By: Dr. Alan Christianson
Are you frustrated by your lack of sleep? Do you find it difficult to fall asleep in the first place? Sleep is such a huge factor when it comes to your health. If you’re not consistently getting a good night’s sleep, it may not only be frustrating, but may also keep you from accomplishing your goals.
Here are three of my favorite tricks for falling asleep and staying asleep:
This is as simple as dropping the temperature in your house.
In many ways, our bodies are hardwired to an environment we no longer live in. We were adapted to being outdoors in the Savannah African grasslands. There, it gets colder at night with a radical temperature transition from daytime to nighttime.
In our modern world, we have climate control in our homes, offices, and cars. Our bodies don’t experience the fluctuation of temperature they’re waiting for. The movement patterns of our muscles (being active and engaged) are tied to that rhythm. When your body is staying at the same temperature day and night, your muscles are not totally activated. This is largely why it can be harder to be physically active, to train well, and recover. It’s also why you get random movements, tremors, or twitches when you’re trying to sleep at night. Your muscles don’t know if it’s time to turn on or off. The temperature contrast causes them to shut off, so they’re not moving around at night, agitating you.
So, what’s the answer?
The most practical step you can take is to adjust your thermostat. Many thermostats have automated settings where you can set different temperatures for different times of day and different days per week.
I live in the Sonoran Desert, so our air conditioning is running 24/7 much of the year. We have our thermostat set to cool at 71 degrees before bedtime. It’s an unconscious cue for me to know it’s time to start winding down to hibernate for the evening. If you’re using the heat in your home right now, use less heat. If you’re able to have your windows open to enjoy the fresh air and natural temperature changes at night, that’s great! Even if it’s rather chilly outside, open a window to cool the room.
Another way to “chill” is to jump in the shower, even if just for a moment. Any water temperature (except scorching hot) will work to take heat off your body, through your skin, by natural radiation.
Start to cool your house and/or jump in the shower about one hour before bed. This is when it’ll make the biggest difference.
2) Dial in Your Blood Sugar.
Why would dialing in your blood sugar help your sleep?
Keep in mind that sleep is actually your morning cortisol shutting off. When your blood sugar drops, cortisol rises to rescue you, so you don’t go into a coma. That is a good thing, but it isn’t helpful when you’re trying to sleep. It’s so much better when you don’t need your blood sugar rescued in the middle of the night.
I’ve checked many patients with a device that measures their blood sugar while they’re sleeping. Many times, they’ve told me something like, “I often wake up at 2:00 a.m., and my mind is racing. I’m in a sudden state of panic.” Then, when we look at their blood sugar log, that was right when it plummeted!
It’s very common for a blood sugar drop to disrupt sleep.
What can you do about it?
Have a light, carbohydrate-based meal right before bedtime. You want to have resistant carbohydrates, as these are the slowest to burn. By having some slow-burning food, your blood sugar won’t drop off in the night. You’ll sleep better and have lower blood sugar scores throughout the following day, too!
An easy way to get these carbs is to eat a banana that isn’t totally ripe (still has some green on it). If you’re using the Adrenal Reset Shake, you can have one scoop in some water an hour before bedtime.
Try one of these useful supplements for sleep:
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan): Your body builds 5-HTP into serotonin, which you then make into melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone your pineal gland (a tiny lump in the back of your brain) makes to allow for good sleep.
So, why not just take melatonin?
It sounds logical, but the amounts in the over-the-counter melatonin are way above what research shows is effective. Sometimes it works, but I’ve found many people have poor-quality sleep or are groggy the next day. Over-the-counter melatonin can also change your cortisol rhythm, so you’re not waking up properly.
5-HTP is better because it allows you to make your own melatonin when you need it, and shut it off when you don’t.
GABA: This supplement allows your body to make more of its own gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is a sedative—a calming brain chemical. It helps you unwind.
Inositol: Categorized as a B-vitamin, we naturally get inositol from foods like eggs and fish. Our cell membranes need inositol to become more stress-resilient. Our brain cells are lined with it. When we have healthy amounts, cortisol and stress don’t affect us as badly. Your sleep improves and disturbance is less of a factor.
The benefits of consistently good sleep are numerous. You’ll feel more energized and have healthier skin. Your weight will bounce back to a better range. You’ll be mentally alert, and your mood will be steadier.
Try these tips for a better night’s sleep. You’ll soon be enjoying life more and reaching your goals with greater ease.
(c) 2015- Integrative Health Care, PC
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Dr. Alan Christianson is an Arizona-based Naturopathic Physician who helps people overcome adrenal and thyroid disorders and achieve lasting fat loss. He authored the New York Times’ bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease. Dr. Christianson is the founding physician behind Integrative Health.
Dr. Christianson can be reached at www.MyIntegrativeHealth.com, www.DrChristianson.com and 480-657-0003.