I’ve been hearing from a lot of folks about their insomnia lately, and while I’m not a sleep doctor, there are wellness tools we can try before seeking deeper medical attention. During this stressful quarantine time, our minds can linger in that “fight or flight” state we’ve mentioned many times before. This can lead to elevated cortisol levels, loss of appetite, brain fog, and sleep issues. It’s very important you check in with yourself, take your “stress” temperature, so to speak, and consider your wellness fundamentals. Are you sleeping enough? At the right times? Do you wake feeling tired or refreshed? Approaching a “stress temperature test” with a solution-based mind is key. We aren’t doing our mental and physical well-being any favors if we beat ourselves up for getting off track. These are trying times, and it’s biologically normal to get off track a bit. Remaining solution-based requires we go to our wellness tool belt, the very foundation we’ve worked so hard to build for ourselves, and make adjustments when needed. Seeking medical attention can be valuable if consistent insomnia persists.
To state the obvious, sleep is a vital human function, and according to the Sleep Health Foundation, 1 in 3 people report some form of insomnia. The good news about that is building better habits can lead to better sleep, so don’t think you’re doomed for poor sleep forever. Beyond my suggestions below, some patients who really suffer from insomnia may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. I know there are a plethora of sleeping pills and aids available on the market, but those should be a short term solution only. Our bodies need balance and homeostasis to function optimally, so having a natural sleep cycle is key to that balance. If you believe you may have one of the top 10 sleep disorders, please discuss this with your healthcare provider ASAP.
Some of these suggestions may seem obvious if you’ve been doing them for years, but I get asked about sleep A LOT and, between work and personal stresses, over-using technology, over-scheduled days, and an overall lack of balance in our diets and mental well-being, many people struggle with insomnia on some level, even if it comes and goes. Science is still discovering the power of sleep, but we know it helps to clean our brains, recover our entire bodies, and resets our systems for another day’s effort. We’re made to be active and then restore, but many of us aren’t active enough, or in the right ways, and find our bodies restless and awake come sundown. If our bodies aren’t keeping us awake, our brains certainly are thanks to what I mentioned above. I hope these tips might spur some ideas about how to find balance in better sleep. It’s a very important part of our long-term wellness practice!
- Turn off all blue light screens 2 hours before sleep (You can adjust this on most smart phones and other devices to auto turn off each day.)
- Lower room temp 1 hour before sleep (consider a cold shower too and cooler, high thread count sheets.)
- Avoid eating 2 hours prior to sleep (3 hours is better) – Serotonin vs. Melatonin (Very important hormone and neurotransmitter components that can compete if we eat just before sleep. Serotonin is produced after eating and Melatonin is produced when we sleep.)
- Exercise earlier in the day (Yes, exercise is key to any long term wellness practice, but earlier in the day is best if you have trouble sleeping at night.)
- Cut off caffeine after noon.
- Avoid work or social media communications 1 hour before sleep.
- Meditate or practice deep breathing exercises 30 minutes before sleep. There are many apps to help with this.
- Get at least 20 minutes of sunshine each day. Many of us suffer from serotonin imbalances, which are responsible for a handful of mental and physical conditions. If you’re somewhere where the sun isn’t out very often, check out HappyLight for artificial sunlight production with no harmful UV.
I am not a licensed nutritionist or dietitian. You should always consult with a nutritionist and your primary care provider before changing diets in any way or your doctor before trying out any supplement or medication. This article is not meant to cure, heal or otherwise solve any medical conditions whatsoever. It is based on personal experience and research.