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Sleep

"Sleep is an essential part of life, but more important, sleep is a gift."

- William C. Dement

Quick start tips for Great Sleep

Real estate, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. These are just a few of the investments you might make throughout your life. But what about sleep? Are you willing to invest time and energy into developing healthy sleep habits, or do you think of sleep as something you have to get out of the way?

Sleep is as critical to survival as food, oxygen, and water. Without it, the body and mind begin to collapse and become non-functional. While there have been cases of humans surviving over two months without food, the longest documented sleep deprivation study lasted only 11 days.

You will spend 26 years sleeping and just 4.5 eating in an average lifetime!

Sleep is profoundly essential for restoring, repairing, and rejuvenating your body. In a society that runs on energy drinks and coffee, glorifies busyness over rest, and is besieged by blue light and EMF, what can you do to reclaim the value of quality shut-eye?

Chronic sleep issues will keep you from achieving your 100 Year Heart!

Why Your Doctor Doesn't Talk about Sleep

Modern medicine focuses so heavily on prescribing medication and bandaids to cover up health problems that conventional doctors seem to have lost sight of the healing power of good sleep.

You don’t have a prescription deficiency. You have a sleep deficiency.

Invest in your sleep — the returns could save your life

Sleep: the Renewal of the body

Sleep Cycles and the Circadian Rhythm

Though sleep feels like a simple drop into unconsciousness, many factors are in play. A lot happens during this critical process that you might not be aware of.

 
On any given night, your body goes through the following cycle four or five times:

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The five stages of sleep

Stage 1:

Drowsy

(first 5–10 min.)

The transition from being awake to being asleep. Muscles relax and might start to twitch; heart rate, breathing, and brain activity slow down

Stage 2:

Light sleep

(lasts about 20 min.)

Brain waves slow down, core temperature decreases, eye movements stop, breathing and heart rate become regular.

50 percent of total sleep time is in this stage.

Stage 3:

Deep sleep

(lasts 20–40 min.)

Deep sleep is critical for restorative sleep and is hard to wake from.

Reduced brain activity, muscles relax fully, memory encoding, heart rate and breathing slow even more, blood pressure drops.

Stage 4:

REM

(Rapid Eye Movement)

Brain activity increases, dreams usually occur, breathing is fast and irregular, heart rate rises, eyes move rapidly behind eyelids, limbs become paralyzed.

Emotions and emotional memories stored, further memory encoding.

Around 25 percent of total sleep time is in this stage.

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Each phase is critical for regeneration and rest, and an interruption in any of them can be detrimental to your sleep quality. 

Since you are not consciously regulating this process, what is?

Enter the circadian rhythm. This is your body’s internal clock that releases melatonin (the sleep hormone) and makes you tired. It also calls the shots regarding the sleep cycle, delegating exactly when you enter the various phases and stages of sleep.

The smarty-pants circadian rhythm controls body temperature during sleep, natural wakefulness in the morning, and even slows metabolism. Your biological clock (like all of the natural world) runs on a 24-hour system informed by sunrise and sunset, eating habits, and temperature. 

Sleep-wake homeostasis is like the circadian rhythm’s sidekick, helping to make up for sleeplessness or a night of low-quality rest. This is what tells your body to sleep in after staying up late, that little voice that calls you to crawl into bed when you’re fighting tiredness. It slowly builds throughout the day until it becomes impossible to resist.

A body in perfect balance will be in tune with the sun’s rising and setting.  Sleep problems begin to develop when your biological clock does not align with this natural rhythm.

“Sleep is the time when our body repairs from the mental and physical stress of the day.”

Dr. Jack Wolfson

A poor night’s sleep might leave you cranky and craving an extra cup of coffee in the morning, but did you know it could also make you sick? 

Poor sleep puts you at risk of multiple health conditions, including heart disease, obesity, and stroke. Worse, a lack of sleep can even lead to an early death!

Why your Heart Needs Great Sleep

The heart-protective nature of sleep can not be emphasized enough. For example, a 2011 studyinvolving close to half a million people found that individuals who did not sleep enough had a 48 percent increased risk of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15 percent greater risk of stroke than those who prioritized sleep.

