If feeling tired has become your new normal, you are not alone. Did you realize that your lack of quality sleep can be hurting your physical, mental, and emotional health?
Do you find yourself dozing off in front of the TV in the early evening, yet find yourself wide awake at midnight?
Do you find yourself making a lot more trips to the bathroom than before?
Do you toss and turn, unable to turn off your brain?
We’ve all had a restless night or two. Those of us with children have likely had too many to count. Little ones aside, when the restless nights start to outnumber the restful ones, it is a sign that something is wrong, and should be addressed.
Sleep troubles are extremely common. Nearly two thirds of adults report some degree of sleep problems. Insomnia affects over 70 million Americans. Yet, less than 5 percent of adults seek help for their sleep disorder.
It is unfortunate that many adults simply assume that less sleep is part of being an adult. Many of our GLOW Protocol members have even had their primary care physician tell them this very lie. While it is true, we may no longer sleep like babies, or even teenagers, sleep problems should not and are not part of normal aging.
Tossing and turning is not only frustrating, it also comes with some serious consequences. Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information. Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Every hour of sleep lost below the minimum 7 hours can be equivalent to consuming 2 alcoholic beverages when it comes to your brains reaction time and decision making capabilities. Perhaps this is why when it comes to important choices, some people like to “sleep on it”. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.
Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested which can lead to extra pounds, or even obesity.
Sleep also effects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.
Women will have a harder time balancing their hormones without proper sleep, and circadian rhythm plays a big part in the female hormone symphony.
Additionally, your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you will be less resilient to bacteria and viruses, which means you are more likely to get sick and can have trouble fighting common infections.
You know that getting enough quality sleep is important, but you may not know that your sleep can be disrupted by things you can’t even see or are necessarily aware of physically. Food, blue light/EMF’s, and stress are all culprits for poor sleep.
Food and Sleep
Food sensitivities and eating late at night can be major culprits in disrupting sleep. Both can cause blood sugar fluctuations, which can wake you up in the middle of the night and prevent you from falling back to sleep quickly.
Food sensitivities often cause inflammation in the body. Cytokines, which are the body’s inflammation messengers, get activated by food sensitivities, and when they are active, they can disrupt sleep. Also, you may experience physical symptoms from inflammation (joint pain, headaches, etc.) or the food sensitivity itself (digestive issues, headaches, etc.), which can also keep you up at night. Additionally, food sensitivities can cause insomnia. That lack of sleep from insomnia affects ghrelin and leptin levels, which can lead to obesity, which can lead to breathing problems, which also effects your sleep.
It’s important to pay attention to your body. Learn which foods your body is sensitive to, or reacts to, and avoid those foods as much as possible. Not eating late in the evening, to avoid late-night blood sugar spikes or crashes, hormone fluctuations and digestive issues that can disrupt your sleep is imperative. Avoiding eating after 9pm is a good idea (not eating after 8pm would be ideal).
Blue Light and EMFs
Our digital devices and our televisions also emit blue light. Excessive blue light exposure can accelerate the oxidation process which means accelerated aging. Studies have shown that blue light’s oxidative effects induce inflammation and damage the skin barrier, making it more prone to signs of aging, increased uneven skin tone, dullness, hyperpigmentation, and fine lines and wrinkles. Believe it or not, turning off your devices just might be the least expensive and most effective anti-aging treatment you can do.
Many of us (you know who you are) are sitting in bed at night staring at our screens, whether it’s to read on our Kindle, swipe through social, or binge watch Netflix. This practice not only results in less time sleeping, but actually lowers the quality of sleep we are getting.
This translates to impaired cognitive function. The average adult requires a minimum of 7-9 hours of sleep; less than that leads to cognitive impairment.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are invisible physical fields produced by electrically charged objects. They are created naturally by the earth and living creatures (both humans and animals, as well as plant life).
Weather, solar, and planetary events also produce EMFs. These natural EMF sources have a positive impact on our health. In fact, grounding or earthing (the act of physically connecting your body with the earth such as walking outside barefoot) can be a great healing activity, as can hugging a tree (no joke, go ahead and try it!)
However, man-made sources of EMFs, such as power lines, cell phones, computers, and electrical equipment pose a significant health risk based upon recent research, which shows these have a different effect because the wavelengths, frequencies, and strength are increased.
