12 Steps to Improving Sleep Naturally
By Sarah Axtell, ND • April 8, 2016
We need between 7-8.5 hours sleep per night. If you get any less than this, the consequences of sleep deprivation can be significant:
- Poor memory
- Decreased motivation and mood
- Decreased perception of pain
- Decreased immunity
- Increased tension and stress
- Increased blood sugar
- Increased and appetite, leading to obesity and weight gain
- Increased inflammation (sleep deprivation can increase inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein)
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
12 Steps to Establishing Healthy Sleep Hygiene
1. Maintain a regular bedtime and waking time, 7 days a week. After all, your adrenal glands thrive on routine!
2. Avoid large meals 2-3 hours prior to bedtime.
3. On the contrary to the above point, if it has been more than 5 hours without having eaten anything prior to bedtime, eat a small snack rich in protein. Examples are a hard boiled egg, spoonful of almond butter, slice of turkey, handful of nuts.
4. Exercise…but avoid strenuous exercise right before sleep. Intense cardio exercise increases cortisol and we want low cortisol before bed. Best forms of exercise in the evening are resistance exercise (weight lifting) and gentle forms of yoga or pilates.
5. Keep a journal next to your bed so you can write down those ruminating thoughts or A-Ha moments you have at 3 am!
6. Avoid screens at least 60 minutes prior to bedtime. The blue light we are exposed to from electronics shuts down our melatonin production. Consider a blue light filter for your i-pad or computer.
7. Avoid alcohol close to bedtime. Alcohol leads to disrupted sleep later in the night. In fact, in Chinese medicine each organ has a time associated with it. Liver times is between 1-3 am. If you repeatedly wake at 1-3 am, that is a sign that your liver needs some loving (ie. avoid alcohol and consider a cleanse).
8. Keep your bedroom temperature between 65-68 degrees F.
9. Invest in black-out blinds. We need complete darkness in order to produce melatonin.
10. Avoid caffeine! If you suffer from insomnia and you think your 10 am latte does not play a role- thing again! We all metabolize caffeine at different rates. Most people detox coffee out of their system within 6 hours, but some individuals are slow detoxers. If you are a slow detoxer, your morning cup of joe may still be in your system by bedtime, thus inhibiting you from getting quality sleep. Consider dark chocolate also inhibiting your sleep if you are especially sensitive.
11. Drink tart cherry juice before bed. Tart cherry juice contains melatonin and can promote a good night’s sleep.
12. Take magnesium at bedtime. Here are signs of magnesium deficiency.
How an ND can help:
Naturopathic doctors are trained to address the underlying cause of your insomnia. Causes range from adrenal dysfunction (high cortisol!), hormone imbalance, shiftwork, GERD or underlying food sensitivities.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.