Get Quality Sleep

During the night, the body repairs, restores, heals, maintains and detoxifies itself. How you sleep is as important as how you live during your waking hours. Getting an adequate amount of quality sleep is absolutely critical for your health. My sleep recommendations will help you improve your bedtime habits, so that you will truly sleep like a baby.


Create a regular Routine

Getting up and going to bed around the same time, even on weekends, is the most important thing you can do to establish good sleep habits. Waking and sleeping at set times reinforces a consistent sleep rhythm and reminds the brain when to release sleep and wake hormones, and more importantly, when not to.

Prepare for bed

It's important to understand that your body can't immediately switch from 'Drive' to 'Park.' You need time to slowly shift into sleep. Your bedtime preparation should include activities such as dimming the lights an hour or more before going to bed, taking a warm bath, listening to calming music, relaxation exercises, and lowering the bedroom temperature (60° - 68° is optimal). Just as you would clean a cluttered room, put things away (mentally and physically) that will distract you from going to sleep. Our bodies need time to produce enough sleep neurotransmitters to allow you to sleep, and lowering ambient temperature sends a feedback signal to the brain's sleep center, the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus or body clock, that it is night time, and that it needs to release more sleep hormones.

Create an electronic sundown

By 10pm, stop sitting in front of a computer screen (or TV screen) and switch off all electronic devices. It is too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep. That means no TV before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom.

Keep the room cool

A sleeping temperature of 60 to 65 degrees is best for most people, even in the dead of winter. In hot weather, use a floor or ceiling fan to create a breeze, or an air-conditioner set at about 70 degrees.

Keep the room as dark as possible

Look around your bedroom: the alarm clock read-out that glows in bright red; the charging indicator on your cell phone or PDA, the monitor on your computer, the battery indicator on the cordless phone or answering machine, the DVD clock and timer. Each of these takes a small toll on your sleep as each little bit of light can keep you from reaching deep restorative sleep. Cover or move the clock, use dark shades or drapes on windows if they are exposed to light or wear an eye mask. If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland's production of melatonin and serotonin.

Don't use the bedroom for anything but sleep and sex

Like Pavlov's dogs, we can unwittingly condition ourselves to not be able to sleep in the bedroom. If you find you can't fall asleep within 45 minutes, get up and get out of the bedroom. Read a book or do some other calming activity for another 1 -1½ hours before trying to sleep again. If you can't fall asleep within 45 minutes, you most likely won't be able to for at least 1 -1½ hours and staying in bed only causes stress over not sleeping.

Avoid harmful substances

This seems obvious, but many of the things we eat or drink can have sleep inhibitors in them. For example,

  • Caffeine even in small doses blocks sleep neurotransmitters. If you have a problem with sleep, cut out your morning coffee and any caffeinated beverages. Caffeine is not just in coffee. It's in colas and other soft drinks, tea, even some herbal teas, chocolate and some medications (Anacin and Excedrin, for example). There's even a little caffeine in decaffeinated coffee. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant with a half life typically of up to 7 hours. But for some people it may be much longer including if you are taking the oral contraceptive, some medications, have liver problems or just getting older.
  • Alcohol has an initial sleep inducing effect, but when broken down by the body, it can lighten sleep and causes frequent and early awakening. Alcohol interacts with GABA receptors, blocking the brain's oxygen sensors, cutting oxygen and complicating sleep conditions, particularly for sleep apnea.
  • Certain foods can cause food reactions or sensitivities which can effect your sleep cycle. The eating plans for Cleanse and for the Fatigue Fighting plan eliminate the most common foods causing most sensitivities and drastically decrease caffeine and alcohol.
  • Many medications, such as antihistamines, diuretics, antipsychotics, antidepressants decongestants, asthma medications, and some blood pressure medicines, also cause sleeplessness. If you're taking any necessary medication that interrupts your sleep, talk with your doctor about an alternative.
  • Tobacco acts as a stimulant and blocks sleep neurotransmitters.

Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars

This will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep.

Block out noise

Sometimes the sleep environment is the problem, noise from the street or a neighbor, or a snoring bed mate. Try using earplugs, a white noise machine or a fan that hums to block out the disruptive sounds.

Stress reduction or Relaxation techniques

Aside from physical problems, stress may be the number one cause of sleep disorders. Temporary stress can lead to chronic insomnia and circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Doing some restorative yoga (see the poses recommended in the Remove, Revive or Sustain manuals).

Exercise

Getting adequate exercise is one of the best defenses against insomnia. Exercise increases the amplitude of daily rhythms and tells the body to promote deeper sleep cycles to help replenish the muscle tissues from daily physical exertion. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise seem to work as well. Some sleep experts feel that exercise too close to bedtime can disrupt the sleep cycle and suggest that the best time to exercise is 4 - 6 hours before bedtime, but studies also show that people are more likely to stick to a routine if they exercise first thing in the morning. Create a personal routine that’s practical for you, so you stick with it.

Try taking nutrients that calm down the body and mind and get you ready for sleep

Look for a formula that has some of the following calming amino acids, L Theanine (100mg-300mg), 5 HTP (50-100mg), GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) (200-500mg), and possibly lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), which also has a sedative effect. Taking the minerals, calcium and magnesium at night is also helpful.

Sleep Faq's

For my answers to frequently asked questions about sleep, check out these 2 blogs I wrote a while ago
bewell.com/blog/common-sleep-questions-part-1
bewell.com/blog/common-sleep-questions-part-2