Emerging science shows a disruption in circadian rhythms (wake/sleep cycles) and decreased production of melatonin related to EMFs near sleeping locations.
Melatonin is well known as a sleep hormone, but it is also a powerful antioxidant and anti-aging hormone. The flip side of this is that digital devices keep melatonin’s antagonistic hormone, cortisol, high. This also triggers an increase in belly fat, higher blood pressure, lowered immune response, insulin resistance, and more. All of these things individually can impact quality sleep, and all of these things combined are a recipe for real sleep and health issues.
There are some simple things you can do to help reduce blue light and EMF exposure:
Wear blue light blocking glasses if you’re in front of (or watching) a screen after 7pm. These are my favorite ones from my friends at TrueDark. Investing in a pair for every member of the family is a great idea. They also make ones that you can wear all day long to help limit blue light exposure, which is great if you are on the computer a lot.
Put your phone on airplane mode while you sleep. This is super important. Putting your phone in airplane mode eliminates EMF exposure from your phone. For extra credit, don’t even bring your phone into your bedroom! If you have children or a spouse who might need to call you at night, invest in a landline (I know, totally 80’s, but it can make a huge difference).
No devices 1-2 hours before bed. This gives your body a break from EMFs and blue light, and can allow you to drift more peacefully into a more productive sleep session.
WiFi is a major source of EMF exposure. Turning your WiFi off at night is a simple way to reduce the effects. This can be done easily without even thinking by putting your wifi router on a Christmas light timer that will turn off at night and on in the morning with zero effort on your part. Additionally, some cities allow you to opt out of smart electrical meters, which also emit EMFs.
Supplementation with adaptogenic herbs may reduce EMF-induced oxidative stress. Other antioxidant supplementation that combat free radicals include superoxide dismutase, melatonin, and Vitamins A, C & E. Eating the rainbow – a diet rich in plants of all colors – is vital in protecting the body with antioxidants and phytonutrients.
We all know that stress of all kinds can disrupt our sleep, and has a negative impact on our health overall. Stress raises our cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which in turn impacts our blood sugar regulation, and those two together really make for poor sleep. Many of us also experience racing thoughts – or feel like we can’t turn “off” our brains – and we end up laying in bed for hours wide awake with worried thoughts.
It’s important to manage stress in healthy ways in order to better support your sleep. Below are some of my top tips for managing stress:
- Address the issues. Evaluate the source of your stress and look for positive, proactive ways to deal with the situation.
- Learn to say “no” when you already have enough on your plate.
- Exercise regularly, but don’t overdo it. If you’re tired, rest or take a cat nap. Yoga and stretching are great exercises to relieve stress.
- Engage in spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation and deep breathing. These are calming and grounding.
- Spend time with friends and loved ones. Get involved in your community. Volunteer for an organization that you support. Foster healthy connections with others.
- Make time for hobbies and other fun activities you enjoy. Find reasons to laugh even in the midst of stress.
- Watch a funny movie or sitcom; laugher truly is the best medicine when it comes to stress.
- Talk to a counselor or therapist to learn better ways to cope with stress.
- Sleep as much as needed to give your body a chance to recover.
General Sleep Hygiene Tips
- Establish a nighttime routine that starts around the same time every night. For example, at 9pm, you might brush your teeth and wash your face, and put on your pajamas. As you do this more often, your body will start to get in the rhythm of winding down as you go through your routine.
- Spend a few minutes journaling to get out any thoughts from the day that might keep you awake. I call this a brain dump. Get it all out of your brain and onto paper so you can drift off in piece; the paper will be on your bedside to remind you in the morning.
- A gratitude journal is also perfect for bringing your mind back to pleasant and peaceful thoughts.
- Follow a guided meditation to relax before going to sleep. Read a few pages of a good, light-hearted book.
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool. More blankets with a cooler ambient room temperature are best for good sleep.
- Use soft white noise to help block out outside noises.
- Try to maintain a regular sleeping schedule. Be in bed by 10:30pm and aim for 8-9 hours of sleep.
Supplements for more Restful Sleep
I don’t recommend going straight to supplements without first addressing the basics above, however, many of us can use a little help getting in some restful nights just so we can address all the things keeping us up at night.
Whether you want to fall asleep faster, adjust to a new time zone or schedule, or just get a more restful night’s sleep, taking a natural supplement can definitely help. This is especially true for those going through hormonal shifts, difficult times, or are dealing with a chronic condition, especially because good quality sleep is essential to heal.
