When was the last time you woke up feeling refreshed after a full night’s sleep? I don’t know about you but I love my sleep. I love climbing into bed after a long day. Finally, I’m off the clock from my momma, work and household duties. I read a bit and then turn off the light, close my eyes and let sleep wash over me.
Sleep hasn’t always been so easy for me though and even now I sometimes struggle to stay asleep all night. I know I’m not alone in this.
Roughly 50% of Americans have some sort of insomnia, either having difficulty falling asleep or waking up too early and not falling back asleep. Poor sleep like this can contribute to poor immune function, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, junk food cravings and feeling cranky. It also can contribute to a build up of toxins. Basically, if you don’t sleep, you won’t have much luck losing weight or healing.
It’s not just the hours of sleep which can vary from person to person, it’s the quality of sleep that really matters. Your body needs quality sleep to detox and repair. It simply can’t do these tasks when you’re awake. When your body doesn’t have this opportunity to detox and repair, cognitive function starts to decline including judgement and decision making capabilities.
Help Falling Asleep
Often just getting to sleep is difficult. Have you ever just watched a very exciting movie or read through work emails then tried going to bed? Notice how hard it can be to wind down enough to fall asleep? Or maybe you have so much on your mind, your to do list is several pages long and you’re not sure how you’ll be able to get everything done? You fall into bed tired but also wired and you lie awake for hours waiting for sleep to happen.
This can be frustrating to say the least. Here are some of my favorite sleep hygiene rules to help with this challenge.
- Turn off the screen at least one hour before bedtime and consider wearing blue light blocking glass for that last hour of screen time. The blue light from any screen can disrupt your melatonin levels making it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Don’t read anything too exciting, upsetting or work related within one to two hours before bed. This is the time to wind down not to wind up. I especially encourage you to not read the news before bed or go through your financials. You don’t need to increase stress just before you go to sleep.
- Do write down your to do list to get it out of your head and onto paper or into an app like Trello or Asana. Having your to do list float around in your head while you’re trying to fall asleep just doesn’t work.
- Try a mediation app like Headspace to help lull you to sleep. Headspace has sleep time visualizations that are addictive and so incredibly helpful for many of my clients.
Help Staying Asleep
This is the second category of insomnia and it’s a bit more complicated. Sleep apnea is often when the airways collapse, interrupting air flow causing you to wake up. This can be caused by physical conditions like having a small jaw, enlarged tonsils or other sinus constrictions. Sleep apnea can also be caused by allergens, pollen, toxic environment, eating sugar and dairy and drinking alcohol. Breathing through your nose helps to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system which is needed to help you to rest.
If you are a mouth breather, you likely experience lower volume of air, more interruptions, upper airway resistance and you likely snore causing you to wake up. Mouth breathing can also increase dental disease.
So how do you begin to address some of these challenges? Going to a sleep specialist is a good idea however if you can’t make it to one, here are some suggestions to get you started.
- Cut out common allergens and inflammatory foods/drink from your diet including gluten, diary, sugar and alcohol. By doing this you may be able to reduce inflammation that constricts your airways.
- Don’t eat within 2 hours of bedtime. If you’ve been waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning it may be because your liver is waking up and working hard to digest food you ate too close to bedtime.
- Clean up your environment without toxic chemicals. Check out Your Complete Guide to Non-toxic Spring Cleaning. By reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals, environmental pollutants, dust and pollen you’ll have an easier time breathing.
- Turn off Wifi and Cell Phones at night. As I mentioned above, when you sleep you’re doing important repair work and detoxification needed to heal. Electromagnetic frequencies (EMF’s) and radio frequencies have been shown to disrupt DNA. They can also disrupt the sleep cycle. According to Dr. Carlos Ritter these frequencies have been shown to disrupt phase 2 sleep and cause neurological conditions. He recommends that at the very least, turning off Wifi and cell phones at night as well as unplugging lamps and clocks in the bedroom before sleep can be incredibly helpful in helping your body get the deep rest needed for repair and detoxification.
Sleep is foundational to your overall health and wellbeing. Good quality deep sleep helps your body to repair and detox so you can function optimally and be the best version of yourself.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for educational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat any diseases.