sleeping soundly

How To Sleep Soundly

We all need sleep. Unfortunately, the pace of modern life and the ability to extend daylight has taught many of us to develop very poor sleep habits. We've all seen the news reports that show how significant numbers of the population are suffering from a sleep debt, many are seriously sleep deprived.

There are reports that show how sleep deprivation can cause delayed reactions and slow or confused thinking.  It can also have other significant impacts on your overall health and wellbeing. Getting back into a good sleep cycle with adequate sleep can help re-regulate your brain clock and improve some sleep-related health issues.

Sleep and heart health

Now a new report released last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that sleep deprivation can be tied to coronary calcification.  In the study calcification rates were as high as 27% of the study population who slept less than 5 hours per night.  It dropped significantly with added sleep and according to the article one hour of added sleep was considered equal to lowering systolic blood pressure 17 mm Hg (the systolic number occurs at the beginning of the cardiac cycle and is the first number in a blood pressure reading – an average blood pressure is somewhere around 115/75).

What is sleep hygiene?

According to the dictionary hygiene is:
 
                    hy·giene (noun)
                              conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease
 
Sleep hygiene is an important, and yet often overlooked, part of our health.  Yet when we add in good practices to ensure that we are getting not only enough sleep but restful sleep, we feel better and our health is better because of it.  These tips are helpful ways improve the quality of your sleep and your sleep hygiene:
  • Avoiding caffeine later in the day
  • Go to bed at approximately the same time every night
  • Don't watch television in bed
  • Create a sleep routine that signals your body that it is time to get ready for sleep
  • Have a dark, comfortable room to sleep 

Nutrition and sleep

Nutritionally there are a few things that you can do to help you sleep as well.  As mentioned above, avoiding caffeine later in the day is important.  Many people claim to not be affected by caffeine but reports from the National Sleep Foundation show that most people are not aware of how much of a sleep debt they are carrying and how it affects them.  Try switching to decaffeinated or herbal drinks in the afternoon and evening.  
 
Carbohydrate cravings are another problem that can affect sleep and sleep quality.  For many people the mid-afternoon carbohydrate cravings are because they are producing too much melatonin at the wrong time of day, this leads to a suppression of serotonin in the brain.  This, in turn, leads to cravings for carbohydrates.  
 
Many people have problems staying asleep, they wake up around 2 or 3 am.  The general suggestion here is to have calcium and magnesium before bedtime.  Calcium has a calming effect and the magnesium balances the calcium and relaxes the muscles.  Eating nuts (especially almonds), nut butters, cheese, or yogurt are good sources of these nutrients.  Bananas, dates, figs, tuna or turkey are also good choices as they are high in tryptophan which helps to promote sleep.  Remember, this is a small snack, not a meal, so don't overdo the amount that you eat.
 
If you take over-the-counter products to sleep please be aware that your body can become over-conditioned to them and then require them to sleep.  Melatonin and chamomile should not be taken on a long-term basis and if you are allergic to ragweed you should avoid chamomile altogether.

Holistic health sleep strategies

Detox bath

Occasionally we get overwhelmed and overstimulated as we go through our daily lives. This can make it difficult to sleep well at the end of the day. High energy output combined with an inability to refocus the mind often leads to a state of wakeful-seeming. Even though we are tired, we cannot shift our focus and calm down enough to sleep or we do not sleep deeply enough for restorative purposes.

One way to help relax the body and the mind is to take a detox bath. This bath is very soothing for many people and the addition of calming essential oils helps to support the transition to restorative sleep.

To make a simple detox bath combine the following ingredients and add them to a tub of hot water:

1 cup epsom salts
1 cup baking soda
3-5 drops of essential oil – choose either lavender, grapefruit, ylang-ylang, cedarwood, or sandalwood (note that lavender is not recommended for males due to its impact on hormones)

Soak for 20 minutes immediately before bedtime. This bath can be repeated up to twice per week.

Caution: Do not use this bath if you have other health conditions that might be severely impacted by immersion in a hot bath.

Avoiding blue light

Blue light is highly stimulating and can interfere with sleep. It is found in electrical devices, phones, game consoles, television, and the computer. Blue light fasting can be very supportive for those with sleep issues. Start with a 60 minute fast (meaning no exposure) before bedtime. If needed increase this to 90 minutes before bedtime. For those who are highly sensitive to blue light it may be necessary to block blue light earlier in the day using a lighter filter lens and then shift to a darker filter lens before bedtime. While this does require the use of two different pair of glasses, having a two step system, such as True Dark blue light blockers, provides the graduated blocking filter that is more supportive for removing blue light and more conducive to good sleep.

About Mira

Mira Dessy is The Ingredient Guru. A holistic nutrition professional, author, and a popular public speaker, she knows that it's not just what you eat, but what's in what you eat. She is the author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in their food. Dessy is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner whose mission is to educate and empower consumers. She curates the Lean Clean Green Subscription box, the premier, organic, earth-friendly, healthy, sustainable subscription box which can be found online at https://theingredientguru.memberbox.com