Things start to fall apart when the body goes for long periods without quality sleep or not enough sleep.

Lack of sleep contributes to the following:

High blood pressure

Sleep decreases the work of the heart, lowering both heart rate and blood pressure. As you sleep at night, your heart and blood vessels have a chance to rest and heal.

On the other hand, lack of sleep can double the risk of hypertension. Many doctors don’t even consider the role that sleep plays in high blood pressure and have their patients on numerous anti-hypertensive drugs without addressing the underlying concern.

Related Post: Revealed: Poor Sleep and Blood Pressure Truths

Inflammation

Sleep works to keep inflammation levels at bay by reducing the amount of CRP, or C-reactive protein, in the blood. Elevated levels of CRP increase the risk of heart disease. Without this response, inflammation could rage unchecked through your body.

Related Post: Don't Ignore These Signs of Chronic Inflammation

Increases Stroke Risk

Not sleeping long enough could severely increase your risk of having a stroke. Studies suggest that prolonged sleep deprivation and late nights increase your chances of a stroke by 15 percent.

Sleep acts as a housekeeper to clean calcium build-up out of the arteries, thus reducing the risk of a cardiac event.

Weight Gain

Sleep is essential for energy production, and when we don't get enough, our body seeks an energy source elsewhere, typically from food.

Our body produces various hormones during sleep, including those that regulate appetite. Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones responsible for telling us when we are hungry and full. Sleep deprivation decreases leptin production and increases ghrelin, causing a significant increase in appetite.

Finally, when we sleep less, we have more time to eat. A 2015 study found that obese individuals with a BMI greater than 30 had shorter sleep durations and more variability in their sleep. Regularly skimping out on sleep can lead a higher number on the scale.

Raises Risk of Heart Disease

One study from 2011 followed patients for 10-15 years and tracked their sleep habits. Researchers found that those who slept less than six hours per night had a 23 percent higher risk of coronary artery disease. Those who didn’t sleep long and reported poor sleep quality had a 79 percent increased risk of heart disease.

Atherosclerosis

A study on mice genetically engineered to develop atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries) found that the mice whose sleep cycles were disrupted developed larger arterial plaques than those with normal sleep patterns.

Increases AFib Risk

Studies show that poor sleep duration and insomnia could increase the risk of AFib.

Learn More About AFib Here

Sleep decreases the work of the heart, lowering both heart rate and blood pressure. As you sleep at night, your heart and blood vessels have a chance to rest and heal.

On the other hand, lack of sleep can double the risk of hypertension. Many doctors don’t even consider the role that sleep plays in high blood pressure and have their patients on numerous anti-hypertensive drugs without addressing the underlying concern.

Related Post: Revealed: Poor Sleep and Blood Pressure Truths

Sleep works to keep inflammation levels at bay by reducing the amount of CRP, or C-reactive protein, in the blood. Elevated levels of CRP increase the risk of heart disease. Without this response, inflammation could rage unchecked through your body.

Related Post: Don’t Ignore These Signs of Chronic Inflammation

Not sleeping long enough could severely increase your risk of having a stroke. Studies suggest that prolonged sleep deprivation and late nights increase your chances of a stroke by 15 percent.

Sleep acts as a housekeeper to clean calcium build-up out of the arteries, thus reducing the risk of a cardiac event.

Sleep is essential for energy production, and when we don’t get enough, our body seeks an energy source elsewhere, typically from food.

Our body produces various hormones during sleep, including those that regulate appetite. Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones responsible for telling us when we are hungry and full. Sleep deprivation decreases leptin production and increases ghrelin, causing a significant increase in appetite.

Finally, when we sleep less, we have more time to eat. A 2015 study found that obese individuals with a BMI greater than 30 had shorter sleep durations and more variability in their sleep. Regularly skimping out on sleep can lead a higher number on the scale.

