Sleep is an essential part of our being. We spend nearly one-third of our life doing it. Without it, we can transform into senseless zombies walking through a fog, or we might react erratically to the smallest event because the neurotransmitters in our brain can’t tell the difference between a horrific disaster and something that is no big hairy deal. Do you remember how you felt after cramming for an all-nighter or those sleepless nights with a new baby? Sleep sounds like a little bit of heaven when you have burned the candle at both ends.
I recently attended a seminar called, “Sleep and the Brain” by Dr. Michael Lara. I would like to share some of the highlights so you might find yourself more rested, focused and rejuvenated.
Why do we sleep? Biologically, we sleep to repair cellular components, to conserve energy and to help the brain be more efficient for storing memories and learning. But despite all of the pillows and mattresses advertised that promise the “perfect night’s sleep”, almost half of Americans say that poor sleep affects their daily activities. This number indicates that we really should pay more attention to our sleep quality. It is important to understand that inadequate sleep not only affects your health, but it can affect the health of others. Here is an alarming statistic: drowsy driving is the second leading cause of fatal vehicle accidents behind drunk driving. Wow. (Texting and driving is third). Also disturbing is to watch the physical changes when your sleep is poor because you will age faster, your appetite intensifies and your BMI increases. Furthermore, studies have shown that poor sleep is associated with chronic conditions like metabolic syndrome, increased cardiovascular risk and a rise in breast cancer and prostate cancer risk. Undoubtedly, sleep matters for many reasons.
So what do you do if you toss and turn? You have many options to consider.
PERSONAL PRACTICE SLEEP AIDES (My favorite to try first because there are little to no side-effects)
Light therapy – catch some mid-day light for at least 30 minutes or if you have a light box, get exposure of 10,000 lux for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
For those who can’t stay away from computers, phones and TV before bed, try wearing blue blocker glasses 2-3 hours before hitting the hay. They block the UVB light from electronic devices which can reduce Melatonin production – a hormone that helps to lower your body temperature to signal it to sleep.
Time restricted feeding - restrict food consumption to certain hours of the day, try to keep meals at the same time daily and avoid eating 3 hours before bedtime. IMPORTANT TO KNOW: diet matters, but TIMING OF YOUR FOOD CONSUMPTION MAKES MORE OF A DIFFERENCE.
Get daily exercise (but not within 3 hours of bed time).
Avoid caffeine and nicotine before bedtime.
Avoid napping during the day.
Be mindful and have a regular bedtime relaxation routine. Check out the application “Headspace” to help you wind down your mind and your body.
Temperature control – 65 degrees is optimal.
There are over- the- counter supplements that could aide in sleep. Even though you don’t need a prescription to get them, it is still a good idea to consult with your doctor.
Listed is a cocktail of supplements Dr. Lara recommended to take 30 minutes before bedtime:
Magnesium Threonate, 200 mg (Avoid magnesium oxide, it might make you have to poop in the middle of the night- yikes!)
Vitamin D3, 1000 IU (This is actually not a vitamin but a hormone)
Melatonin, 1 mg (It is also a stimulant to the immune system)
5HTP, 300 mg (5-Hydroxy Tryptophen increases the production of serotonin)
Curcumin, 2000 mg (A spice that is a member of the ginger family)
Medications like Ambien, Elavil, and Belsomra are also popular (especially with increasing media advertisements), but new problems can manifest; side effects like blurred vision, dizziness, nausea, constipation and fatigue are some of the complications that can occur. It is good to be aware of side effects, but another question to ask your doctor when prescribed a sleep medication is information about the drugs half-life (The amount of time it takes for half the dosage to metabolize in your body). Some medications have a half-life of only 2-3 hours. This means it will help you fall asleep, but you may wake up in the middle of the night and still not get the sleep you require. Yet other medications have a half-life of 40 hours which will make you feel tired and sluggish throughout your day. But more alarming, toxic levels of the drug could easily build in your body. So don’t be afraid to ask questions and educate yourself about your medications. And if something doesn’t seem right, take care of yourself and contact your doctor to make an adjustment.
I hope you find yourself having sweet dreams after learning a thing or two about sleep. And if you would like more information about what you can do to get a better night sleep, contact me and we can explore avenues for you.