By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
October 4, 2019
I have a routine I use each night to easily go to sleep…
First, I lower the lights, and turn on some soothing music – usually Judy Collins. Then, I take a warm shower to wash off the day’s grime and dead skin cells. As my body temperature cools down, a mild state of pseudo hibernation kicks in. Next, I climb under my covers to enjoy my latest library book. My Hepa filters’ white noise is in the background.
When I experience that first eyelid droop, I turn off the lights and music and sleep soundly through the night. In the morning, I’m bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – ready to start my day.
Works like a charm!
For many of my patients, this type of reliable good night’s sleep is wishful thinking. Not only do they have trouble falling asleep, but they wake up tired and groggy.
I’m concerned for these folks, because lack of sleep can have a real impact on your ability to function.
When you don’t get enough sleep, it makes it harder to concentrate and remember things. It also affects your driving abilities, decision making skills and emotional health.
But that’s not all it does…
When you can’t sleep, you tend to eat more. In fact, it actually increases your appetite for unhealthy foods – especially carbs! Simply put, it messes with your hunger hormones. So it’s no surprise sleep loss is solidly linked to obesity.
If you get less than five hours of sleep a night, you’re twice as likely to have high blood pressure. You’re also at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke. Plus, getting too little sleep boosts your chances of diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Worst of all, it can even make you age more quickly by shortening your telomeres!
The Bedtime Trap That’s Keeping You Awake
Now, what are the key things you should do so you can break your cycle of restless nights?
When I spoke with some of my sleep-deprived patients, I discovered a common theme. And it may be a simple little trap that you’ve fallen into too…
It turns out a large number of my patients tend to reach for their tablets, smartphones or e-readers to waste a little time until they get tired. Some of them simply turn on the TV.
Many people use these devices frequently as a way to relax until they feel like they are ready for the sandman.
Well, this certainly explains a lot! In fact, it’s a problem I see quite often.
Folks tend to get wrapped up in Facebook, Internet surfing and game-playing late into the evening. And this is a mistake. It literally sets the stage to keep you up later and later each night.
That’s because the bright blue light from these devices doesn’t lull you to sleep. Quite the contrary. Rather than preparing your body to shut down for a few hours, this light wakes you up even more, negatively affecting something called the reticular activation system…not good.
The reason is pretty simple.
All of that light delays your circadian rhythm and suppresses your body’s natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
So what’s the solution?
Shut Down Your Smartphone and Go to Sleep
Now, you may be tempted to ask your doctor for a sleeping pill to help you get some ZZZs. But there’s a better way to go about it.
First, shut down your TV, computer and handheld devices at the same time each night. I turn off my devices about an hour before bedtime. This will help create a quiet, low-light ambience that alerts your body it’s getting close to bedtime.
Then spend that last hour relaxing your mind with low-energy activities, like listening to music or reading a paperback book.
If that’s not enough to do the trick, you may also need to reset your circadian rhythm. The best way to do that is by supplementing with time-released melatonin. It works like regular melatonin to put you to sleep quickly. But it works longer, which helps keep you from waking up during the night. I like to take 1-3 milligrams of melatonin an hour before I go to bed.
Because melatonin is a hormone, I suggest using it only on a short-term basis until you’ve reset your natural sleep/wake patterns. Then, simply try to spend 20 minutes outside in the sunshine earlier in the day. This will help your body release melatonin naturally on its own and help you get the regenerative sleep your brain and body crave.
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