One study from 2011 followed patients for 10-15 years and tracked their sleep habits. Researchers found that those who slept less than six hours per night had a 23 percent higher risk of coronary artery disease. Those who didn’t sleep long and reported poor sleep quality had a 79 percent increased risk of heart disease.

A study on mice genetically engineered to develop atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries) found that the mice whose sleep cycles were disrupted developed larger arterial plaques than those with normal sleep patterns.

Studies show that poor sleep duration and insomnia could increase the risk of AFib.

Learn More About AFib Here

“Get 8-9 hours of sleep each night to avoid morning heart attacks!”

Dr. Jack Wolfson

Sleep is the prime time for the body to cool down. Therefore, not getting good sleep means that the heart rate and blood pressure stay elevated — the heart has no chance to rest. A strained heart can lead to stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.

Could Daylight Savings Time give you a heart attack?

Daylight Savings Time interferes with the circadian rhythm and can undo all of your hard work to reclaim a healthy sleep schedule. Not only that, it could give you a heart attack. Studies show that men have a 70 percent increased risk of a heart attack the day after the time change and a 20 percent increased risk for a week after. Perhaps it’s time to do away with this unhealthy practice for good.

Short Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Have you ever pulled an all-nighter and attempted to accomplish a task the next day? If so, you likely experienced the short-term effects of sleep deprivation firsthand when you tried to put your keys in the refrigerator or forgot your groceries at the store.

Delayed reaction time, headaches, irritability, and difficulty focusing are symptoms of a night of poor sleep (or no sleep). While these might seem like minor annoyances, they could have deadly consequences.

How many times have you driven sleep deprived without thinking twice? A recent study found that driving when tired is more dangerous than driving drunk. Most American states have laws preventing drowsy driving, and many instances are punishable under the same rules as driving intoxicated.

Sleep deprivation creates challenges in making other sound decisions. For example, a small study found that individuals who did not sleep for two days were more likely to make risky decisions than those who slept normally. A subsequent investigation found that poor sleep contributed to difficulty making moral decisions.

Impaired decision-making is just one of the deadly consequences that makes a quality night of sleep even more essential. Sometimes you cannot avoid isolated incidents of sleep deprivation, but it should never be a choice.

The Dangers of Microsleep

Tiredness is a force that is impossible to fight for long. The body needs sleep. It demands it. Ignoring the signs or trying to overcome sleepiness could prove deadly.

Have you ever been driving and suddenly found yourself jolted awake as you ran over the rumble strips on the side of the road?

If so, you’ve experienced an example of microsleep. This phenomenon encompasses brief moments (under 30 seconds) of unintentional sleep and is a good sign that you are exceedingly sleep-deprived. Your brain simply goes offline, rebelling against a lack of sleep.

Use this as your cue to pull over and take a nap, walk around your desk (if you’re at work), and try to get extra rest the next time you sleep.

Remember, after a microsleep incident, you are more likely to have altered decision-making skills and slower reaction time.

Long Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation

While the short-term effects of sleep deprivation are certainly alarming, the long-term, physical results of regular wakefulness and chronic insomnia are terrifying. Lack of sleep isn’t something to joke about or ignore — it could kill you.

Long-term sleep deprivation impairs every system in the body and leaves you stressed out, sick, and sad. Let’s dig into the science.

The Brain

As mentioned earlier, a lot happens in your body while you float through a blissful dreamland with your favorite singer and a band of unicorns. During sleep, your brain takes events, information, and emotions from the day and processes them, encoding them in long-term memories that you can call upon later.

More scientifically, sleep allows pathways to form between nerve cells (neurons), helping you retain facts, learn new things, and filter out unneeded information.

Chronic lack of sleep can lead to issues with:

  • Learning
  • Alertness
  • Concentration
  • Confusion
  • Judgment
  • Memory
  • Reaction time
  • Mental health
  • Mood

The Glympathic System

You’ve likely heard of the lymphatic system, responsible for clearing waste from gaps between cells. Unlike other organs, the central nervous system (CNS), the brain, and the spinal cord don’t have lymphatic vasculature. So how does the brain get rid of waste?

