia, I’m sure my cortisol was a mess, and I was barely able to function. I was a wreck!
Sleep Demands Attention
Have you ever treated sleep like a necessary evil to which you allotted the least amount of time possible?
As a functional medicine physician, I have learned how crucial sleep is to all creatures, and humans are no exception. This might surprise you: preschool children need 10-13 hours of sleep, school-aged children should be getting 9-12 hours, and teens need 8-10 hours.
You, though, should get a minimum of 7 hours (even up to 9 hours for some people). I want you to start making this a non-negotiable. If you want to limit your lifespan (and your health span) and increase your risk of dementia, keep denying your body of the slumber it’s craving.
7 Hacks to Dial in Your Sleep.
Our bodies were made to sleep, but in a world in which everyone is constantly in fight or flight mode with elevated cortisol, where we are fighting noise pollution, light pollution, there is a constant barrage of stimulation in the form of tablets and phones and Netflix series to binge, sleep can seem like IT is the thing that is unnatural. Trust me, it’s not.
Here are 7 steps that you can take to get your sleep back on track and get your body back into balance.
1. Avoid blue light 3 hours before going to sleep.
You probably know that melatonin tells your brain it’s time to go night night. Well, think of blue light as the anti-melatonin. It blocks the release of this important hormone. So, turn off the blue light on your devices or get glasses that specifically block that wavelength of light.
2. Be calorie-free for 2-3 hours before going to bed.
Digesting food requires energy and that means that your heart rate speeds up to pump blood to your intestines as they deal with your late night cravings. When your heart rate stays up longer into the night your sleep and restfulness suffer.
3. Nix the caffeine at least 8 hours before you plan to sleep.
The rate at which people metabolize caffeine varies greatly. For some people, caffeine’s effects last 12 hours or more. So, to be safe, avoid the afternoon coffee run so that your sleep is not negatively impacted.
4. Avoid late-night exercise.
Exercising shortly before bed ramps up your metabolism and causes a surge in cortisol. This prevents the wind down your body needs to slide into peaceful slumber.
5. Develop a mindfulness practice.
Exercising a daily spiritual discipline like prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, or journaling gratitudes will raise the tone of your parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for rest and relaxation in your life. Try praying or meditating shortly before bed and include some deep breathing exercising to engage your vagus nerve and dive yourself deeper into a state of tranquility.
6. Keep your room cold and dark.
Our bodies sleep best when the room is cold (like 65 degrees or even cooler) and dark. Even a warm bath before bed helps not because it warms you up but because it causes the capillaries in your skin to dilate, making you give off extra heat and cool your body.
7. Be exposed to early morning light.
Your circadian rhythm is set to a significant degree by early light. Being exposed to sunlight in the morning tells your brain that in about 14 hours you need to start making melatonin, the night-night chemical for your brain.
If you’re like me and you beat the sun up, hack your rhythm by turning your lights on in your house first thing when you get up. In addition, being outside at dusk seems to reinforce a healthy circadian pattern.
If You’re Currently Struggling
If you are currently finding it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, try these 7 sleep hacks. Beyond that, there are some supplements that I like for sleep. Melatonin can be helpful, and there are delayed-release formulations if you are having a hard time staying asleep. GABA, kava kava, phosphatidylserine, L-threanine, and magnesium are some other supplements you can try. Chamomile tea can also be helpful to relax your body and mind.
There are some apps, too, that I have found helpful. One is Breethe. It has some sleep hypnotherapy modules that can help you shut off your mind.
We’re Here to Help
If you’re struggling with your health and you want a physician-lead team that can help you chart a path to wellness, we would love to take care of you. Visit our website at: www.alphaomegawellness.com.
Chances are if you’re like most people, sleep is kind of an afterthought and you push it into the smallest compartment that it can be in so that you can maximize the rest of your day. Well as your doctor and your guide, I want to tell you that that’s not the way to approach sleep. And I want to go over with you four ways in which you can start today improving your sleep.
