How did we humans manage to make something as basic as sleep so complicated? On the surface, sleep is quite simple, but the irony is that advances we have made over the years to make our lives easier have produced a myriad of sleep problems.
Disruption #1: Light. In ancient times, when the sun went down, it was time to sleep. A fire could extend the day somewhat, but without lights, we had little choice but to sleep. Modern times have no such limitation. With the advent of electricity, it is now possible to work around the clock. Overnight shift workers can attest to this.
Suggestion: Turn off as many lights as possible as the day winds down. Leave on only the lights necessary for safe movement.
Additional Benefit: Your electricity bill will go down and your wallet will thank you.
Disruption #2: Screens. We now have all manner of stimulus to keep us awake. Television, computers and smart phones all have vibrant screens specifically designed to stimulate the brain. It can take quite some time for the brain to ‘quiet down’ even after such screens have been turned off.
Suggestion: Stop viewing screen at least 45 minutes to one hour prior to your desired bed time in an effort to quiet brain activity. Reading is a great alternative serving to entertain as well as relax the mind.
Additional benefit: A recent book revealed one habit of the most successful people. They all read for self-improvement or education at least 30 minutes each day. This could be your window for a similar change.
Disruption #3: Stress. This is a big one. In my years of experience as a trainer, one of the common roadblocks to health and wellness improvements is poor sleep habits. Stress is primary cause of interrupted sleep.
Does this pattern sound familiar? You go to sleep at your usual hour but wake up at around 2:00 am and are unable to get back to sleep for a length of time. Unless there is another physical issue such as frequent urination, the culprit is almost always the stress hormone cortisol.
This hormone is vital for our survival, but when secreted in excessive amounts or in the wrong time in our daily cycle. Problems arise quickly.
Suggestion: 1) Meditation. This can literally wipe away an entire day’s stress. Sure, I know, you just don’t have time, you have never done that before and your family will think you are weird. You need to get past this mindset and understand that meditation has been shown to provide significant health benefits beyond improved sleep.
This may mean little more than 5 minutes at the end of the day of quiet time in your favorite chair, preferably in solitude. Just focusing on your breathing and working your way through all the muscles of the body focusing on relaxing each one in turn. Yes, there is an app for this!
2) The other way to mitigate cortisol secretion is a natural supplement called cumbersome name of phosphatidylserine. This supplement has been shown to decrease the release of cortisol. I have had excellent success with this product recommending it to clients with high-stress lifestyles. One of them called me to say it was the first time he has slept through the night in years. BTW, email me if you would like me to order this supplement for you.
Additional benefits: Meditation: A recent article from the Mayo clinic touts the benefits of meditation ranging from physical health improvements, ability to fight disease and improvements in emotional wellbeing. In addition, these benefits do not stop at the end of the meditation session itself but actually continue of throughout the day.
Phosphatidylserine was originally used in the battle against Alzheimer’s Disease based upon its ability to improve brain function.
Disruption #4: Inability to fall asleep. This one is closely related to stress above, but we have another weapon here. A huge portion of the population has decreased levels of magnesium. Correcting this deficiency has been shown to improve the ability to get a good night’s sleep. The great part about this solution is that magnesium is quite inexpensive.
Suggestion: Try about 120-150mg of magnesium before bedtime. Again it is inexpensive and readily available just about anywhere.
Disruption #5: A lack of physical movement. If you have like many people, your job or even your daily pattern results in a lot of sitting or relative inactivity. In addition to the health consequences reported in the media recently regarding long periods of sitting, you simply do not burn off enough energy to create a healthy end-of-the-day fatigue state.
Our bodies are designed for movement; carrying, dragging, lifting, etc. Without these movements to tire our bodies, we may lack the ability to drop into a comfortable sleep.
The trauma to our systems is NOT a rigorous workout. The trauma to our health comes from the lack thereof.
If you have sleep troubles, there is a good chance to cause falls into one of these categories. You will need to experiment to find out which one is your issue. I strongly recommend trying these suggestions one-at-a-time to better pinpoint the cause.
Once you have corrected your sleep habits, you will immediately see improvements in virtually every other aspect of your life. It’s that important.
Let me know what you think. Have you found a helpful way to getting to sleep you would like to share? Do you have a different issue that keeps you awake? If so, I’m sure there is someone else facing the same problem. Post a comment and let’s fix it!
Committed to your health!