How to Sleep: An Insomniac's Survival Guide

Last week we looked at the benefits of getting enough sleep. Are you getting your 7-8 hours each night, or are you still struggling? There are lots of easy tricks you can add to your sleep routine to help you get all those beautiful benefits (better sex, health, memory, and mood for starters!). Here we go:

Routine: 

Start winding down 90 minutes before bed. I find this one of the most important tips, as it trains the brain and body to know that it is time for sleep.

Caffeine: 

Avoid this stimulant in all forms: tea/coffee/energy drinks/cocoa/chocolate. It may take some people up to 24 hours to eliminate caffeine from their systems. If you have to have your caffeine try to stop by 2pm.

Stress: 

Anxiety and stress can affect sleep quality significantly. If you find yourself lying awake at 3am with the infamous *monkey mind chattering away, it might be a good idea to take a look at why this is happening. One tool I find can help is if you can’t get back to sleep after 15 minutes, try writing your thoughts down on a notepad until you can deal with it in the morning, so your “monkey mind” can take a break and let you rest.

*Monkey mind: that voice that never stops chattering. The to-do lists. The “what-if’s”. The “I should have’s”.  The one that likes to wake us up for a chat. See next tip on how to tame him!

Stress that has been around for a while can also affect our adrenals. These are the glands above our kidneys that secrete cortisol, and while we want reasonable levels during the day, we want them to lower at night. Levels that are too high can cause the “tired but wired” feeling: the one where you feel so tired but can’t sleep. *Usually likes to play games with us by making us feel like we need a nap at 6pm but have us jumping out of our skin at 10pm*

Alcohol:

Alcohol may help you fall asleep but it won’t let you sleep well because it disrupts the deep sleep cycle which is crucial for memory and processing. Mess around with this and you also burn fewer calories.
If you have to have a drink at night, try to have it to no closer to 3 hours before bed so your body can process it. And drink a glass of water to rehydrate.

Sleep Habitat:

Is your bedroom a cluttered, dusty mess? Or is it tranquil, serene and sleep-promoting? Is your mattress and pillow comfortable? Do your pj’s make you sweat? Choose cotton or a natural fiber. There are lots of things to consider when it comes to an ideal environment for peaceful sleep:

Aromatherapy:

Try using 100% pure essential oils to sweeten the air. (NO synthetic fragrances. They are not good for us.) Lavender and chamomile are traditionally used to help lullaby us to sleep through our sense of smell. If you use the same oil consistently as part of your sleep routine, your brain will be sent a "sleep time" message each time you smell it. Try a sleep pillow with these herbs or sprinkle a few drops onto a tissue and tuck it under your pillow. Or take a warm (not hot) bath before bed to help relax and soothe. (See next week’s post on how to use aromatherapy).

Noise:

Nothing worse than noisy neighbors, a snoring partner, or the sound of sirens piercing the quiet night when you are trying to sleep, right? Try using a sound machine to give a constant soothing “white noise” or calming ocean sounds. I use a humidifier, which helps keep the dry NYC air more comfortable, and it acts as a sound machine too. Ear plugs can work too.

Light: 

Embrace the darkness when it comes to bedtime. Melatonin levels rise when it is dark, which signals our brain to tell us it is sleepy-time. Too much light suppresses it and keeps us awake. Not fun.

Aim to dim your lights around 90 minutes before bed. Install dimmer switches or use lamps, or candles (don’t fall asleep before blowing them out!).
Avoid TV, electronic devices, cell phones. They emit faster frequencies and are over-stimulating for our brain. They also emit a blue light, which mimics daylight, confusing our brain. Read a real book to help you unwind.
Use blackout curtains/blinds, or use an eye mask if the room is still too light. 

Temperature:

Lower the heat. Cool room: warm bed. 
The cooler our body when we sleep, the more fat we burn trying to keep warm. Dr. Alan Christianson says brown fat burns the fat we don't want by acting to warm our bodies. Breathing in cooler air also helps burn more calories. Workout while you sleep! No effort required :D

Finally, we have supplements that can be taken to promote sleep:

Herbs:

Certain herbs like chamomile and valerian in tea/capsule/tincture form can help promote relaxation, but are best taken under supervision. Always consult a professional before taking herbs, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or on medication. If you are interested in trying herbal remedies but are not sure how to do so safely, or need help with sorting out your sleep routine, connect with me for a complimentary Strategy Session

Sweet dreams! Feel free to share your sleep tips below, or let me know which tip you will be trying.

 

Resources: 

http://www.thesleepdoctor.com/blog/

http://doctormurray.com/stress-anxiety-and-insomnia/

The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington.

https://melissabatih.wistia.com/medias/bses3cp7m1