Let's talk about ways you can sleep better
The Center for Disease Control calls insufficient sleep as a "public health epidemic".
From young children staying up too late, to adults incapable of making it through their day with energy, sleep issues are rampant in modern society.
Why is our sleep suffering so much these days and how can we improve it?
Maximize melatonin production
The detrimental effects of night time artificial light on sleep has been extensively covered on the podcast with Dr. Hansler here.
In short, artificial light at night has been linked to a reduction of melatonin. A study using a quarter-sized light behind a subject's knee was enough to suppress melatonin levels.
Melatonin is not just our "sleep hormone". Melatonin is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body and is responsible for many other functions and actions in keeping us healthy.
Melatonin is related to:
- Seasonal depression
- Protecting against radiation
- Jet lag
- Immune system
Hormones in the body rarely serve just one purpose. As you can see with melatonin, many of the "poor health" symptoms can be caused from a lack of this crucial hormone.
Conversely, with an ample supply of melatonin, the immune system can be boosted, jet lag can be eliminated and your moods can improve!This is why maximizing our natural melatonin production is the first step to a healthy body, calm mind and quality sleep.
If you insist on staying up past 930PM and want to maximize your melatonin production, you will have to wear these glasses until all the lights are turned off.
Some people are more sensitive to light than others. I am particularly sensitive to light exposure and will toss and turn if I expose myself to too much light. After all, the eyelids are the thinnest skin on your body.
Dr. Hansler's company who specializes in removing blue lights from the home using glasses, light bulbs, iPad covers and more is my recommended resource.
Action: Put on your glasses, upgrade your lighting system and go to bed at 930PM.
Reduce blood sugar crashes
When it comes to sleep, there are many puzzle pieces that combine to form our waking experience. With a disruption in any of our natural cycles, we can experience poor moods, fatigue and a lack of quality sleep.
It doesn't matter if you are in bed 8 hours if the quality of those 8 hours are poor.
When we eliminate sugar as much as possible from the diet, we are taking many steps in the right direction. With the lack of sugar in the bloodstream, the body can begin to burn its fat stores.
As long as our insulin are raised due to sugar in our system, fat cannot be burned. Let me rephrase that again. When sugar is in the bloodstream, fat can literally not be burned, regardless of how fast and far you push yourself through an exercise routine.
When sugar is introduced to the body, it presents a fear response by the body. We cannot survive with an excess of sugar in the bloodstream. Insulin is released to shove the excess sugar into the fat cells. Now that the blood sugar is "safe" and stored in our fat cells, blood sugar drops.
When blood sugar drops, we get fatigued, moody and sometimes even lightheaded. This also triggers a fear response. If blood sugar gets too low, we pass out. Therefore, our stress hormone cortisol fires in an emergency attempt to bring the blood sugar back up to a stable level. This would allow you to have energy, run from an enemy or stay awake at your computer desk.
Does this whole process seem chaotic? That's because it is. A lifetime of the blood sugar roller-coaster will create an exhausted, unhappy and diabetic human.
Eventually, the pancreas gets tired from shooting out insulin all the time to store the excess sugar. It gives up and you now have type II diabetes.
Now to survive and deal with the sugars you input into the body, you have to inject insulin artificially. Without proper levels of blood sugar, you can experience blurry vision, anxiety and extreme thirst.
Action: Avoid sugar except for the naturally occurring amounts found in berries. Keep some stevia packets with you just in case.
Limit caffeine intake
With the whole community posting pictures and jokes about their coffee dependence, I'm not laughing. From my experience, I fear that many of these people that innocently joke about their coffee addictions are in fact, covering up an underlying low-thyroid or adrenal function issue.
Depending on the person, the process of metabolizing and excreting caffeine can take 24 hours or more.
Cigarette smokers metabolize caffeine 50% faster than non-smokers. This partially explains why you see cigarette smoking, coffee drinkers. The other explanation is that they are looking for a double boost of their dopamine receptors. I cover neurotransmitters more in depth in my article on naturally boosting your moods.
Caffeine can be a very helpful and addictive drug for many people. It's one of the only drugs that employers will give you an allotted amount of time to "do", next to sugar.
Action: Limit caffeine beyond 10am and keep it to 100mg per day or less. For reference, a cup of coffee is about 100mg. Here's the full list of drinks.
Limit the bedroom to sleep and sex
In the age of portable electronics, it's so easy and tempting to bring our tech toys to the bed with us. Not only is the artificial light from these devices destroying our melatonin production, but the stimulation from the activity itself can keep us tossing and turning throughout the night.
Expecting to get restorative sleep after we check our email and facebook pages up until the moment we shut our eyes is about as likely as getting a tan at the North Pole.
Our brains are creatures of habit. They carve neural pathways that teach us what actions to perform to get pleasure, satisfaction, food and survival. If we've been in these habits for even just a month, there can be some neuro-plasticity that has occurred. Now, it's that much easier to perform these nightly habits without even realizing it.
Remember the last time you opened your phone or web browser, ended up on facebook and have no idea how you got there? That is the power of neural pathways in the brain.
Action: Perform technology and social activities during the daytime and more importantly, keep these activities out of the bedroom.
Reserving the bedroom for sleep and sex only will teach your brain that when you enter the bed, it's time for only 2 activities.
Go for a walk each day
You may wonder why exercise is presented in so many articles on the web these days. I agree, it's one of those things we inherently know is good for us, but often we just put it aside.
Whether or not you perform extreme exercise, sprints and heavy lifting, you can still benefit from a walk. We are nomadic creatures that are built to walk.
Although the sedentary lifestyle is hedonistic and pleasurable, it's not the best for our fat-burning and deep sleeping abilities.
The body is designed to heal and flourish on its own, as long as we perform the Primal instructions that have been programmed into us. Therefore, after a session of walking, the natural response would be to relax and maybe sleep!
Hopefully this helps explain why a sedentary lifestyle does NOT promote sleep. We must use and work the body so that it can perform the opposite reaction: rest, repair and sleep.
Action: Go for a walk daily. Even if your walk is 5 minutes, the important part is that you are triggering a rest and recover response in the body.
If you've been a follower of my blog for sometime, you know my strict attentiveness to details, relationships between the mind and body and explaining the sometimes complex analogies that our body creates.
REM Rehab is my latest and greatest project that is an eBook, Audiobook and Support group dedicated to fixing your sleep habits, quantity and quality. It's available for pre-order here and will be released on March 27th. If you know anyone that would benefit from this program, please share using the buttons below.
Action: Pick up a copy of REM Rehab and urge others that need this valuable information to do the same! Thanks for your support.
If you want to take control of your life, you must prioritize your sleep, technology use and diet habits!