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Do you have trouble sleeping? Make sleep a priority by following these ten tips for going to sleep and STAYING ASLEEP!

Lack of sleep has reached epidemic proportions in western culture and it is now estimated that insomnia is the #1 health-related problem in the USA.

‘There is no favorable adaptation to sleep deprivation. Those who sleep less die younger.” – Robb Wolf, The Paleo Solution.

  • There were 60 million sleeping pill prescriptions given out in the USA last year.
  • More than half the adult population report trouble sleeping every night.
  • 43% report that tiredness interferes with their regular daytime activities

…And it only appears to be worsening.

From 2000-2004 the number of adults using sleeping pills has DOUBLED.

And even more worrisome is the fact that…

CHILDREN (1-19 years of age) taking prescription sleeping medications has risen 85%.

But is this all that surprising??

Our culture is productivity obsesses, time-eating activities like checking Facebook/Twitter/Periscope/Instagram, watching YouTube are on the rise, and our attention is becoming increasingly segmented.

We have also forgotten the value of sleep, and MORE IMPORTANTLY how to get it.

Unfortunately for many, making sleep a priority – although an important step – doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll receive a restful 8 hours per night. Many people can’t fall asleep at a reasonable hour, wake up in the middle of the night and can’t return back to sleep, or consistently wake up too early.

But, first things first.

WHY IS SLEEP SO IMPORTANT?

Most people know we need it, but not many understand the extend to which sleep affects our bodily functions. Inadequate sleep is a major stressor on the body and has been implicated in obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease, impaired cognitive function, and numerous other health complaints.

It doesn’t matter how dialed in your diet or exercise routines are; if you lack in sufficient sleep, your health WILL suffer.

Luckily, there are several things you can do to improve your sleep. I’ll share with you all about 10 tips to assist you in FALLING ASLEEP AND STAYING ASLEEP!

1. Get To Sleep By 10:30pm

You have more REM cycles before 3am, which means a higher chance of repair to your body. Most physical repair is done between the hours of 11pm and 2am. If you need to get up at 7am, like most people, you’ll need to be asleep by 10:30pm at the latest in order to fit these repair cycles in.

2. Keep Your Bedroom Cool and Dark

You may have already experienced the benefits of sleeping in a cool (no higher than 70* F) dark environment for it produced a good night’s sleep. Physiologically your core body temperature decreases at the onset of sleep, which is achieved through increasing blood flow to the skin and allowing heat to disperse into the environment. Thus, if your sleeping environment is too warm, it can impede on your bodies core temperature from decreasing and resulting in a poorer quality of sleep.

Just as important is maintaining an extremely dark bedroom as possible. Exposure to even trace amounts of light during the night can disrupt our circadian rhythm, increase your cortisol and suppress melatonin. An option that can be implemented is the installation of black-out shades and covering any other lights in your bedroom or simply using a good eye mask works as well.

3. Avoid Blue Light (Artificial Light) At Night

Screens from devices like computers, smart phones, TVs and ambient indoor lighting confuse the body into thinking it is daytime and time for activity. As a result, light from these sources cortisol levels rise and melatonin, which is the primary hormone involved in sleep regulation, is suppressed.

One easy way to mitigate these effect is to install f.lux on your devices, which will automatically change the display of your computer or smart phone at night to reduce the amount of blue light it emits. You could also choose to unplug and not use your devices or dim your lights 1-2 hours before bed.

4. Receive Plenty of Sunlight During The Day

Prior, we discussed how artificial light could disrupt your circadian rhythm, but that does not mean we should avoid light during the day. The most important environmental factor regulating the circadian rhythm is light entering the eye, so it is important to let your body know that it’s daytime by exposing yourself to plenty of bright light. The best time to get outside is in the morning or around lunchtime, if possible – EVERYDAY! Indoor lights pale in comparison to the light experienced outdoors (10 to 300 lux compared to 10,000 to 30,000 lux on a clear day) in regards to evoking a strong circadian effect we want.

5. Exercise Early

Exercising during the day has been shown to improve the quality of sleep experienced at night. Several studies suggest that exercise is as effective at reducing symptoms of insomnia, and some evidence indicates that exercise may be as effective as sleeping-aids.

6. Address Sleep-Related Issues (Sleep Apnea or Restless Leg Syndrome)

It’s possible that the lack of sleep you receive is a result of a health condition such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.

Restless Leg Syndrome is usually easily identifiable; sleep apnea on the other hand can affect people without them even realizing it. If you experience excessive daytime drowsiness that you can’t pinpoint or if you wake up frequently at night, it may be worth having a sleep study performed to rule out sleep apnea as a cause. This is more relevant if you are overweight or obese, have high blood pressure or diabetes, or a history of snoring, all of which are risk factors for sleep apnea.

