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Rockin’ the Zzz’s: Radical Ways to Get High Quality Sleep

Posted Apr 08 2011 1:06pm

It’s no question that getting a good night’s sleep can completely refresh your mind and body.  Sleep is when your body’s sympathetic nervous system shuts down and your parasympathetic – rest and repair – nervous system takes over, repairing and rebuilding your body and mind.  Sleep is also essential for healthy hormonal balance.  Without good quality sleep, your hormones will be all over the map, causing you to feel stressed, anxious, worried, fatigued and foggy-headed. Sleep deprivation can actually be compared to being drunk.  If you wouldn’t drive after drinking, definitely don’t get behind the wheel when you’re short on sleep!

How much sleep is enough?  Can you sleep too much?  As a matter of fact, it turns out that you can catch a few too many Z’s.  One large case study conducted b the American Cancer Society showed that sleeping greater than nine hours per night was just as much a risk factor for death as was sleeping fewer than six hours.  Experts estimate the optimal sleep time to be between six and eight hours per night, but they caution that sleep needs are individual.  While you may be completely rested and alert with six hours of sleep per night, your significant other may need a full eight in order to hit the day without downing a pot of coffee.

Okay, so you know you need sleep to be your absolute best, but what if just turning out the light isn’t enough to send you to Lala Land?  Not to worry, a few simple lifestyle changes and the addition of some inexpensive supplements can be just the trigger to tip you over into sounder sleep.  Try these tips and start enjoying the benefits of a full night’s rest:

1.  Melatonin - Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland during darkness.  Because of all the artificial light we have around us at all times, your melatonin levels may be low.  Taking a small amount of melatonin at night just before bed helps regulate your circadian rhythms and can tip you into a deeper sleep.  Start with just 1 mg of melatonin as too much can actually give you vivid dreams and force you to wake up.  Increase the dosage as necessary.  For those who tend to fall asleep easily but wake up multiple times during the night, go for the timed release capsules or melatonin skin cream.  All of these should be available at your local health food or supplement store.

2.  Theanine - Theanine is an amino acid found largely in green tea.  It has a calming effect on the mind and body.  Theanine crosses the blood-brain barrier and has been clinically shown to reduce mental and physical stress while also improving cognition, so it won’t make you groggy, but it will stop whirring thoughts.  Theanine’s primary effect is to optimize GABA, a brain inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for a calm state of mind.  While drinking green tea can have soothing benefits, it’s difficult to determine how much theanine you’re actually getting.  You can purchase L-Theanine in supplemental form and take it whenever you are stressed as well as just before going to bed.

3.  Meditation – While it’s nice to believe that chugging a few supplements and laying off the afternoon coffee will fix our sleep problem, nothing you swallow can combat chronic mental stress.  Meditating for just 15 to 30 minutes before bed will clear your mind, promote rest and relaxation and ease your body into sleep.  Other strategies that work include turning off the television and computer at least one hour before bed, reading a novel before sleep and not eating for at least three hours prior to shutting off the lights.

Leave me a comment below and let me know your secret strategies for high quality sleep!  What works – and what DOESN’T work for you?


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