It’s 2:30 A.M. and I’m staring at the ceiling. I should be asleep but I’m not. Then my mind starts racing and I start thinking of all the reasons why I’m not sleeping. Was it the food I ate? How about my stressful day, week, or month? Did one of the cats knock something over? I usually don’t have a problem with sleeping but every so often, I will resort to counting sheep. Actually I start by counting all the couples I know who are happy which doesn’t get me far, so I then flip it around and start thinking of the ones that should get divorced. This is my problem. Once I’m awake I can never fall asleep and my mind jumps from one thought to another, so I let insomnia win and crawl out of bed at 3:30 A.M., frustrated and annoyed.
Unfortunately, I know I’m not alone; insomnia is an ongoing battle with many of you. And of all the things that can go wrong in the bed, sleep troubles are probably most prevalent. Not only do sleepless nights make us a tad grumpy, they age you, decrease your sex drive, cause you to gain weight, and can lead to other health problems.
As you probably already know, getting a proper night sleep is valuable to your health, but don’t think that running to the pharmacy is the answer. Sleeping pills do not cure insomnia, and can interfere with REM sleep. Many people who take sleeping pills on a regular basis actually find their insomnia becomes worse. So, let’s dig a little deeper and try and find out what the root problem is to your insomnia and maybe some of the tips below can push you in the right direction.
First look at the list below and try to determine what type of insomnia is affecting you and address them as needed.
• Anxiety and stress (job, relationship, poor diet)
• Major life event (move, divorce, death)
• Breathing disorder (asthma)
• Pain or injury (inflammation within the body)
• Hormonal shift (menopause, pms, stress, diet)
• Withdrawal of medication
• Indigestion and constipation (bad food choices)
• Physical exercise (never exercising)
• Substance abuse (alcohol, caffeine, certain foods, medication)
• Mental illness (anxiety, depression)
• Waking up to use the bathroom (pregnancy, muscle weakness, too much liquid before bed)
• Food sensitivities
• Low melatonin (jet lag, alcohol, caffeine, blood sugar imbalances, stress, exposure to light)
• Imbalanced Neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, GABA can be thrown out of balance by inflammation and hormone changes)
8 Easy Health Tips To Get a Better Sleep
1. Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bed. Caffeine is a drug that promotes alertness and since it is a stimulant it can make it hard for you to fall asleep. If you are dealing with adrenal fatigue, it’s a good idea to reduce your caffeine consumption throughout the day unless you are going to hike a mountain after.
2. Turn down the lights. Make your bedroom as dark as possible. When your brain senses darkness, it causes the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, so you will be able to fall asleep faster and sleep better. I like to use blackout curtains in my bedroom and turn off or cover all electronic devices that may possibly be disrupting sleep. An eye mask is a wonderful and inexpensive invention that may help promote sleep. I take mine whenever I travel.
3. Take magnesium before bed. If you have less-than-optimal magnesium levels then you could be at risk for all sorts of health problems, including insomnia. People with low magnesium levels often experience a restless sleep, while waking up frequently during the night. Magnesium is a delicate mineral that is depleted easily from stress and anxiety, so if you experience one of these two on a regular basis then you are most likely magnesium deficient. Aside from supplementing the body with magnesium, you could up your green drinks or take a warm Epsom salt bath before bed.
4. Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex – NOT for working, watching television, or eating. Unless the eating is involved with sex! Most of us are aware that we shouldn’t bring our addictive gadgets to bed at night but the scary thing is that they have become a huge part of our daily lives that it’s almost impossible to put them down. And keeping your phone on your nightstand may not be a big deal, but technology affects your sleep in more ways than you realize. All those lights suppress melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle, they keep your brain alert making it hard to relax, and they have a tendency to wake you up during the night thanks to the texting chimes. So drop your phone in a box outside your door and retrieve it in the morning.
5. Enjoy soothing drinks. A warm cup of chamomile tea with lavender or turmeric will help you wind down after a long and stressful day. While turmeric may not sound like an enjoyable drink, with the right combination of spices and natural sweeteners, it can turn into a delicious and beneficial drink. Turmeric has been shown to reduce inflammation and stabilize blood sugar levels. This Turmeric & Honey Sleep Tonic just might do the trick.
6. Make changes to your diet – Eating high glycemic foods before bed can disrupt your sleep, keeping you tossing and turning all night. How does this happen? Eating sugar or carbs boosts your blood sugar, giving you a burst of energy, which may contribute to your late nights. Then, as insulin moves the sugar from you blood to your cells, your blood sugar drops and makes you feel sleepy. This dip in your blood sugar triggers a stress response in your body, and both cortisol and adrenaline increase, which has a nasty habit of waking you up again and again. So stick to low glycemic and protein foods before bed.
7. Manage stress. Cortisol is the ‘stress hormone’, or ‘death hormone’ because it is secreted during times of stress, whenever your body is in a state of fear, anger, or anxiety. Cortisol creates constant inflammation that eventually cause premature aging and may lead to an earlier death.
A few simple lifestyle changes, nutritional nourishment, and special herbs called adaptogens will help you obtain a better night sleep. Some of these adaptogens are:
• Holy basil also known as Tulsi is a well-known Ayruvedic herb that has been used to lower elevated cortisol and regulate blood sugar.
• Ashwagandha this is a super star herb because not only does it increases energy and mental alertness during the day but it helps your body cope with stress which in return helps you relax at night for a better sleep.
• Dong Quai – is the “queen” of herbs for balancing women’s hormones.
8. Get moving! Catching your zzz’s isn’t just about getting out of bed early. It’s about what you do during the day that helps you sleep better. We all know the exercise keeps us healthy but it also promotes a better sleep. The more vigorous the exercise the more beneficial your sleep will be but that’s not it. Strength training practically guarantees your head to hit the pillow hard. Strength training creates constructive physical changes in the body that help you get a better night’s sleep. Which in return helps your body to balance hormones, stabilize blood sugar levels and eases anxiety levels. Resistant training is probably the largest contributor to growth hormone release. When we lift heavier loads we cause our body to release greater amounts of growth hormones, which in return contributes to a better and deeper sleep.
*Consult your doctor before you begin weight lifting or other new exercise regimen.
Note: If you still have problems falling asleep after implementing all these tips, make sure you check with your health care practitioner and have them look for hormonal imbalances, including adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is associated with chronic stress and can lead to imbalances in your natural cortisol cycle, causing you to wake up throughout the night and feel more tired in the morning.