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Let’s face it, getting quality sleep is not something that happens naturally anymore. Most of us struggle with some type of sleep issue, whether that’s falling asleep, staying asleep, having racing thoughts that prevent us from sleeping, or imbalances in the body that just throw of our circadian rhythm.
I’ve personally been there and go through times where my sleep is great, and then other times where it is so poor it destroys my energy the next day. The biggest threat to our sleep quality is usually stress, as that is what makes all of our symptoms worse!
I’ve got a few tips to share to help you improve your quality of sleep. Know that when something is off in the body preventing you from getting quality sleep, usually there isn’t a quick fix like taking a sleeping pill that doesn’t correct the root cause of the problem. These simple dietary and lifestyle changes can help you get deeper into correcting sleeping problems, and commitment to these is needed to see real lasting improvements.
1. CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT THAT SETS YOU UP FOR SLEEP
Getting a good night’s sleep actually starts in the morning. Our circadian rhythm can be set first thing in the morning by getting unprotected sunlight exposed to our eyes and skin. The sunlight hits our optic nerve through out eyes and to our brain, where it sets the rhythm that tells our body when to be awake and when to sleep. Just 10 minutes can even make a difference.
Exposure to blue light from screens and bright lights suppress the production of melatonin, so limiting your use of devices at night can help prevent this. I recommend using blue light blocking glasses at night, and aways remember to have your phone screen set to switch to night shift mode or dark mode after the sun sets.
There are many essential oils that can help you relax, and that activate your parasympathetic nervous system- which tells your body to rest and digest. Some oils that help do this are lavender, frankincense, rose, bergamot, valerian, Roman chamomile, ylang ylang, clary sage, cedarwood, copaiba and vetiver, to name a few.
Temperature has a huge affect on sleep. Your body temp drops when you sleep, which is why we need our ambient room temp to be even lower to help to align your core body temperature with your circadian rhythm. If you are able to control your room’s temperature, 65-67 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal. A cool biohack that is popular is the Chilipad device, which keeps you cool all night long. This pad that goes over your mattress circulates cold water underneath you, keeping you cool all night long! This has been a lifesaver for those who struggle with sleep, and is well worth the investment in your health.
Keep your room as dark as possible, avoiding even small lights from TV’s and alarm clocks. Studies have shown that even with your eyes close, you can sense the smallest light on, this is especially true for women. I have experienced this personally! Installing blackout shades can be helpful, or wearing an eye mask if it’s not too uncomfortable. And make sure everything in the room is turned off!
2. CHOOSE YOUR DINNER AND TIME IT WISELY
What we eat and when we eat it plays a role in sleep quality. Ideally, you want to have your last bite of food 3-4 hours before going to bed.
This is an important one – Eat most of your healthy carbs for the day at your dinnertime meal. Carbohydrates create tryptophan, the amino acid needed to synthesize melatonin and serotonin, hormones responsible for sleep. This all happens in the brain by the pineal gland. You don’t want to overdo the carbs either, because too much could raise your blood sugar too much. Try not to exceed 50g of net carbs for dinner, but aim for at least 20g of net carbs. *If you are on keto, then try consuming a large portion of your 20 daily net carbs at dinner.
3. IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS TO PROMOTE QUALITY SLEEP
- Magnesium - has a calming affect on the nervous system, and many today are actually deficient in this mineral. There are many forms of magnesium in supplements, but studies show the best form for improving sleep are chelated forms like magnesium glycinate (contains the amino acid glycine, which is also found in bone broth, and been shown to improve sleep quality when consumed before bed) and magnesium malate. I like the Optimal Magnesium from Seeking Health. They happen to be out of stock right now, so you could also order their Magnesium Plus, which has the addition of vitamin B6. Use this link to get $5 off your order.
- L-theanine – This is an amino acid specifically found in green tea, that has shown to have calming affects on the brain. The recommended dose for improving sleep is 200-400 mg taken an hour before bed. You can purchase it in supplement form here. You can also drink green tea or matcha tea during the day to help manage stress levels and keep you calm.
-5-HTP – This is the precursor to melatonin. This can be helpful for some who have a hard time falling asleep. The recommended dosage is 50-100 mg about an hour before bedtime. You can try this one.
- Herbs – Passionflower can provide the calming effect needed to help stop racing thoughts and anxiety, valerian and hops work together to produce GABA, a calming brain chemical that promotes sleep, these also have anti-anxiety and sedative properties, magnolia bark has properties that show to lower anxiety and also acts as a natural sedative and has compounds that help lower the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, and reishi mushroom is a powerful medicinal mushroom that is also known as a nervine, an herb that calms and tones the nervous system, promoting relaxation and deep sleep, and is also a an adaptogen, meaning this herb helps your body manage and adapt better to stress.
You can find supplements that contain a combination of some of these herbs, and its important to note the everyone’s body and reasons for poor sleep are different, so certain herbs and supplements that work for one person may not work for you. These are just recommendations, and it is best to make your own choice on which is best for you, or to consult with your doctor.
Here are a few more recommendations for supplements that contain a blend of minerals and herbs: