In naturopathic medicine we talk about optimizing “sleep hygiene”. This includes everything that we do in our lives that influences our sleep. We like to start with these basics rather than throwing pills at the problem. It is normal to be able to sleep and to get enough.
a. Get plenty. Not being able to sleep correlates with not being physically tired. An hour a day of movement could be all you need.
b. If you do yoga, try forward bends or shoulder stands just before bed.
a. Go to bed early. You want to make sure you can get plenty of sleep before the alarm goes off. It’s ideal to be deeply asleep before 11pm so that your adrenal glands can recharge properly. Consider setting an alarm to remind you to go to bed, instead of to get up.
b. Keep a regular schedule. Get up at the same time each day. Sleep at night, and be active in the daytime. Regularity lets your circadian rhythm provide growth hormones to repair your tissues at night, and cortisol to get you going in the morning.
c. When the days are short, allow yourself to sleep more.
3. Keep a sleep journal.
a. For a couple of weeks, write down when you go to bed, how long it takes you to go to sleep, when you wake up in the night, and when you get up in the morning. This will help you know what to try next.
4. Bed room
a. Keep your sleep area dark. Cover windows and remove bright clocks.
b. Avoid stressful activities in the sleeping area.
c. Keep the bedroom cool, 70 degrees F or lower. Don't use covers that are too warm.
d. Make sure your feet are toasty warm. Wear socks to bed or use a heating pad or hot water bottle.
5. Turn down the lights for an hour before sleep.
a. Darkness allows your body to manufacture melatonin so you fall asleep quicker and more deeply.
b. Avoid television and computer screens for an hour before bedtime.
a. Avoid overuse of stimulants. Too much coffee will keep you up at night, even if you only drink it in the morning.
b. Avoid liquids for 2 hours before bedtime. This will minimize getting up to urinate. Especially avoid alcoholic nightcaps.
a. Avoid eating in the evening. Bedtime snacks are a terrible idea. Your body sleeps best when it is just about done digesting whatever you ate last.
b. Eat protein at your last meal of the day. Several amino acids are involved with your body’s natural manufacture of melatonin, the sleep hormone. The amino acid tryptophan makes us especially sleepy. Some good dietary sources of tryptophan include oats, bananas, dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, grass fed meat, poultry, fish, eggs, sesame and spirulina.
c. Avoid stimulating supplements (such as B vitamins, tyrosine and ginseng) in the evening.
8. If you do all this and still have trouble sleeping
a. Find out if you have sleep apnea, and get it treated.
b. Be cautious with over the counter sleep preparations as they may be addictive or have other unwanted effects.
c. Consult your physician who may be able to assist with further advice, supplements and medications.