Hey guys. Dr. Dee here with alphaomegawellness.com, and I wanna just come on today and share with you my little sleep talk that I try to remember to give to patients because I think that sleep is so important. And I can tell you from personal experience, I’ve been through periods of my life called residency when sleep wasn’t after thought. Part of it was it had to be, we were really worked hard, but part of it was just I refused to give up time to sleep. And that’s so unhealthy. I mean, I literally remember times that I was driving home after being on call, dozing off, turning into my neighborhood. I actually went to the wrong house one day and pulled in the driveway and was like, okay, I don’t think this is. And I, I backed out. I went around the the neighborhood so that I didn’t look like a fool driving two houses down to my house.
So if you’re like I used to be and you’re just kind of using sleep as that afterthought, let me tell you that over time you will continue to have a decline in your health from where it could be. This might not be noticeable right now, but extrapolated out over the next 10, 20, 25 years, there will absolutely be a difference in the quality of your health and your wellness. So right now I wanna talk about four ways in which you can start today to improve the quality of your sleep. The first way that I’ll chat about is stop eating right before bed. You see, we think that we can just get that nighttime snack in and it’s fine and our bellies are full. We’re gonna sleep better, but you won’t. I wear the aura ring to track my sleep and when I screw that up, my ring the next morning is like, Hey, your heart rate lowered late last night.
Could you have had a big meal before dinner? You see, our digestion takes energy to accomplish. We don’t think of it that way, but like our heart has to pump harder for the blood to flow to our digestive tract to absorb the food. So if you wanna improve your sleep, cut out the late night eating, try to go about three hours before you go to sleep with no calories. The second tip that I’m gonna give you is to avoid circadian disruptors. Now what do I mean by that? Your circadian rhythm, right, is your body’s internal clock. Well, light in the evening, you know, after the sun goes down is a circadian disruptor, especially blue light. So I’m right there with you. I’m on my phone and my tablet, my computer, my television, I’m not great at this, but if you can at least turn off the blue light in those devices, it will help your brain not avoid secreting melatonin because blue light in particular tells the brain, Hey, it’s still light out.
Don’t make any melatonin yet. We can’t sleep yet. It’s 10, 11 o’clock at night. So if you wanna improve your sleep today, get rid of the blue light at night. All right? The third way in which I’m gonna tell you, and don’t hold this against me, I’m just the messenger that I’m gonna tell you to improve your sleep is avoid alcohol in the evenings. What? It helps me sleep. No, you think that it helps you sleep, but your sleep is not as good of quality. And in fact, God designed us so that the REM sleep that we have at night when we’re dreaming that sleep actually acts like an emotional sap to kind of smooth over the rough edges of the day. And when we drink alcohol because we’ve had a bad day, we get rid of the body’s natural ability to heal from whatever little traumas happened and it, it absolutely disrupts our sleep.
And the sleep quality is not as good with alcohol in our belly. Weigh number four that I’m gonna help you improve your sleep is I want your bedroom cold and dark. In fact, that’s the way in which our bodies get the best sleep that we can. You don’t want a lot of ambient light in there and you don’t want it warm. In fact, taking a warm bath before bed helps your sleep, not because of the warm bath, but because it dilates the capillaries in your skin and causes your body to cool off more. Alright, so those were the four ways in which I’m helping you improve your sleep today. The first was to stop eating late at night. The second was to avoid circadian disruptors like blue light. The third was to avoid alcohol, and the fourth was to have your room cold and dark.
But here’s a bonus, start practicing mindfulness during the day, especially before bed. So my Christian worldview, my wife and I start every day and in every day praying out loud together. That’s mindfulness. Some people journal, some people meditate and clear their head. Anything that you do that promotes mindfulness raises something called the parasympathetic tone in the body, even deep breathing, right? So breathe in for a count of four, hold it for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, hold that for a count of four. All of that increases parasympathetic tone, which is rest and relaxation. So that’s going to help you get to sleep. So I hope that this has been helpful for you and I hope that you will start incorporating into your lifestyle time for sleep and all of these ways in which I’ve told you that you can actually improve your sleep cuz it will absolutely make a difference in your health.
So if this has been helpful for you, please like and subscribe cuz that really helps us and share this information with your friends cuz you know none of your friends are sleeping well either. Until next time, I’m Dr. D with Alpha Omega Wellness. I wanna remind you that ultimately I believe that there’s one healer in the world and that’s Jesus Christ, his brother James said in James one 17, every good and perfect gift comes from above. So if you don’t have a relationship with him, I just wanna encourage you to find that we have people at our office that can even help you do that. God bless you guys. Have a good day.