The CNS produces large amounts of metabolic waste due to lifestyle, stress, and dietary factors. Therefore, it must have some garbage disposal working on its behalf.

Until recently, the process was somewhat of a mystery.

A recently discovered waste clearance system known as the glymphatic system could hold the answers. This essential network eliminates dirty fluid and molecules from the central nervous system and uses “glial” cells to clean brain cells. These glial cells nourish and protect neurons and remove soluble proteins and metabolites from your CNS.

The glymphatic system flushes waste, eradicating diseased and damaged protein and metabolic cells and bringing in fresh cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that improves brain function and protects the tissue. It then links up with the lymphatic system to send waste products and destroyed bacteria to the liver and kidneys and eliminate them from the body.

Think of it as the lifecycle of waste products. Clean CSF “charges” up the glymphatic system, collecting toxins and waste products as it circulates through the CNS. Then, this dirty fluid (the garbage) is eliminated into the lymphatic system and processed.

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Five Ways Sleep is Good For Your Brain

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So what does that have to do with sleep?

The glymphatic system operates most while the brain is asleep, increasing the space between cells and blood vessels (interstitial space), boosting the influx of clean CSF, removing dirty fluid and molecules, and distributing essential amino acids, glucose, and lipids.

One of these waste products is called beta-amyloid, a protein that can contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. When beta-amyloid is left to circulate freely because the body isn’t getting proper rest to activate the glymphatic system, it can increase the risk of this neurodegenerative disease.

Chronic sleep deprivation can increase your risk of neurodegenerative disease, impair memory, reduce motor function, and more.

The stress and sleep connection

During the day, cortisol (the stress hormone) runs throughout your body, helping you make split-second decisions and deal with stressful situations while regulating your body’s “fight or flight” response.

Cortisol isn’t the enemy! Healthy levels of cortisol and adrenaline help you function and could save you in a life-threatening situation.

At night, however, this stress hormone takes a back seat, lowering throughout the early evening and allowing you to sleep peacefully without a racing heart rate and elevated breathing. Cortisol production slows, and melatonin rises. Or at least, that’s how the body should function.

Unfortunately, our society is more stressed-out than ever, with the American Psychological Association calling stress a “national health crisis.” Instead of the natural ebb and flow of cortisol, people live in a heightened state of awareness, unable to calm down and eliminate cortisol from the body. Which, of course, means lower sleep quality and higher insomnia rates. A stressed-out society equals a sleep-deprived society. 

 

These elevated cortisol levels lead to chronic inflammation, wrinkles, muscle loss, high blood pressure, and other health issues.

Melatonin

A crucial component of good sleep

You might have taken a melatonin capsule at some point to help you get sleepy or to combat a bout of insomnia. However, this hormone is more than just a quick fix for sleeplessness — it is something of a superhero in the body.

Melatonin works in the brain to fight inflammation, oxidative stress, and chronic cortisol while providing potent antioxidant support. Plus, along with the gylmphatic system, it plays a role in reducing age-related neurodegenerative disorders. The best part? Your incredible body produces it naturally.

Serotonin is another important neurotransmitter directly connected to the sleep-wake cycle. This hormone, sometimes called the “feel-good hormone,” helps regulate mood and wards off mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Your body produces it with sunlight exposure, a healthy diet, and regular exercise. Serotonin is a critical component in melatonin production. If you are sleep-deprived, you won’t produce as much serotonin, leading to a decrease in melatonin levels.

Therefore, less sleep means you’ll be tired, cranky, and sad. You could even have trouble falling asleep. This cycle leads to out-of-control cortisol and only exacerbates the problem.

Other Effects of Poor Sleep Hygiene

Sexual Dysfunction

Ask any exhausted person. They will tell you that sex is the last thing on their mind. Poor sleep suppresses the production of sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Lower levels of these hormones contribute to sexual difficulties such as erectile dysfunction and low libido.

Quality sleep enhances sexual desire and satisfaction. For example, a 2015 study of 171 women found that the longer they slept, the more interested they were in sex the following day.

