Today we are talking about 8 sleep hacks for optimizing your sleep, getting to sleep, staying asleep and waking up feeling like you had a great night sleep.
1. Blood sugar regulation
Preparing for a great night of sleep can start with your first meal of the day. Bagels, croissants, cereal (no matter how many times it says whole grain/multi grain, heart protective), doughnuts set you up for a blood sugar roller coaster the rest of the day.
This creates cellular stress and dysregulated cortisol rhythms, which make quality sleep hard to find.
However, a high protein, fiber rich breakfast supports optimal blood sugar regulation, feeds the calming neurotransmitters and keeps wild cortisol fluctuations in check.
2. Do not try to go to sleep
Putting effort into sleeping is sure way to create anxiety around sleep and will make it very challenging to go to sleep. Rather put effort into rest.
This sound like semantics but a human cannot force sleep but we can consciously create a state of physical and mental rest. So, when you are laying down at night, you are laying down to rest. Thankfully, the side effect of resting the body, in a dark, cool quiet room is sleep.
3. Avoid eating large meals within 3 hours of bed time
Food ingestion is a signal to the body that it is time to be awake and to go to work. It is time for activity and energy use. We want the opposite happening at night time. We don’t want all the blood and energy rushing to our digestive tract and increasing our core temperature. So, if you are going to eat, keep it really light.
Stay away from high sugar foods and processed flours as they will spike blood sugar and insulin, making it almost impossible to have a regenerating night of sleep.
A small piece of fruit, nut butter, whole fat yogurt, glass of whole milk, cooked vegetables, berries with heavy whipped cream would be reasonable pre bed snacks if you really want something.
4. Keep your bedroom doors and windows open during the day
A room without airflow will have increased carbon dioxide build up. An elevated carbon dioxide level in the air, disrupts your REM sleep cycles.
When REM cycles are thrown off, we tend to have more difficulty waking up in the morning. There is a small study that showed that sleep quality increased by 24% when people slept with their bedroom door open.
Unfortunately, indoor air is often far more polluted than outdoor air. Seven years ago we were living in a house with very poor air flow and I was waking up with a headache each morning that would go away about an hour into me being at the clinic.
After checking the carbon dioxide levels in our bedroom, we found they were over 2,000 PPM.
A typical well ventilated room should be around 400-600PPM. Once we started opening windows and getting a cross breeze going, my headaches went away and our carbon dioxide levels dropped to under 600ppm.
5. Chill out
As the body prepares for sleep, core temperature will decrease naturally. This drop in temperature helps initiate the sleep cycle. However, if a person exercises just before bed, eats a big meal, gets in a fight or a twitter war, their core temperature will actually rise.
Melatonin the main hormonal signal for sleep increases as body temperature goes down. Check out this post on the effects of Melatonin and Benadryl.
This is where using a ChiliPAD or taking time to relax and read a book in a cool room before bed can bring down your core temperature and turn on the sleep response.
6. Cut back on caffeine
If you are having sleep challenges or sleep isn’t restful and you are consuming any caffeine, then you really want to consume your green tea, black tea, coffee or whatever your source of caffeine 8-10 hours before you want to lay your head on the pillow.
People who are caffeine tolerant will often say that they can drink a coffee and still go to bed. Yes, they can drink a coffee and still fall asleep but they are not getting rejuvanting, quality sleep.
There is a difference between being asleep and getting sleep. So at a minimum aim to get your caffeine in 6 hours before you want to go to sleep and if sleep is challenging for you give yourself at least 10 hours with no caffeine.
7. It’s normal to wake up or cycle out of sleep every 90-120 minutes.
Some people notice each of these wakings other do not. Those that notice them report less quality sleep.
However, researchers have found when they actually test for wave pattern that these people are getting just as good of sleep as those who are not noticing the wakings.
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8. Practice visualization
Take time during the day or while you are brushing your teeth, taking off your make up, to visualize yourself laying down and imagine the sense of calm and peace that comes over your body and mind.
Often I have patients describing in great detail how terrible their sleep is and the anxiety that goes into just thinking about laying down at night and not being able to fall asleep. Which is great. I want to hear the details so I can create treatment plans that will help them.
However, once you have a plan of action it is imperative we stop rehearsing the challenges of our sleep patterns. Because what we talk about and think about only become more magnified in our life.
This is why consciously visualizing a restful, rejuvenating night of sleep is paramount in actually enjoying a manifested awesome night of sleep.
I would also mention that studies show that people who go to bed late yet say/think that their sleep will be refreshing, whether they got 4 hours or 8 hours of sleep are far more likely to actually wake up ready to take on the day. There is power in what we believe and in our words.
If you are not already implementing these sleep empowering strategies, start adding them into your routine, because medications that put a body to sleep are not permitting regenerative sleep. And as you know, satisfying sleep is a huge ally in our journey of health accumulation.