7. Try Eating More Carbs At Dinner

Melatonin is created in the brain by way of the pineal gland, in addition to serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that coordinates sleep regulation. In order for melatonin to be created it needs to have an amino acid, tryptophan, available. Carbohydrates have been found to increase the amount of tryptophan available to the pineal gland. Studies suggests that eating a carbohydrate rich meal a few hours prior to bed can shorten sleep onset, with higher-glycemic carbs in particular seem to have the best effect. If you suffer from insomnia, and particularly if you subscribe to a low-carb diet, adding some carbs at dinner could be an easy and effective way to improve your sleep.

So, having a protein-rich diet can decrease the availability of tryptophan due to competing amino acids trying cross the blood-brain barrier into the pineal gland. But, it has been found that proteins rich in glycine, such as skin or gelatinous cuts of meat, do not have this effect. With that being said, studies have shown that gelatin consumption prior to sleep (say, a mug of bone broth) can improve sleep quality.

8. Try Some Natural Remedies

There are several supplements that can be helpful for relieving insomnia and improving sleep. Below are supplements that are recommended listed in descending order of what to try first (Always check with your personal physician before starting any supplement protocols).

Magnesium

Magnesium has a calming effect on the nervous system, and several studies have found the utilization of magnesium is effective in treating insomnia and improving sleep.

L-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that can have a calming effect on the brain. The recommended dosage for improving sleep is 200 to 400 mg, taken an hour before bed if you have trouble falling asleep, or just before bed if you have trouble staying asleep.

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid that reduces levels of cortisol and increases the GABA production, which is a major inhibitor neurotransmitter – our bodies’ natural “off” switch. A recommended amount would be 500mg prior to bed.

5-HTP

5- HTP is the precursor to melatonin, and the recommended amount is between 50 and 100mg an hour prior to bed. (Note: do not take 5-HTP if you are taking SSRIs or other antidepressants.)

Melatonin

If 5-HTP isn’t effective, consider taking melatonin itself. It is more likely to be effective if your levels of melatonin are low. At lower doses of .5 to 1 mg, it is thought toe be safer and unlikely to cause a dependence (which may occur at a higher doses). Some prefer lower doses anyways for they find it to have a more sedative effect than higher doses.

9. Manage your stress during the day

A common reason people attribute for not being able to fall asleep at night is that they are unable to “turn off their brain”. Is this truly a surprise, though? Look at how busy and scattered most of us are throughout the day. If your sympathetic nervous system, commonly referred as your “fight or flight” mode, is consistently activated during the day, it’s unrealistic to expect that you will be able to switch to parasympathetic – aka “rest or digest” mode – the instant your head hits the pillow.

Activating your parasympathetic nervous system during the day by managing stress makes it far easier to go to sleep and stay asleep. Some common stress-management practices such as yoga and meditation have shown to help eliminate insomnia and improve sleep.

10. Get Your Spine and Nervous System Checked by a Life By Design Chiropractor: Optimize Your Brain-Body Connection

Guess what controls your cortisol release? Your Nervous System. Guess what protects your nervous system? Your spine.

Getting checked by a Life By Design Chiropractor will ensure your nervous system is clear to do its job and your body will function the best that it can. When there’s interference in the Brain-Body Connection (aka your nervous system) then it isn’t able to communicate properly to the rest of your body.

The fact is you live your entire life through your nervous system.

It is the coordinating system that controls the approximately 70 trillion cells in your body. It ensures they all interact in harmony to express mind, body, spirit, emotion, artistic talent, speed, stamina, coordination, health, every level of performance and even the actualization of one’s potential.

Innately people recognize that the connection between the brain and the body plays a key role in living an extraordinary life. But they fail to realize it needs to be cared for and safeguarded.

Just like its important to see your dentist to have your teeth checked or see your optometrist to have your eyes checked, having your spine and nervous system checked by a Life By Design Chiropractor is essential part of a healthy lifestyle.

Most people believe Chiropractors are back doctor, bone doctors or spine doctors, yet Chiropractic is none of the above. Life By Design Chiropractors have one objective – to optimize and maintain the integrity of the nervous system so you can heal, sleep, move and experience the best life you possibly can. Period.

Did you like this article? Feel free to share it with the people you care about and see if a Complimentary Consultation is the next step to regain their health.

Dr. Harris is a Life By Design Chiropractor practicing in Annapolis, MD.