Weakened Immunity

Sleep is essential for a robust immune system. During sleep, the body releases small proteins called cytokines. Cytokines are responsible for controlling inflammation and healing in the body. Sleep deprivation suppresses the production of these important immune-boosting proteins. Additionally, sleep enhances T-cells, a white blood cell essential for immunity.

A lack of sleep makes you much more susceptible to illness. A 2015 study found that individuals who sleep less than six hours a night were four times more likely to catch a cold than those who had slept more than seven. The researchers concluded that sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting the likelihood of getting sick.

Increased Sensitivity to Pain

It’s a well-established fact that chronic pain can cause sleep disturbances, but did you know that the reverse is also true? Poor sleep decreases pain tolerance, increases pain intensity, and raises the risk of developing painful conditions.

Studies have found that poor sleep quality and duration increase the risk of pain as we age. In addition, sleep impairments contribute to the onset or worsening of chronic pain from illnesses such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and back pain.

Premature Aging

We’ve all heard someone say, “I’ve got to get my beauty sleep.” There may be more truth to that phrase than we realize. Sleep keeps the skin vibrant and healthy, and a lack of sleep can lead to accelerated skin aging. Research shows that poor sleep quality weakens the skin’s ability to repair itself at night, leading to more fine lines and wrinkles.

It’s not just skin that ages prematurely, however. Researchers at UCLA concluded that one night of poor sleep makes cells age more quickly, causing irreversible DNA damage.

Poor Gut Health

As we’ve seen, poor sleep habits affect every area of your body, including your gut. Increased stress levels due to sleep issues can contribute to leaky gut and interfere with digestion.

Leaky gut is a dangerous condition that increases intestinal permeability, allowing food and toxins from the intestine to pass into the bloodstream. Without good sleep, your gut microbiome, the beneficial bacteria that keep your intestines happy, can become severely impaired.

Increased Risk of Diabetes

The waterfall effects of sleep deprivation are exceedingly scary. Lack of quality sleep contributes to higher blood sugar, decreased insulin resistance, and weight gain, all risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

According to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care, a chronic lack of sleep is connected to high A1C scores, a measurement of blood sugar levels.

The causes(s) of sleep problems need to be addressed. They might be physical, mental, or both. Even counting grass-fed sheep is not going to work if you are in a bad relationship or having issues at work

Dr. Jack Wolfson

Insomnia Origins:

What Causes Disrupted Sleep?

Stress

As mentioned above, stress and sleep don’t mix. Stress raises your blood pressure, sends anxious thoughts spiraling throughout your mind, and fights against the body’s natural craving for sleep.

Light exposure

Consistent blue light exposure before bed tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime, decreasing melatonin and other sleep hormones and leaving you wide awake.

Poor sleep schedule

Going to sleep and getting up at different times each day is a guaranteed way to confuse your circadian rhythm and keep your body guessing — which isn’t a good thing.

Blood sugar imbalances

Low blood sugar levels or sudden blood sugar spikes can keep cortisol raging to try and balance your system.

Chronic pain

Pain from an injury, illness, or other condition can seriously hamper sleep quality. When you cannot get comfortable in bed, you will toss and turn all night without ever going into REM, the restorative sleep cycle.

Caffeine

To recover from a night of poor sleep, many people consume excessive amounts of caffeine, a stimulant that can provide artificial wakefulness.

A note on coffee:

Truthfully, there is no replacement for sleep, and cup after cup of coffee destroys your sleep even more. You drink caffeine to stay awake during the day, which prevents you from falling asleep at night — a slippery slope into a vicious cycle of insomnia and caffeine dependency.

Caffeine itself isn’t bad. Coffee can promote heart health and support weight loss and memory. However, don’t rely on caffeine to keep you awake. Always drink 100 percent organic coffee and don’t consume in excess.

How Much Sleep do You Need?

“Get eight hours a night. No more or no less.” You’ve likely heard this reiterated throughout your life, reminding you that sleeping any less than the magic eight hours will undoubtedly lead to disaster. The truth is a little more complicated than that. There is no “one size fits all” approach to sleeping.

These questions are critical when calculating how much sleep you need to support your body and fortify its functions:

  • How old are you?
  • How much sleep did you get the night before?
  • Was it quality sleep?
  • Are you sick?
  • Are you tired?
  • Did you do a challenging workout?
  • Are you an athlete?

Infants need around 14-17 hours of sleep, while older adults (65 and over) don’t need more than seven or eight. The amount of sleep required for those 64 years in between will vary greatly and highly depends on your circumstances and even genetics.

The average adult should start with a minimum of seven hours per night, as recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and Sleep Research Society (SRS), and sleep longer (up to nine hours) if needed.

You might need more sleep if you answer “yes” to any of these questions:

  • Do you feel like you cannot function properly with your current amount of sleep?
  • Are you frequently tired during the day?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to stay awake?
  • Do you have health concerns that would warrant more sleep?
  • Do you expend a lot of energy each day?

Your sleep schedule should be what works best for you. Try to make it as close to a natural state as possible. Remember, getting less than seven hours a night increases adverse health conditions and is associated with a higher risk of early death.

Also, more sleep doesn’t always mean that it was quality sleep.

Humans spend one third of their life sleeping.

Can you get too much?

It might seem reasonable to compensate for lack of sleep during the week by sleeping 12 hours on the weekend, but this can do more harm than good.

It will throw off your circadian rhythm, leading to daytime drowsiness and nighttime insomnia, a recipe for lousy sleep and poor health. Certain studies even suggest that too much sleep (over ten hours per night) could be equally as harmful as not enough sleep.

The rise of sleeplessness

Remember, artificial light at night can seriously throw your circadian rhythm out of wack. Our ancestors had no issues with melatonin production, as the inconvenience and expense of light sources made staying up late a luxury in which many would not indulge.

Even if people in the past few hundred years did stay up a few hours past sunset, their lighting was usually candlelight and wasn’t nearly as harsh as modern LED lighting. Most people, especially those who tended farms and needed to utilize every scrap of daylight, would go to bed with the sun.

Of course, this isn’t the case now, as our modern lifestyle has made evening activities much more prevalent. In particular, the rise of handheld electronic devices has played a massive role in exposing us to more harmful lighting than at any other time in history. This has led to a severe sleeplessness epidemic that could prove deadly.

Humans are the only mammals to delay sleep.

50-70 million Americans suffer from a chronic sleep disorder or regular wakefulness.

That’s equivalent to the populations of Texas and California combined!

Solving the Problem

Proven Strategies to Sleep Better

Do you feel like you have to prepare for battle with yourself every time you get ready for bed? Struggles with the sandman have become far too common in our modern society, with many accepting that’s “just the way it is.”

The truth is, humans were designed to get a perfect amount of sleep each night — without artificial melatonin to pull you under or a caffeine drip to get you through your day.

Sleep is essential; that much is clear. But how can you fight restlessness and insomnia and give your body what it needs? Try these simple lifestyle changes today.

Reduce Blue Light Before Bed

According to research, any light at night can disrupt melatonin production and the circadian rhythm; however, blue light exposure proves to be particularly damaging. Studies suggest that blue light can reduce melatonin by 80 percent!

Blue light emits from computers, tablets, phones, TVs, and even LED lightbulbs. To help protect yourself from the harmful effects of blue light at night, try limiting your use of electronics after dark, particularly in the two hours before you go to bed. This will allow for minimum disruption of your sleep cycle and can help your body produce enough melatonin to send you into a relaxing dreamland.

Try downloading free blue light-blocking software on your phone and computer and use a full-spectrum lamp while reading at night.

Invest in a pair of blue-light-blocking glasses if you work on a computer. They can help block some of the adverse effects of blue light during the day and can be worn at night to help transition to sleep.

Related Post: You Need a Digital Detox

Practice Active Relaxation

Chronic stress doesn’t just raise your heart rate, disrupt your digestion, and impair your immune system; it can lead to severe sleep deprivation and hormone disruption. While some brief stress isn’t harmful, a body trapped in a sympathetic state is at risk for severe disease.

