Lack of sleep not only leaves you dragging and grumpy the next day, but can affect your attention, concentration, memory, problem solving and other cognitive functions. Even worse, statistics show that not getting enough sleep can be dangerous in various ways. First, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are around 100,000 car accidents attributed to fatigue yearly in the United States. Then consider all the injuries and accidents at work that are also a result of lack of sleep. And finally there is the danger to your health as sleep disorders and chronic lack of sleep can increase your risk for heart disease or attack, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and other medical conditions. Add to all this that not getting enough sleep can affect your weight and contribute to obesity. One study reported that those getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night compared to those getting 7 to 9 hours were 30% more likely to be obese. Other research has reported findings that according to sleep specialist Dr. Allison Siebern explain how not enough sleep creates an increase in peptides that stimulate hunger and lead to cravings for unhealthy type fatty and carb filled foods. Lack of sleep can also trigger the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, which affects skin health. With all these possible threats, you can see how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. We all need a little help getting to sleep sometimes, but if you chronically lose sleep it is especially important to find ways to get good quality sleep. If you find that your sleep problems are becoming chronic, you may have a condition that will need to be addressed. For example, depression, acid reflux, asthma, and arthritis can all have insomnia as a symptom. If you have had sleep problems for a month or more, it may be time to consult your healthcare provider. For those whose sleep problems are not that severe, here are some tips to try that can help with falling asleep, staying asleep and improving your quality of sleep.
- Melatonin is a hormone responsible for regulation of the circadian rhythm that is responsible for the cycle of sleeping and waking the body goes through. When we sleep, the absence of light triggers the body’s production of melatonin. Lowering lights several hours before going to bed and using a low watt light to read if you read before bedtime can help produce melatonin to bring on drowsiness. Avoid using devices with light right before bed too like the TV or computer and turn digital clocks or other devices with lights away from you when going to bed. If you get up during the night to go to the bathroom, have a nightlight to guide you so you don’t have to turn on overhead bright lights.
- Michael Breus, PhD., author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health, suggests developing a routine in the evening hours to wind down before bed. Find relaxing activities and save more stimulating tasks that require movement and thinking for daytime.
- Choose a bedtime and a wake-up time and stick to them even on the weekends. Establishing a routine for when to go to sleep and when to wake up helps the body and the brain get used to this cycle and adhere to it.
- Some people find taking an extract of Valerian useful for reducing anxiety and helping relax them for sleep. There is research to support this type of herbal tincture as useful in improving the quality of sleep and research that doesn’t support those claims. It may be worth a try to see if this is something that works for you or not. The same is true for German chamomile made into a tea, Roman chamomile in tincture form and kava kava. It is a good idea to check with your healthcare provider however to see if these are safe for your individual conditions.
- Tryptophan aids in producing serotonin which studies from the 1960’s and 1970’s showed have a part in being able to go to sleep. Tryptophan can be found in food sources such as turkey, nuts like pistachios, almonds and cashews, beans, eggs, bananas, honey, milk and foods high in good carbohydrates like grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
- According to Michael Breus, PhD., the stimulation from caffeine can be present for as long as 8 hours so avoiding caffeine that long before bedtime can help with being able to fall asleep quickly. Caffeine affects the quality of sleep you get too so drink your coffee early in the day and lay off once afternoon arrives. That also applies to other caffeinated foods, drinks and medications that may have caffeine.
- Exercise is definitely on the list of healthy living tasks, but doing exercise too close to bedtime can interfere with being able to get to sleep. Staying active and exercising earlier in the day can help you get to sleep at night, just make sure you avoid stimulating an adrenaline rush before beginning to prepare your body for sleep and stop 3 or 4 hours before bedtime. If you need to do some type of movement before bedtime, try yoga, tai chi, or qigong.
- Eating rich, spicy and high fat or protein rich foods or just eating a lot before bedtime can also interfere with your quality of sleep by causing your digestive system to work harder. This can also mean sleep being disrupted by needing to get up to use the bathroom throughout the night. If you need a light snack before bed, go with complex carbs and dairy and stop all foods an hour before going to bed. Cereal and milk or cheese and crackers both make good before bed snack. Drinking before bedtime can also interrupt sleep with trips to the bathroom. If this is a problem for you, cut off all liquids two hours before bedtime.
- Bifidus is one the friendly forms of bacteria that live in your large intestine. This form of bacteria not only helps you with digestion, but also produces the calming and soothing B-vitamins that can help you relax and wind down at night. Taking 2-4 capsules of bifidus before getting ready for bed can help with digestive symptoms and lead to more restful sleep.
- Bromelain is an enzyme that occurs naturally in pineapple. Enzymes make it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients it needs to function properly and help your body break down foods more quickly and efficiently, so your body doesn’t have to work quite as hard to process your food. When you are feeling burned out, stressed or finding it hard to sleep due to digestive issues, it is especially helpful to help your body save energy. You’ll find bromelain as well as the enzymes papain, protease, lipase, and serratiopeptidase, together with AFA bluegreen algae, in this enzyme and algae supplement.
- Many people think drinking alcohol helps them get to sleep and that can be true. The problem is that effect doesn’t last through the entire night. Drinking alcohol before bed can actually cause you to wake up more in the night, bring on nightmares, cause a headache, cause night sweats and cause you to not get as good quality of sleep. Drinking warm milk or chamomile tea on the other hand help with sleep. If you do drink alcohol in the evening, also drink a glass of water for each alcoholic beverage you consume. This can help dilute the effects.
- If you have reasons that you do have to skimp on sleep for a period of time you may need to work on getting the best nutrition you can to stay focused and alert during the day. This supplement was created for those with a demanding, high-stakes lifestyle, where heightened focus and mental clarity is a critical factor and uses the wholefood nutrition of organic wild bluegreen algae, eleuthero, Ginkgo biloba, Lion’s Mane, bee pollen, wheatgrass juice, and noni for nutritional support.
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