Updated: Aug 11, 2020
Cat's know it instinctively, the importance of sleep, but all too often us humans ignore the importance of rest and sleep, usually in our distracted haste to get keep up with the busy-ness of living. We live such a busy lifestyle these days, with so much going on all the time, that we have tended to move sleep further onto the back-burner than is good for us. We all tend to instinctively know what melatonin is, the neuro-chemical that switches us from day mode to sleep mode. It is a very interesting hormone to research, with many new important functions being discovered about it. It plays a very important role in our health and wellbeing, helping the brain to detoxify and reset after a busy day. Unfortunately our modern day habits and exposures are not kind to the production of this vital substance. Staying up late on the computer, working or surfing the net as the clock ticks away the most important hours for melatonin production is driving up stress, weight gain and inflammatory diseases in our modern world. Add to this the damaging effect on the pineal gland (the gland that makes melatonin) of drinking fluoride in our water, and we have a double hit on our health.
Sleep is the time when your body restores, detoxifies and regenerates itself. Insufficient sleep damages this vital process, and leads to accelerated aging and a wide range of health issues. Prioritising quality sleep is one of the most valuable health practices you can engage in. There comes a time when we need to put some rules around our evening routines, to better honor the importance and value of better quality sleep. While time seems like a scarce commodity, we can easily find ourselves exchanging vital sleep and rest time to things done. Evenings have become the time we catch up on social media, entertainment, binge-watching television shows, gaming, working or doing one of a million things we do each day. Instead of winding down in the evenings, we are keeping ourselves hyperstimulated and miss the opportunity to make enough melatonin to protect us from illness, weight gain, cancer, fatigue and a host of other effects. Staying up late may seem harmless, but it isn't. There are long-term consequences of poor sleep and lack of sleep, and those consequences are accumulative. Much research has been done on sleep, with articles like this one from Harvard medicine. Quality sleep has many health benefits, it can even save relationships! Some of the things it helps with includes:
Improving weight loss, metabolic health, and normalising appetite
Boosting immune function
Improving working memory
Improving concentration and productivity
Reducing inflammation and slowing down the aging process
Making you less grumpy, more energetic and generally happier
It helps you stay mentally and emotionally fit
Aids convalescence and recovery from illness
Restores, repairs and energises
To sleep well you need balanced biochemistry. There are lots of things that can disrupt the ability of the body to move into the deeper sleep cycles, and if you are struggling to sleep, this can be a signal for other health issues.
It is too easy to get into bad evening habits. The invention of the internet has not helped this. Improving sleep quality by and resetting your body's circadian rhythm can improve life quality across all areas, from productivity to better relationships. Here are some things to consider to support better sleep, and a more productive lifestyle:
Connect with the sun - Thanks to genius power of electricity and lighting, we have lost connection with the light outside. At one time our ancestors would rise and retire with the sun. The biochemical impact of not doing this is astounding, but I won't bore you with that right now. We can reset our biological clock naturally by reconnecting with the sun - the benefits of which are far reaching, from better sleep to improved mood. Notice when the sun comes up, and when it sets and start to tune your body clock to it. If your body clock feel out of whack it can take a few weeks to reset. when you get up in the morning, go outside and put your face to the sun, even if it is behind the clouds. Set an alarm at the time the sun sets and go out and watch the colours in the sky change. Your pineal gland will love it, and as long as you don't go back inside to blue light overexposure, your sleep will be better for it.
Switch-off earlier in the evenings - Instead of sitting up half the night doing stuff on the computer or watching television, make a plan to turn off electricals before dinner, and leave them off till the next day. Ditch the evening television, and think of your computer and mobile phone as work, and clock off. Instead take the evening hours to wind down. Turn the lights down and the electricals off. Clean the kitchen after dinner, have a bath or a shower, and get into your pajamas, and wind down with quiet time instead of the artificial stimulus of gadgets and bright lights.
Go to bed earlier - The hours before midnight deliver the highest amount of melatonin to the brain, and drives the deepest most regenerative sleep. You may find that you start to get sleepy in the early evening between 5-7pm, and if you are in the habit of pushing through this dip, you could find yourself on a second wave of cortisol, which will delay your ability to get to sleep in the most regenerative early evening hours. Switching off earlier in the evening will help you to align with your body's natural rhythms, and get more out of your sleep.
Get up earlier - instead of staying up till 10, 11 or 12 in the evening, get up earlier in the morning. If you tend to wake early then it doesn't matter, get up at 5am and get the day started, you will be so much more productive, and can catch up on the things you would have done in the evening, more efficiently. Exercising in the morning also boosts your metabolism for the day and is good for the brain. This routine is far more protective to the brain and body than staying up late, it really is so much better for your health. (If you have small children, this can give you a chance to have some time alone.)
Have a digital detox - give yourself a 6 or 7pm curfew and turn everything off, including the WIFI. Do this with the family and after the initial 3-5 withdrawal tantrums, the quality of your relationships may improve remarkably.
Get all electricals out of the bedroom. Buy an analogue 'silent sweep' alarm clock instead of using a digital clock or mobile phone. Remove computers, televisions and radios (or unplug them), swap electric blankets for hot water bottles, or unplug them completely from the wall when you get into bed. Leave your mobile phone in the kitchen, and head to bed with a paper bound book instead of a kindle. Also make sure your bedside lamp is not a blue light iridescent bulb, you want to yellow light, not too bright.