Trying to fall asleep is the prime time for your stressed-out body to rebel and keep you tossing and turning. Reframing stress and regaining quality sleep may take intentional, mindful relaxation techniques. These tips will help clear your mind, soothe your nervous system, and give you quality, uninterrupted sleep.

Journal

Spend about 10-15 minutes writing in a journal each night. Use this as a time to recap your day or simply let your mind wander. Try to focus on things you are grateful for, as a mindset of gratitude is crucial for relaxation and sleep quality.

Read

Since you won’t be on your electronic devices before bed (see above), use this time to read a few chapters of a good book that keeps your interest. This can help get your mind away from what is stressing you out.

Take a Bath

Light a few candles, grab a cup of tea, put on some relaxing music, add a cup of magnesium-rich Epsom salts, and soak in a warm, soothing bath. If you don’t take a bath, at least shower before bed, as it can help you relax and wash off any chemicals you have accumulated throughout the day.

Deep breathing

Don’t discount simple yet powerful deep breathing to reduce stress and help you sleep. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth with your eyes closed. Follow your own breathing routine or listen to a guided one on YouTube.

Gentle Yoga

Gentle yoga is an excellent way to incorporate deep breathing and stretching to can help prepare your body to drift into unconsciousness.

Essential oils

Diffuse relaxing essential oils such as lavender and chamomile to reduce stress and anxiety.

Alter Sleep Environment

How’s your mattress quality? What about your sheets? When was the last time you purchased a new pillow? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you might have found the answer to your sleep struggles. Set yourself up for success by investing in quality, organic bedding free of VOCs and other harmful chemicals.

As you sleep, your core temperature drops, releasing heat through your hands and feet and supporting quality rest. When the temperature in the room is too hot, it works against this natural response, making it hard for your body to cool down. Set the thermostat between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit at night to create the ideal sleep temperature.

Any light at night is detrimental to sleep quality. Invest in blackout curtains if you live in a city or an area with streetlamps. Even if you have blinds or curtains, the residual lighting penetrating these window coverings can prove disruptive.

Note: If you don’t want to install blackout curtains, a sleep mask is a great secondary option.

Artificial EMF can also increase stress and hamper good sleep. Always charge your phone in a different room (this can help reduce distractions and nighttime scrolling) and unplug your WIFI router to reduce background EMF.

Avoid Hitting Snooze

When you wake up in the morning, stay awake. Don’t hit snooze on your alarm clock and strive to catch a few more minutes of shut-eye. This creates bad habits that can lead to daytime drowsiness and a disrupted circadian rhythm. Many hormones work in harmony to get you out of bed and ready for the day. Tricking these hormones by falling back into a light, fitful sleep for ten minutes will only lead to strange dreams and an out-of-sync sleep cycle.

If you can, get rid of the alarm clock altogether. Train your body for a particular sleep schedule, and you will wake up naturally at the proper time — a much gentler and healthier way to wake up than a buzzing alarm clock.

Seek Out the Sun

Like blue light can disrupt the sleep cycle, sunlight can help repair it. Exposure to morning sunlight helps the brain wake up and leaves you feeling alert and ready to take on the day. It also increases serotonin and cortisol, which contribute to melatonin production at night.

Sunlight exposure reduces insomnia. One study found that two hours of bright light exposure contributed to better sleep quality, longer sleep, and greater sleep efficiency in older participants with insomnia.

Any sunlight exposure is better than none, but getting naked and letting your whole body soak in some rays is a perfect solution if you have a private backyard. If you don’t (or it’s wintertime), simply sit outside with your face turned towards the sun for 15 minutes. Don’t wear sunglasses, as they could prevent you from getting the full benefit of sunshine to the photoreceptors in your eyes.

The Power of Seasonal Sleep

Sleep looks different depending on the time of year. While it is always best to go to bed as close to sundown as you can and get up around sunrise, this isn’t always feasible during the winter months, as many places in the world have over 14 hours (or more) of darkness each day.

Stick to a natural, ancestral sleep schedule in the summer, going to bed around sunset and getting up with the dawn. This mimics our natural sleep pattern and is ideal for overall health. Try sticking with almost the same schedule in the winter but set your bedtime a little earlier.

