Sleep…we love it, we need it, but most of us are just not getting enough of it!
As a mama of two young children sleep is a commodity for me, but it can be hard to come by. Just last night, I had my 10 month-old decide to wake up and cheerfully practice whatever milestone he is currently about to achieve. I finally found sleep again (where did it hide this time?) and an hour later my 6 year old with a cold, wakes up crying and can’t breathe through her nose. At this point it is so close to wake-up time that I know that the hamster wheel in my head will NOT let me drift off one last time.
When life gets in the way of our precious and restorative sleep, we must employ every tactic possible to get quality sleep when we can! I have compiled a list of natural and effective things you can do to get as much restorative sleep as your life lets you. First, I would like to cover what “good sleep” actually is; and what happens when we are deprived!
It’s about quantity AND quality people! We need to get goooood sleep. So much affects our sleep—especially mental and chemical stress. How we think and what we put in and on our body matters to our sleep. Ask yourself these questions:
Do I typically feel like I need a nap during the day?
Do I rely on a caffeine to get through the day…especially in the afternoon?
If you want an even better way to test your sleep quality, you can try the spoon test. This test was developed by Nathaniel Kleitman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus in physiology at the University of Chicago. The test is formally known as the “sleep onset latency test.
This test is best performed in the early afternoon when any morning caffeine has worn off.
Take a spoon and a metal tray into your room. Darken the room so that you are inducing a sleepy environment.
Hold the spoon over the tray which is placed on the floor next to your bed as you start to go to sleep. Before you begin make sure to write down the time that you are attempting to fall asleep.
When you fall asleep your hand will relax and the spoon will crash onto the tray waking you up. Note the time.
Severe sleep deprivation: asleep within 5 minutes
Mild sleep deprivation: asleep within 10 minutes
Well rested: awake 15 minutes or more before falling asleep.
Sleep deprivation is incredibly damaging to the body! It has recently been placed above
obesity as a factor in early death. Whoa. Our bodies need to restore and repair during sleep and during times of parasympathetic activity (aka opposite of fight, flight, freeze, placate). This is the only way our bodies can heal, clean up toxins and prevent cellular damage. Even one night of sleep deprivation can lead to a depressed immune system, memory issues, concentration issues, and hormonal disruption (for those hoping to conceive this can be huge).
What can you do?
Below are some tips to help tell your body it is time to sleep.
NO SCREENS two hours prior to sleep. This is a real problem today. This will be a game changer if you find yourself in the pre-bedtime scroll hole.
Darken the house/room 1-2 hours prior to bed. Artificial light prevents us from dumping cortisol (stress/wake-up hormone) and producing melatonin (go to sleep hormone).
Meditate/pray/biofeedback prior to bedtime can help you get into parasympathetic activity.
If you have sound issues at night (airplanes, dogs barking) you may need earplugs or a good white noise machine. I like the Marpac Dohmas it is an actual fan and not an electronic version of white noise.
Decrease EMFs and get your devices on airplane mode! Keep as much unplugged as you can and keep those phones at least 3 feet from your body.
Get black out curtains…not room darkening…blackout! Amazon sells great paper black out shades that are minimal installation, low priced, and easy to use. You can check them out here: Amazon paper black-out shade.
No caffeine after 2 PM…or for those of you who are slow metabolizers stop at 12 pm! Slow metabolizers are people in which the effects of caffeine last longer (2-4 hours)
GET YOUR SPINE CHECKED! A well-functioning spine and nervous system keeps the body at ease and in parasympathetic function. Many patients of mine report better sleep quality and more energy with keeping their spine well adjusted.
If you tend to wake up at night check your diet. Try to avoid processed sugar before bed, and switch to fruit or healthy fats such as avocados to keep blood sugar stable.
If the hamster wheel starts running in the night you can try the following supplement to help your body process cortisol better and allow you to get back to sleep more quickly. It has worked wonders for me! Seriphos is phosphorylated serine (not phosphatidyl serine) which is naturally occurring in our body and helps us properly process cortisol. It must be the original formula and can be found here.
Other supplements to help you fall asleep are 5-HTP, Kava Kava, and Valerian Root.
As with all supplementation, you should check with your holistic doctor before taking in case you have a medical condition that the supplement would contraindicate with.