Sleep is arguably the most essential healing mechanism our body has built into it. When you’re sleeping well, your body has the best possible chance to heal, restore and recover. But what happens when your sleep patterns become disturbed and you suddenly have trouble falling and/or staying asleep? It can be devastating, frustrating and literally make you sick.
I’ve certainly been there, and it really made me feel like I was going crazy. I would have done anything for sleep, and ended up compiling quite a list of tricks to help me catch some ZZZZs.
One of the things that can really mess with getting sleep, disrupt your circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin production is all the artificial light exposure you’re likely getting by watching late night TV or being glued to your favorite device.
To minimize this and attempt to regulate your sleep-wake cycle, make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. If you don’t already have window coverings, look into getting blackout shades. Your bedroom should also be cool – you’ll sleep better.
Keep all electronics out of the bedroom, and stop all electronic use at least 1 hour before bed.
Try a white noise machine or app. I’ve also used Delta Sleep System by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson
That’s it for setting up an ideal environment to promote sleep. And it will help, but most likely if you’re suffering from any level of insomnia you’re ready for some extra help, so here are some other tips:
I’ve had moderate success with the homeopathic sleep remedy Calms Forte though I wouldn’t recommend it for long term use. Try taking 2-3 tablets 1 hour or so before bed.
Add Magnesium to your supplement regiment. I like 1-2 tablespoons of Natural Calm in a glass of water 1/2 hour before bed. You can experiment with the dosage – too much magnesium can cause diarrhea, so when your stool is comfortably soft you know you’ve got the right dosage. This really helped me fall asleep.
If you’ve got a racing heart in the evenings and/or wake up between 2:00AM-4:00AM with a racing heart and don’t generally don’t feel rested you might have a cortisol issue.
Here’s an expert from Julia Ross’ great book The Mood Cure:
Cortisol is the hormone that gets you going on the morning produced by the adrenal glands. It is highly energizing and
and ramps up when you’re stressed or in “fight or flight” mode.
Cortisol levels are supposed to be highest in the morning and lowest between about midnight and 4:00AM. If levels are too high, you’ll feel wired, tense and hyper-vigilant. Cortisol levels always rise above the normal level to help us cope with severe stress. This can happen, for example, during a divorce or as a reaction to withdrawal from medications, like antidepressants, often causing insomnia.
Cortisol levels should return to normal after the stress is relieved, but sometimes chronic stress goes on for so long that the adrenals make a permanent adaptation to a new, hyper level of cortisol production. Eventually, our adrenals can become so exhausted by this constant demand for extreme cortisol production that they are no longer able to produce even moderate levels. Their cortisol output can drop too low throughout the day, especially in the late afternoon. This can be experienced as a sudden crash or a gradually increasing fatigue. But, surprisingly often, 1 – 5 AM cortisol surges persist for years, causing chronic insomnia.
Those of us who are chronically stressed or coming off of a particularly stressful period can get stuck in a viscous cycle of not falling asleep at night and waking up super early and super tired but wired. In that case you might need to take some additional steps to get you sleep mojo back.
Ask your integrative health practitioner to run a neurotransmitter test (I’ve done one by NeuroScience) to determine which neurotransmitters and hormones are out of whack.
Once s/he has a better idea of what’s going on, s/he can recommend some supplements or precursors (read building blocks) your body needs to produce the right quantities of the right neurotransmitters to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
Supplements that have helped me in the past include: CalmCP to lower cortisol (with meals, up to 4 per day) and Travacor to up Serotonin and GABA production. These are both by Neuroscience and available on Amazon.com.
You can also try Phosphorilated Serine (brand name Seriphos) which can help regulate cortisol production as well.
These supplements can actually work very quickly, as in within a few days, and sometimes may need to be part of your regiment for a few months until your body readjusts and your hormone production gets back to normal.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any tips on getting good sleep? Leave me a comment here or find me Facebook !