Did you know that lack of sleep increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease or dementia?
Lack of sleep affects so many aspects of our health. It can cause lack of concentration, anxiety, mood changes, high blood pressure, higher levels of blood glucose, low sex drive, increased risk of muscle injury, worsening of chronic pain and many more problems. At night, we regulate our body fat and blood sugar. Growth hormone is released during deep sleep and helps regenerate cells and build muscle mass. Cortisol peaks also peaks later at night that helps store glucose in the muscle and regulate body fat. If sleep is disrupted, then your cortisol peak is affected and carries into the day. Chronic sleep deprivation causes you to store fat around your belly, raises your blood pressure and makes you lose muscle mass. Our nerve cells regenerate and recover during the sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation increases protein deposition and amyloid plaques in our brain, increasing risk of Alzheimer’s.
Our immune cells recover during sleep. Insomnia leads to both an exaggerated immune response and weakening of your immune cells, making you more prone to infection and chronic inflammation. The accumulation of toxins and progressive dehydration as we age makes sleep more difficult.
How much sleep do you need per night?
About 15-20% of your sleep is dedicated to deep sleep. You need all stages of sleep to be well rested.
7-8 hours uninterrupted sleep per night seems to be optimal number,
Establish a routine: Go to bed and wake up at the same time, even on the weekends
Limit alcohol and caffeine
Caffeine not later than 1pm - it has a half time of over 12 hours and will keep you up at night
Alcohol at bedtime gets metabolized through the liver and you will have a rebound effect where you wake up in the middle of the night, fully awake. It might help you fall asleep quicker, but disrupts your REM sleep and increases sleep apnea. Alcohol also dehydrates you. Water is important for your health. If you want a glass of wine, drink it earlier in the evening with a glass of water.
Keep your bedroom cool (between 65-67 degrees Fahrenheit if possible)
Avoid blue light 2 hours prior to bedtime. Blue light from your cell phone screen or laptop or TV increases excitatory neurotransmitters in your brain and disrupts your natural circadian rhythm. Wear blue light glasses and avoid screen time before bedtime.
Don't watch TV in bed or bring your phone to your bedroom. Your bedroom is your sleep sanctuary and should only be used for that (and obviously intimacy). Keep your entertainment and sleep separate.
Dim the lights in your bedroom. Himalayan sea salt lamps or candles only. No LED lights that disrupt your sleep cycle.
Exercise: try not to exercise in the 3 hours prior to bedtime. Same reason as above, it excites your body and disrupts your sleep.
Stay away from processed food.
Don’t eat right before bedtime. Try to have your dinner at least 2-3 hours prior to bedtime. Digestion keeps your blood flow and repair mechanisms away from other vital structures. So allowing your body to digest prior to going to bed, gives your body more of the benefits of deep sleep.
Be physically active during the day.
If you want to track your sleep, you can wear a device that measures your heart rate. What you want to see ideally is not a lot of variation in your heart rate. If you have a lot of highs and peaks, it means you don't have restful sleep.
Power nap: 20 min is the golden time for a power nap during the day to restore energy. But do not nap after 3 pm.
TAP on your thighs - sit on the edge of your bed and alternatively tap on your thighs for 5 min and slow down the tapping until you feel tired.
Practice mindfulness and gratitude at the end of your day -be grateful for the experiences of the day, no matter how challenging. For mindfulness and guided meditation, there are a number of meditation apps you can use (Calm, Headspace, youtube videos etc)
Can supplements help?
If you have exhausted all the above tips and are still having trouble, you can try one of the following supplements:
Lemon balm, passion flower tea, chamomile tea
Try magnesium glycinate powder at bedtime
L-Theanine 200-400mg at bedtime
Glycine 3-5 grams at bedtime (don’t take if taking clozapine medication) or just eat pistachios, sesame seeds
Try melatonin at bedtime Melatonin —1 to 5 mg to fall asleep and/or 5to 20 mg time released melatonin to stay asleep or 5-HTP—100 to 200 mg 1 hour before bedtime
Valerian 800mg helps both with sleep and restless leg syndrome
Take a warm bath with Epson salt
Essential oils: 20 drops of lavender oil, 20 drops of cedarwood oil, 20 drops of frankincense, 20 drops of bergamot oil, Mix all together in a bottle and shake well. Apply to your bath, pillow or rub on your hands. DO NOT INHALE essential oils (do not use a diffuser)
Before trying any over the counter supplement, discuss with your doctor if they are appropriate for you. If you have liver or kidney problems, you might experience more side effects.