How to create your own healthy sleep cycle

You have four sleep stages (known as "sleep architecture") which last about 90 minutes each: 1 and 2 is light sleep. 3 is deep, restorative sleep and where you synthesize many hormones and immune mediators. 4 is REM sleep or your dream cycle. 

There are many many things that can throw off your sleep: medical conditions, anxiety/depression, medications, stress, your sleep environment, blue light (TV, cell phone, tablet), nutrition, hunger level, your activity level and much more. 70 million adults in the United States suffer from insomnia annually.  And if you suffer from insomnia, you are at a much higher risk for comorbid (simultaneous) medical disorders like chronic pain, cardiovascular disease or obesity.  Sleep deprivation is most commonly tied with weight gain due to poor food choices.  You also have a significant impaired quality of life for obvious reasons.  Let's face it, few things are more satisfying that a really good night's sleep.

Using pharmaceuticals for an emergency sleep deprivation phase is sometimes warranted and understandable. But relying on these for chronic (long term) insomnia does nothing to address the underlying issue. And these common medications for insomnia come with their own bag of issues: reduced tolerance, dependance, diminished deep sleep, cognitive impairment, morning hangover, increased mortality, and more. A high price to pay for an "easy fix" right?  

So should you do next?

Habits to create your own healthy sleep cycle

  1. Eat a light meal, preferably protein based, before bed. If you go to bed hungry or eat a meal based on carbohydrates, you won't be able to sleep (and may gain some fat...).  Egg-based protein digests the slowest.
  2. Don't do any rigorous exercise a within couple hours before bed. 
  3. Turn off any electronics (TV, cell phone, tablet) at least one hour before bed. If you MUST watch these for some reason, wear blue light blocking goggles like these for $9.
  4. Reduce mind noise. Try a few minutes of light mediation (I know, but it helps calm your monkey mind.
  5. Have a pad of paper nearby in case you are obsessing over something. Right it down and forget about it until the morning.
  6. Reduce bedroom noise. Make your bedroom DARK. That means no light night, no power light for your computer. Nada. Research has shown that even a small light shown on the inside of a knee can substantially disturb your sleep. Thats powerful proof. 
  7. Binaural beats - Delta. YouTube has free playlists as well as Amazon Prime Music.

Herbs and Nutrients for Sleep

A good rule of thumb, as usual, is that more is not better. Melatonin is a prime example. If you take melatonin, your body will naturally adjust its own production of melatonin. Meaning, it reduces its production in response to the synthetic melatonin.  And guess what? The same pathway to produce melatonin produces its sister serotonin. So, your body will naturally produce less of this. Keep it under 1 mg and don't take melatonin daily. Here are some great sleep herbs and supplements: chamomile, lemon balm, passionflower, kava, valerian root, hops, magnesium, glycine, 5-HTP, L-Tryptophan (to name a few).   Make sure you check with your doctor first before taking any herbs so they can check if you have any drug interactions.

powerful sleeping aid  products:

  1. Sleep Reset - a great product except that it has 3 mg of melatonin. Take this sparingly but get ready for some deep sleep.
  2. Best Rest - this product will not only help you relax but can be taken if you wake up in the night and can't fall back asleep.
  3. Passionflower - drops to take before bed and again if you wake up in the middle of the night.
  4. MyoSedate - has magnesium, calcium and sleep supportive herbs. Magnesium is a great muscle relaxer and most everyone is deficient in it as well. 

Hopefully these easy tips will help you form healthy sleep habits and have you snoozing through the night in no time at all.

Sleep well!