By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
March 22, 2019
A lot of my patients don’t get enough sleep. But oddly enough, the majority of my sleep-deprived patients don’t actually suffer from a true sleep disorder.
Most of them have simply developed certain habits that keep them from falling asleep on time – and often cause them to wake up during the night.
I also have a handful of patients who don’t see the sense in spending hour upon hour snoozing. They think it’s a waste of time. “I can sleep when I’m dead,” they tell me.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a horrible approach to sleep.
First of all, not getting enough sleep actually increases your chances of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, weight gain and early death.
Second, driving while sleep deprived is like driving drunk. And the more sleep deprived you are, the greater your odds of causing an accident. (For example, sleeping four hours or less increases your odds of causing a car crash by about 15 times.)
Third, your brain can’t function properly without sleep.
In the short term, a lack of sleep results in low levels of concentration, poor focus, slow thinking and poor decision-making. In the long term sleep deprivation can set you up for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
That’s because if you don’t get enough sleep, your built-in brain cleansing system (the glymphatic system) cannot be activated.
This all-important system floods cerebral spinal fluid through brain tissue to wash away dementia causing toxic wastes like Alzheimer’s-causing proteins beta amyloid and tau from your brain.
But, unfortunately, this system only works in the deepest stages of sleep.
There are a lot of reasons for not sleeping well. And a good majority of them boil down to certain habits that can keep you awake long past your bedtime – and disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night.
I Have 4 Great ways to help You
Beat the Sleep Conundrum
Exercise Your Way to Sleepiness. There is one thing I’ve noticed over and over again. Patients who are the least active tend to have the most problems going to sleep and staying asleep. They are also more likely to conclude that they suffer from insomnia.
But it’s amazing how quickly they change their personal diagnosis once they act on my advice.
It’s pretty simple. Just go outdoors and get active. The sunlight will remind your body that it’s daytime, which works to reset your natural circadian rhythm. The extra dose of vitamin D aids sleep, too. And the physical activity will help wear you out. The more time outdoors and the more activity you get, the better your results will be.
Tip: The best times for these activities are morning and early afternoon. (I’ve noticed that some patients get “wired” if they exercise too late in the day.)
Eat, Drink and Sleep. You already know that eating a healthy diet is fantastic for your health. But did you know it’s just as important when it comes to healthy sleep patterns?
It turns out that people who eat a Mediterranean style diet, the kind I recommend, have much better quality of sleep. But what many people don’t recognize is that what you eat… and when you eat it… counts for a lot.
Eating high energy foods late in the day, especially those high in protein, can sabotage your sleep. The same goes for foods high in processed carbs, sugar and caffeine.
So if you have problems sleeping, I recommend cutting down on these foods and beverages. Instead, choose magnesium-rich foods like broccoli, peas, spinach and other greens for your dinner. Magnesium helps soothe you, which can lead to a better night’s sleep.
It’s also a good idea to avoid gastrointestinal stressors late in the day. Fatty, spicy and rich foods that cause heartburn can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Tip: If you need a “midnight snack”, kiwifruit and tart cherries are known to promote and enhance sleep.
Just Say “No” to Electronic Devices. The short-wavelength blue light produced by computers, tablets, cell phones and the television suppresses your body’s production of melatonin and keeps you awake at night.
Tip: Shut down all electronics a good hour or two before bedtime. Instead, grab a good book or just listen to some of your favorite tunes.
Address Your Stress. If day-to-day worries are haunting your sleep, take a little time to address them. A warm, Epson’s salt bath can soothe both your muscles and your soul. Yoga, massage, meditation and deep breathing exercises are also great stress relievers.
Tip: When you “just can’t deal with it” and need to go to sleep already, slowly inhale through your nose for a count of four, and hold it for a count of seven. Then exhale through pursed, rounded lips for a count of eight. Repeat a couple of time for a decidedly soothing effect.
Tefft BC. Acute sleep deprivation and culpable motor vehicle crash involvement. Sleep. 2018 Oct 1;41(10).
Not All Sleep is Equal When It Comes to Cleaning the Brain. News Release. University of Rochester. Feb 2019.
Murray K, et al. The relations between sleep, time of physical activity, and time outdoors among adult women. PLoS One. 2017 Sep 6;12(9):e0182013.
St-Onge MP, et al. Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality. Adv Nutr. 2016 Sep; 7(5): 938–949.