Turn off the WIFI at night - chaotic high radio frequency radiation penetrates throughout the house, and can be extremely detrimental to the subtle nervous system and not only damage health, but it can hijack restful sleep. These frequencies keep the brain from dropping down into the lower theta and delta waves required for quality sleep. Everyone in the house will benefit from this. Putting the modem on a timer allows you to set and forget. Having a digital curfew will keep teenagers and children off their devices too, so vital for the developing brain.
Blue light emitted from electricals, lighting and screens drives down melatonin and disrupt deep sleep cycles.
WIFI - The nervous system has receptors a bit like a mobile phone, so be sure to turn off the WIFI at night. Also make sure you aren’t sleeping next to the wall that electricals like the fridge, modem or the power box (smart meter) is attached to the house. (Particularly important for children)
Bluetooth - I am not a fan of Bluetooth technology at all, I don't' think it is safe for the brain and delicate tissue of the body that are exposed to the frequencies. If you are having sleep or health problems, stop using fitbits, cordless headphones, wireless speakers, and other bluetooth technologies. It is not suited to the delicate structures of the ear and brain. I saw an ad for a bluetooth headband to play things while you go to sleep, honestly, don't do it!
Avoid stimulants after midday. Some people are poor caffeine metabolisers so may need to stop caffeine after 10am, others are fast caffeine metabolisers and can stop between 2-4pm. Anyone with sleep problems should avoid coffee, tea, coke, chocolate and energy drinks earlier in the day.
Obstructed Airways - seeing to issues with the tonsils, or swelling in the throat from poor lymphatic drainage due to allergies and weight gain are important to get to the causative drivers of sleep apnoea and obstructed airways. One way to test if this is making you tired is to tape your mouth closed with micropore tape when you go to bed. This wills top the mouth from falling open and obstructing the airways. can help avoid obstruction of the airways as the mouth falls open. If you have sinus issues, this needs to be addressed as a priority.
Reduce stress - when stress is high, sleep is poor. Cortisol and melatinon are on opposite ends of the seesaw. When cortisol is high, making enough melatonin is going to be harder. Switching off earlier in the evening, exercising after work or before dinner, and seeing to your nutritional status can help a lot.
Boost up nutrients that help with sleep - the cofactors needed to turn serotonin into melatonin include magnesium, zinc C and B vitamins,and amino acids like tryptophan.
Fix your gut - 80-90% of your body's serotonin, the precursor to melatonin, is made in the gut. If you have gut problems and sleep problems, this could be the link for you. A healthy gut-brain relationship makes everything better. Getting off the foods you can't digest, improving enzyme secretion, and rejuvenating your microbiome can improve the health of your entire body, and prevent disease down the track.
Stop eating at least 1 hour before bed, and not after 8pm. You don't want to be digesting into the assimilation and elimination cycles of your body clock. You will sleep better if you aren't lying there with a full stomach. It is a good idea to do a 12 hour fasting cycle - finish eating by 7 or 8pm, and don't eat before the equivalent time in the morning.
Invest in a water filter that removes fluoride. Fluoride is known to calcify the delicate pineal gland, detrimental for lots of reasons, one of which is our melatonin levels. Most water filters do not take fluoride out as the particles are too small. There are a couple of brands of filter that do, but you won't find them in Bunnings. Contact me if you want more information. I don't recommend drinking unfiltered tap water, or bottled water packed in plastic.
Support your melatonin levels, if needed. We can't buy melatonin over the counter in Australia, you need a prescription. Doctors usually dose at 3mg, but people often need more, and in a form that is more absorbable. One for that is highly aborbable is liposomal melatonin, which needs to be made by a compounding pharmacist, or sourced overseas. Mixing a melatonin powder with a phospholipid liquid base is good because it is absorbable through the lining of the mouth so it doesn't get lost in the gut. You hold this mixture in your mouth until it is gone, which happens quickly. The timing of supplementation is important. If sleep onset is a problem taking it an hour or so before bed can help you drift off faster. If light sleep or early waking is a problems, it is best taken just before bed for a longer sleep or if you wake in the early part of the night, before 1am, a small dose can be taken then, but don't take it in the later part of the night as it will make you drowsy in the morning. (Dr Klinghart (legendary German holistic Dr) likes to use this one from America, or some people like to make their own. If you take too much too quickly you feel drowsy in the morning, so start low and build up to find your ideal dose.
Nourish and protect your Brain - Research came out linking the use of sleeping tablets (benzodiazapines) with an increased risk of dementia. This was followed up with more research that found that sleep problems were an early sign of dementia-related brain changes. Good to know! This is empowering as it allows you to be proactive with preventative measures to look after the most important gland in your body.
Seek out the cause. Finding out why you aren't sleeping on a functional level is paramount. When the body expresses symptoms, there is always a reason. Simply removing the symptom with a drug is not healing the problem, it actually pushes the problem deeper, making things worse down the track. Hormone imbalances can upset sleep cycles, it can be an early signal of menopausal change. Sleep problems can be an early sign of the brain changes associated with dementia or Alzeimers. They can be a sign of nutrient deficiencies, allergies or poor adrenal stress adaptation. It might be function of technology overload. Don't ignore it. If you have resistant insomnia, work with a Naturopath to find out why. Just taking sleeping tablets is not the answer, finding out why you aren't sleeping is.
There are lots of tips here. Reading through and pick out three to start with can help to tune your body back in to better sleep cycles. All health problems can be a blessing if you listen to the message. They can give you a good reason to get active with your health, and working with a Naturopath whose primary job it is to keep you thriving, is a step in the right direction.
I hope this helps, I'd love to hear how you go.
(Naturopath) (DISCLAIMER - this is a health rant of my own opinions and are not intended to be diagnostic or prescriptive. See your health care provider if you have health concerns.)