7 Steps to a Solid Night's Sleep

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to fall asleep easily, stay asleep all night and awaken refreshed?

Sleep is so rejuvenating for the brain that it is now being considered “mental floss” capable of clearing dangerous amyloid-beta plaques and neuronal tangles from the brain.

So if you’re one of the 70 million Americans struggling to get a good night’s sleep, here are several proven strategies to overcome the effects that our hectic lifestyles have on sleep.

Begin by creating a “sleep ritual” with these simple steps to honor the end of your workday and help lull you to sleep.  

1) Set a regular sleep/wake cycle: Plan to go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time each day, which trains your biological clock to secrete melatonin earlier in the evening. To support this process, check out the “Bedtime” feature on your IPhone. This simple built-in feature can be found by clicking on the Clock. It lets you schedule your chosen hours of sleep, and plays you a bar of Brahm’s Lullaby 30 minutes before bedtime! It also switches on an amber light and turns down the blue light on your phone so you can sleep. If you don’t already use the “Bedtime” feature of your IPhone, click here to learn more. https://www.wired.com/story/iphone-bedtime-feature/

2) Turn off the media: Falling asleep in front of the TV, laptop or phone leads to a stiff neck and dream disturbed sleep. That is not to say you can’t use apps like Insight Timer (free) or Headspace (inexpensive) to calm your body/mind/spirit. These apps feature guided imagery and meditations that promote deep breathing and relaxation. I’ve seen many patients benefit from their nightly use! But be sure to…

3) Block the blue light and go with the gold! The blue light emitted from the LEDs in our electronic devices suppresses melatonin production, stimulates the brain and may even raise blood pressure. Recent studies support the use of amber or golden colored glasses to wear before bed to block this blue light. Be sure to check that your bedside clocks and bedroom/bathroom aren’t lit with LED lights either, which are increasingly used because they’re energy efficient.

4) Make yourself a “Cherry Sleep Shot”: Tart Montmorency cherry juice has been shown to improve sleep quality and duration. Those bright red pigments in the flesh (anthocyanins) contain melatonin and anti-oxidants that have been shown to help promote longer and deeper sleep.

Here’s my bedtime Cherry Sleep Shot:

  • 3-4 oz. tart cherry juice (available at most natural food stores)
  • 1 teaspoon powdered magnesium citrate (I like “Calm” Mag Citrate)
  • Stir together and chug for a bedtime tonic.

5) WHAT you eat matters: Foods rich in tryptophan, the amino acid that forms the sleep hormones serotonin and melatonin, help promote sleep. Turkey, chicken, salmon, pumpkin and chia seeds, yogurt and beans are all rich in tryptophan. Eat them with some dark leafy greens and nuts, which are rich in magnesium and B6 to support serotonin and melatonin production. Avoid sugar and refined carbs, especially near bedtime.

6) WHEN you eat matters: Eating too close to bedtime leads to heartburn, blood sugar dysregulation, weight gain and cognitive decline, while eating earlier in the day is associated with weight loss, improved digestion and cognitive function! The pancreas has its own “internal clock” and secretion of insulin and enzymes for digestion decline markedly after 8 pm.

Goal: Aim to eat dinner at least 3 hours before you to go bed, resulting in a 12-14 hour fast before breakfast.

7) Finish your day with a hot bath with Epsom salts (rich in magnesium) and a drop or two of lavender oil to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. While soaking, replay your day and focus on gratitude for all that is right with your life. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440/

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