We all know how important sleep is to our overall health yet we often develop bad habits that interfere with us getting restful sleep! I wrote this years ago as an intern to give to patient's when I had a lot of people coming in with sleep issues. I think it is still a simple and straight forward way to assess your behavior and make adjustments that really improve your sleep and therefore your wake!
Why Shouldn’t I Eat Right Before Bed?
Ideally you should be finishing up dinner at least 3 hours before you retire for the evening. When you eat, especially a large meal, your body has to send blood and energy to your digestive organs to process your food. This is a lot of work for the body, work your body is doing while it should be resting! Often a late night meal results in a restless night sleep and for those that are watching their weight it tends to increase it.
· Pay attention to when you eat in relation to your bedtime and if you have to eat late choose foods that are easily digestible.
· Most of us eat our food in a hurried manner, which is not a good practice anytime of day. Make an effort to sit down for your evening meal, chew your food well and eat till you are 80 percent full.
· Late night treats and sweets! It feels good to indulge sometimes whether you like a piece of chocolate, something salty, a nice bite of cheese or some vino. Try to keep your treats exactly that, if you go crazy every night than it is no longer a treat…
The Hypnotizing Glow of Your Beloved Electronic Devices
Staring at your television, computer, tablet or smart phone in the evening is telling your brain the sun is still shining and to stay awake. It is not just the light but specifically the blue wavelengths that are interfering with the production of melatonin by your pineal gland. Melatonin not only plays a huge role in your sleep/wake cycle or circadian system but there is tons of research pointing to melatonin being a powerful antioxidant and positively affecting your metabolic rate.
· Change the wavelength your devices are emitting. Download the flux application from their website, https://justgetflux.com. They also have interesting links to research on the subject if you wish to read further. Currently this is not available for most televisions but a trip to the art supply store for some red acetate film can solve that. Or just don’t watch TV at night…
· It is likely that you pay your smart phone a fair amount of attention during the day, right? So why not just take a little break? I know it is hard, just give it a try and see how you feel.
· Rediscover a quite evening activity you used to love before we all became zombies. In Chinese Medicine the night is Yin time, which means you slow yourself down to recover from the Yang portion of the day and prepare to start a new one refreshed. Go take a walk, read a paperback, meditate, do some gentle stretching, quite your mind.
Teas and Sleepy Supplements
So much of what we do is routine, if we had to think about everything before acting we would be paralyzed by processing and debating. Our body likes some routine and it helps to establish behavioral patterns when we are having trouble following through on tasks, for example getting our butts up and working out. This can be applied to sleep patterns as well. Just like the setting of the sun, the act of preparing and drinking a calming tea tells your brain it is time to start getting ready for sleep.
Some great evening teas are Chamomile, Kava Kava, Lavender, Passion flower, Lemon, Valerian root and Skullcap.
If tea is not your thing taking a 5-HTP supplement can help treat insomnia, a naturally occurring Amino Acid that is a pre-curser to both Serotonin and Melatonin. It is a great alternative for those that have either tried Melatonin in the past as a sleep aid and did not find it to help, or it did but they felt dependent on it. And it has the added bonus of increasing Serotonin as well!