Here are my top natural sleep supplements that have been scientifically proven to help you get the deep, restful sleep you’ve been dreaming about. Always check with your medical provider before adding anything new to your regimen. I will note suggested doses, for your reference, but do not construe this as medical advice or recommendations.
Melatonin has been shown to help with sleep issues such as jet lag, delayed sleep phase disorder, juvenile sleep, and issues related to changing schedules. Studies show Melatonin improves sleep time, sleep efficiency, non-REM sleep and REM latency. According to a 2003 analysis in PLos One jounal, those taking melatonin fell asleep 7 minutes faster and slept 8 minutes longer on average.
Dosing: For general sleep issues, start with 2mg of melatonin. The benefit tends to increase after two weeks of use. For jet lag and time zone shifts, take up to 5mg for the first few days, then a maintenance dose of 2 mg as needed.
(2) Passionflower Extract
Passionflower is an herbal remedy that has been known for ages to calm anxiety and has shown significant benefits aiding with sleep. If you are the type of person with racing thoughts, worry, or trouble shutting down your brain, passionflower just might do the trick.
Dosing: There isn’t a standard dose for passionflower, and many different ways to take it. I suggest a cup of passionflower tea one hour before bed, as part of your evening ritual.
(3) Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon Balm is widely used for treating anxiety and sleep issues in children. It is a component in many night-time oil and lotion blends for children. It is a gentle and effective natural way to calm.
Dosing: A 2011 study found that 300mg of lemon balm taken twice per day was effective at reducing stress and improving sleep in adults with mild to moderate sleep disruption. Lemon balm can be diffused, taken as a tea or tincture.
GABA (gamma butyric acid) is a naturally occurring compound produced by the brain that helps to calm the excitability of neurons. According to a UCLA study, those who supplement with GABA were able to fall asleep in half the time of those taking a placebo and they increased the time they spend sleeping by a whopping 73%.
Another benefit of GABA is that it has been shown to curb nighttime trips to the bathroom. A 2013 study of elderly men and women with frequent nighttime urination showed that GABA supplementation greatly curbed nighttime urination and improve sleep quality
Dosing: GABA goes to work almost immediately, so when you take it, you notice an almost instant calming effect. A 100mg daily dose of GABA is what is most widely reported to help people fall asleep more quickly. However, because GABA is a neurotransmitter, you will want to consult with a healthcare expert to determine if GABA is right for you.
(5) Vitamin B6
A deficiency in vitamin B6 can limit the amount of serotonin in your body, potentially leading to poor sleep patterns and insomnia. Vitamin B6 has been proven to stimulate the brain during sleep phases of REM, which can lead to better sleep and more vivid dreams for some people.
Dosing: The recommended daily intake of Vitamin B6 is 1-2 mg per day. However, your requirement increases as you get older and some people have genetic variations that increase their need for the vitamin. For those with B6 deficiencies that are experiencing sleep issues, a good initial dose is 3-25 mg daily for a few weeks, then 2 mg per day thereafter. Women taking birth control pills can require up to 30 mg per day.
If you are not sure of your need, you can always check your levels with a intracellular blood test.
Magnesium is the miracle mineral responsible for over 300 reactions in the body. It works to ease constipation, relax muscles and calm the brain, making it a wonderful supplement to improve restful sleep. Magnesium has also been shown to be an effective treatment for restless leg syndrome and night time leg cramps
Dosing: I recommend a dose of 400mg of magnesium glycinate as a sleep aid taken 1-2 hours before bedtime.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that is commonly found in tea leaves. This calming amino acid works by lowering anxiety and promoting relaxation. It boosts GABA, serotonin and dopamine – your brain’s feel-good chemicals – and is reported to lower levels of excitatory brain chemicals like glutamate. It’s benefits go beyond sleep, to reducing anxiety, enhancing mental focus, attention and learning, as well as promoting healthy weight.
Dosing: 200-400 mg about one hour before bed has been shown to improve sleep.
Note – To access our online dispensary, filled with pharmaceutical grade supplements, herbs and sleep aids, CLICK HERE to set up your free Fullscript account.
Getting good, quality sleep doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Follow these tips and before long you will be sleeping like a baby and reaping all of the benefits that come along with it.