Tips for a good night's sleep
Every night millions of people around the world struggle to fall asleep or to stay asleep. For some, insomnia is just a temporary state but for others it's a chronic problem that affects their concentration, mood, energy and reflects on their complexion, beauty and accelerates their aging process.
Sometimes solving the problem is as easy as taking an Epsom salt foot bath or diffusing some essential oils such as lavender or chamomile to relax and get a good night's sleep, while it's a little bit more complicated at other times.
Below are some tips to help you try figure out the reason behind your sleepless nights.
- Optimize your melatonin levels.
The pineal gland is a tiny gland that is located in the brain. When it's morning time, the blue rays from the sun stimulate your pineal gland to produce serotonin, the happiness molecule. When it's dark at night, the pineal gland converts serotonin into melatonin, the sleep molecule. Melatonin signals your body that it's sleeping time and gives you a sense of relaxation.
Melatonin production begins after the onset of darkness, peaks between 9pm and 2am then falls gradually. However, studies show that you need to be in full darkness for your pineal gland to produce adequate levels of melatonin.
In other words, artificial light and screens of gadgets such as mobile phones, laptops and TVs trick the pineal gland into thinking that it's still morning time. This in turn hampers the production of melatonin in your body.
Tip: Wear orange goggles to protect your eyes from the blue rays that are emitted by artificial light at night. And of course go early to bed!
On a side note, melatonin is a very important hormone that can help protect you from cancer.
- Balance your cortisol.
High levels of cortisol at night may result in a 'tired but wired' feeling where a person feels tired but still can't sleep. This makes addressing any adrenal issues and managing cortisol levels a crucial task while trying to get rid of insomnia.
How to balance cortisol levels
- Avoid over exercising or vigorous exercise at night.
- Reduce your sugar intake, especially at night.
- Increase your intake of fish oil (Omega3). A PubMed study found that cortisol levels were 'significantly blunted' among volunteers who were given fish oil for three weeks.
- Rhodiola, panax and ashwagandha are all adaptogens that are proven to help balance cortisol levels.
- Remove caffeine from your diet or at least keep it to a minimum as it increases the production of cortisol.
- Vitamins B5 and C may also help balance your cortisol levels.
- Make sure you have optimal levels of magnesium.
Magnesium is a very important mineral that is involved in around 300 biochemical reactions within your body.
Sufficient levels of magnesium are needed to produce GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes calm and sleep. In one study, older adults were given 500 mg of magnesium or a placebo. The magnesium group had better quality of sleep and showed higher levels of renin and melatonin, two hormones that regulate sleep.
Magnesium comes in different forms, including tablets, sublingual and transdermal (applied topically on the skin). The transdermal form (magnesium oil) is one of the highly absorbed forms of magnesium as it bypasses the digestive system.
- Add some magnolia.
Magnolia is a very relaxing plant that is used in Asian medicine. Magnolol or honokiol, the active ingredient in magnolia, works by binding with the GABA receptor. So it does act a little bit like a benzodiazepine, which is a class of drugs primarily used to treat anxiety, but is also used to treat insomnia. Studies have shown that when coupled with magnesium, and vitamin D, magnolia helped mitigate sleep disturbances and anxiety symptoms.
- Check your vitamin D.
Although vitamin D is a free vitamin that is available to everybody upon exposure to the sunshine, a staggering number of people are deficient in it.
Vitamin D affects more than 2000 genes in your body and deficiency may be linked to many health issues such as depression, high blood pressure and fibromyalgia. According to research, vitamin D deficiency correlates with poor sleeping patterns.
It is noted that naturopathic doctors suggest keeping your levels at around 70-80 ng/ml. So if you're suffering from insomnia check your vitamin D levels and get some sunshine!
- Do some earthing.
Humans have never been surrounded by electronics as much as they are today. ALL electronic gadgets emit electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that interfere with your body's natural frequency.
EMFs are linked to internal inflammation, increased amounts of free radicals, sleep disturbances and more.
When earthing, we get an unlimited supply of free electrons. These electrons work on neutralizing free radicals and shielding our body from the effects of EMFs.
To earth, simply walk barefoot on the sand, ground or in a park.
- Switch off electronics.
Before you go to sleep make sure you have your phone on airplane mode, switch off WIFI routers, unplug any electronics inside your bedroom to protect yourself from EMFs while sleeping.
- Adjust room temperature.
Make sure the temperature of your bedroom is neither too hot nor too cold.
- Avoid drinking too much before sleep.
Try not to drink at least one hour before you sleep to avoid having to go to the bathroom at night.
It is worth noting that according to the US Sleep foundation, the recommended hours of sleep per day for the different age groups are as follows:
Newborns (0-3 months) need between 14-17 hours of sleep each day.
Infants (4-11 months) need between 12-15 hours of sleep each day.
Toddlers (1-2 years) need 11-14 hours of sleep each day.
Preschoolers (3-5) need 10-13 hours of sleep each day.
School age children (6-11) need 9-11 hours of sleep each day.
Teenagers (14-17) need 8-10 hours of sleep each day.
Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each day.
Older adults (65+) need 7-8 hours of sleep each day.
Things to remember from this post
1. Elevated stress leads to insomnia.
2. Fish oil (Omega 3) can help balance cortisol levels.
3. Magnesium and vitamin d deficiencies may lead to insomnia.
4. Earthing and switching off electronics can help regulate sleep.
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