Do you have a hard time falling asleep or do you wake up and then can’t get back to sleep? When we’re sleep deprived it wreaks havoc on our energy levels, our moods and lowers our immune systems. It can also cause weight gain because sleep deprivation creates an imbalance in the hormones that regulate appetite. The body will then crave carbohydrates and not the good healthy ones either, but the sweets and quick simple refined carbs that will send you chasing insulin all day long. You’ll also crave caffeine because you’re body needs energy and too much caffeine can ultimately weaken the adrenal glands and cause adrenal fatigue. You won’t be sleeping well the following nite either because of all the caffeine coursing thru your veins. So you can see how sleep deprivation can become a vicious cycle.
Nothing trumps sleep. Our bodies are amazing machines. Most of us require 7-8 hrs of sleep/nite and if we don’t get it, the body will send signals to the brain to please provide fuel (and quickly! which is usually translated as simple refined sugars and caffeine). When we crave sweets our bodies are talking to us. Sugar is not the problem but the solution-our systems have been trained for thousands of years to go for sugar for energy because it works, in the short run. But in the long run, we all know what happens when we rely on sweets for energy; our bodies go on an insulin roller coaster ride, we experience emotional mood swings, we crave more sweets when our blood sugar levels drop, headaches, high cholesterol, weight gain, diabetes, tooth decay, and the list goes on.
So how do you get a good nite’s sleep w/o resorting to drugs? Dr. Frank Lipman has some great tips for falling asleep naturally that I want to share with you.
1) It’s called a bedroom for a reason.
There are only two things you should do in bed, and they both begin with the letter “S,” as in sleep and sex. Conduct all other activities, i.e. watching TV, working on your laptop and reading, elsewhere. Your bedroom should be a peaceful, distraction-free oasis that’s completely conducive to unwinding, resting and ultimately, sleeping (not to mention sex).
2) Take a cue from the vampires.
In other words, embrace the darkness. Though we may not realize it, even with the lights out, most of our bedrooms glow with the flicker of seemingly innocuous little lights blinking, flashing and distracting our sleep – charging phones, flashing caller ID boxes, sleeping laptops, light-up alarm clocks and night lights to name a few. My advice? Banish them from the bedroom or cover the lighting mechanisms with a bit of electrical tape.
3) Chill out, literally.
Another simple way to improve sleep? To mimic our body’s own natural rhythm of cooling for sleep, lower your bedroom thermostat. A sleeping temperature of 60 to 65 degrees is best for most people, even in the dead of winter. Lower temperatures encourage the production and release of sleep hormones.
4) Break up with Starbucks.
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant with a typical half-life typically of 7 hours, which means that half of it is still coursing through your veins 7 hours after you drink it! So yes, that 3 pm latte can disrupt your ability to fall asleep – because caffeine blocks sleep neurotransmitters, over-stimulates the adrenal glands and throws off your circadian rhythms. The solution? Start slowly weaning yourself off all coffee, caffeinated beverages. And don’t forget those hidden sources of caffeine such as soft drinks, tea, even decaf coffee, some herbal teas, chocolate and OTC medications like Anacin and Excedrin.
5) Hold the hi-balls.
Though there’s nothing wrong with occasional glass of wine with dinner, in general those with problems sleeping should avoid alcohol, as it can be as disruptive to the body’s sleep rhythms as caffeine. While alcohol has an initial sleep inducing effect, as the body breaks it down, it can lighten and disrupt sleep by causing frequent and early awakening.
6) Set the stage.
Ease into a night time routine. Turn down the bedroom lights an hour or so before lights out. Meditate or listen to calming classical music at low volume or try my favorite restorative yoga pose to chill out, Reclining Belt Pose. Take the time to slowly “power-down” your mind and body so you can drift happily into the good sleep you deserve.