Avoid blue light usage after dark whenever possible, and don’t sleep past sunrise.

Form a Healthy Sleep Schedule

One of the best things you can do for your sleep right now is set a sleep schedule and stick to it. It doesn’t take very long for your body to become accustomed to getting up and going to bed at a particular time. Researchers estimate that anywhere from a few days to a few weeks should be enough to reset your body.

Consistent wake and sleep times equal better sleep quality and higher melatonin production. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep each night and stick to the same sleep schedule, even on the weekends. If you struggle to get up when you don’t have to work, try making plans on the weekend in the morning to motivate yourself to get out of bed.

Avoid napping during the day, as this can throw off your sleep schedule!

Consider Sleeping Alone

Yes, you love your partner, and you enjoy cuddling up together before bed. Yet how many times has your sleep been disrupted because of snoring or being rolled on? Consider sleeping in separate rooms if you’ve already tried getting a bigger bed and are still waking up in the night.

Who knows, you may both end up sleeping through the night!

Get Exercise

Exercise at least 30 minutes a day for better sleep, cardiovascular health, and an improved mindset. The key is finding something you love to do. Stick to exercises that boost your mood, wear you out, and make you want to exercise the next day. Studies have shown that regardless of intensity, exercise can increase sleep quality and reduce incidents of insomnia.

Though it may seem like an energy drain, exercise boosts energy and reduces daytime drowsiness. Use caution with cardio too close to bedtime, as the energy-boosting effects could keep you up. Try to complete your workout at least two hours before hitting the hay to give your adrenaline levels time to stabilize.

Stretching like yoga, pilates, or other low-impact activities that don’t increase the heart rate shouldn’t disrupt sleep. Slow, muscle-relaxing movements right before bed could reduce stress and release tension from the day!

Change Your Diet

As we know, what we eat affects every system in the body. Without good fuel, the body will break down and fail to function properly.

A diet high in refined carbs, sugar, and processed meat will contribute to heart disease, immune dysfunction, weight gain, and wakefulness.

Additionally, you MUST eat organic. Non-organic foods contain dangerous chemicals that harm the body and create additional inflammation and stress, leading to sleep and health issues.

Empty carbohydrates could be particularly culpable, as refined carbs increase rates of insomnia. These foods have a yo-yo effect on blood sugar, causing it to soar and crash. Scientists believe these crashes could be responsible for pulling you out of sleep. Stick to food with a low glycemic index that raises blood sugar slower and less dramatically.

Instead of grabbing whatever is convenient, take the time to invest in your diet and seek out real food. Here at the Natural Heart Doctor, we recommend an organic, whole food diet consisting of the following:

Grass-fed meat

Quality fats

Vegetables

Fruit

Seeds

Nuts

Eggs

Seeds

ginger and turmeric

Studies show that a spoonful of coconut oil before bed could help stabilize out-of-control blood sugar and balance insulin.

Monitor Caffeine and Alcohol Intake

Most people recognize the stimulating effects of caffeine and have experienced coffee-induced restlessness after consuming this beverage a little too late in the day. However, the stimulating effects of alcohol are lesser-known. Though it may make you sleepy at the moment, that glass of wine could be contributing to your 3 a.m. wake-up and reducing your REM sleep.

If you find you cannot function during the day without caffeine or experience a headache when you don’t have your morning cup, consider limiting the amount of coffee you consume to avoid dependency. Try having one caffeine-free week every month.

Avoid drinking coffee after noon and alcohol late at night — monitor your intake of both. Consume drinks like these in moderation, and again, be sure they are always organic. Remember, if you are sensitive to stimulating drinks, don’t drink them! Try a yummy, soothing tea instead.

Mint, chamomile, or valerian root tea all promote sleep and relaxation and can help combat the effects of caffeine.

Consider Adjusting Sleeping Posture

Everyone has their favorite sleep posture, and trying to change it doesn’t always make falling asleep easier. However, a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that sleeping on your side coul