First, I am going to tell you that I am not a doctor – and, if this become a major issue – see your physician. What I am going to give you here are some ideas that may assist you in getting a good night’s sleep.
- Remove sources of ‘Blue Light’ in the bedroom. Remember when our parents used to watch Johnny Carson prior to going to sleep (OK – I am dating myself). Now, we not only have Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon – we have Kindles and tablets, and our trusty smartphones. The TV, reading tablets and smartphone displays ALL emit blue light. Blue light is the frequency that we see in the morning – you are effectively tricking your body to make cortisol and keep you awake. And, we now know what else cortisol does!
- Limit the use of stimulants. I know that this is tough – we need our morning jolt after all, and our afternoon glass of wine. But, if we can’t wean ourselves off of these beverages – at least limit them to before certain times of the day.
- For example, try to avoid caffeine consumption after 1 – 2 pm.
- Limit alcohol to no more than 1 drink a day (for women)* and no more than 2 drinks a day for men. And, if you DO imbibe – make sure that you don’t drink within two hours of bedtime.
- Stop Smoking – period!!!
* Some may say that 7 drinks per week is too much for a woman. They are likely correct – but, that is why I state NO MORE than one drink a day. Watch your intake carefully.
- Get some exercise – regular exercise improves your ability to sleep. But, don’t do you training in the late evening. Again, depending on the exercise involved, it could raise your cortisol levels and impact your ability to get to sleep.
- Have consistent times to go to bed and wake up. The best thing to do is start setting up certain ‘patterns’ that tell your body to prepare for sleep. How about reading a good book (the paper kind)? Leave the workday behind and instead write down what you are grateful for in a journal. Even meditation helps you decompress – I love to listen to sounds of the surf at night and the sounds of birds singing in the morning! It beats listening to what happened overnight (although, I must admit, that as a news junkie – this is a hard one to break).
- Create a ‘sleep sanctuary’. As I mentioned, electronics are not your friend. Remove them from the bedroom. I like to think of the bedrooms and rooms at spas and nice hotels. They are simple in design, not cluttered and have an organic feel to them. Try to make that part of your bedroom design. Also, keep the room cool. I would suggest 65 – 58 o F (or 16 – 20 o C). Our bodies find it easier to sleep in lower temperatures. Plus, the ‘snuggle’ factor improves (sex improves sleep as well).
- Watch what you eat. Try to eat 4 – 5 hours before bedtime. And, contrary to Western thinking – make that meal lighter. Also, if you do feel the need to snack before bedtime – make sure that it is a food that is L-tryptophan rich. This would include some nuts and perhaps cheese (sounds good to me).
- Get some potato starch. Potato starch is a ‘resistant‘ starch. What does that mean? It means that we don’t digest it – but, our gut flora does! Our good gut bacteria love this and digest it to make short chain fatty acids that are important for our health. One short chain fatty acid in particular is ‘butyric acid‘. Butyric acid is a precursor for a neurotransmitter known as ‘gamma amino butyric acid‘ (GABA). GABA helps calm the calm my brain and it does wonders. Estrogen inhibits the production of this compound in the brain – so women are always at risk here. I take 2 tablespoons in the morning and 2 tablespoons in the evening. It works wonders for me. ONE NOTE OF CAUTION: Ease into the dosage – if your gut flora is not in good shape you will experience some digestive discomfort.
- Try some Melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that helps us sleep. Unfortunately, the production of the hormone decreases with age. It is suggested to take 3 – 6 mg of melatonin (available as an over the counter tablet) prior to bedtime.
- Magnesium. This is also been shown to be beneficial for problems with sleep. It is vital for the function of GABA receptors and deactivates adrenaline. It is suggested that you take 400 -500 mg prior to going to sleep.
If these do not work – please see your physician to ensure that something else isn’t awry (like sleep apnea, depression, or a thyroid condition).
What have I done?
So, this is an ‘n=1’ experiment and I am still a work in progress. But, I have improved. So, what have I done?
- First, I no longer read my ‘books’ on a tablet at night. It has to be a paper copy. I have my phone in the room – but, it is only there as an alarm clock in the morning (and the sound and light is off). I will be transparent here – we still have a TV in our bedroom – but, I try to turn it off as quickly as possible.
- Second – I only have coffee in the morning, and no more than one glass of wine (prior to dinner) at night.
- Third, I now try to eat smaller meals at dinnertime. Last night, I had a bowl of soup and some veggies – I slept wonderfully.
- I continue to take my GABA as part of my evening ritual – but, because of the need to use Magnesium as well. I have started to use a new product called ‘Rest Well’ (http://thecavewomandiva.mywellandcompany.com/). This ‘tea’ like drink is part of my evening ritual and contains GABA, magnesium and L-theanine (which is supposed to improve the action of GABA). And, it contains chamomile which always relaxes me.
- Finally, I love to meditate. This is a non-denominational form of meditation. To me, it is listening to the music or the sounds of surf in the background and giving thanks for all I have. Declaring my blessings and joyfully anticipating the day to come. I will also do a relaxation meditation at night to get my head in the right place for sleep.
I would love to hear what you do to promote sleep!
The Cave Woman Diva