5 Steps to Getting the Best Sleep
Among the many issues connected to sleep deprivation are:
- Obesity & Diabetes
- High Cholesterol & Inflammation
- Decreased immunity
- Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Decrease in sexual desire and performance
- Low testosterone in men of all ages
- Depression and anxiety
- Increase in death from all causes
How to Improve Your Sleep?
1. Treat the Medical Root Causes
Two of the more common medical causes for insomnia are hormone changes (especially in females) and sleep apnea in both men and women.
Hormonal changes in women starting during peri-menopausal and menopause can cause unpleasant symptoms such as anxiety, night sweats and hot flashes which can interrupt sleep. Men with low testosterone also can suffer from poor sleep quality. Your healthcare provider can test your hormones and suggest therapies to help alleviate these symptoms.
If you don’t feel rested in the morning, have daytime drowsiness or find that you need to nap a lot, talk to your health care provider about a sleep study to evaluate for sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, you don’t get restful sleep because your brain wakes you up continuously during the night.
2. Make Sleep a Priority by Making the Following Changes:
- Set the stage: The room should be very dark (try black out blinds and/or an eye mask). The room should not be too warm and it should be very quiet. Consider a white noise machine or white noise recording on your mobile device.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule even on the weekends.
- Make the bed your sacred space. Use it only sleep and intimacy. If you are having any form of insomnia whether it’s difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep avoid eating, watching TV, reading or looking at electronics in bed.
- If you are using mobile devices at night, consider blue light glasses. Avoid watching violent or upsetting shows or movies or the news before bed. And, have all electronics (including smartphones, tablets, computers, and digital alarm clocks), several feet from your bed while you sleep.
- Exercise. Start with 15-20 minutes per day 3-4 times per week (walking is great exercise by the way) and work up to 150-250 minutes per week.
- Try yoga. Regular yoga practice has been shown to improve the restfulness of sleep.
- Get some natural sun light every day. Try for 10 minutes twice a day. We need exposure to sunlight daily to produce the hormones we need for sleep.
- Eliminate caffeine intake after noon. Keep your caffeine consumption to 1-3 cups of tea or coffee per day.
- Reduce or eliminate sugars and refined carbohydrates from your diet which may cause blood sugar spikes associated with poor sleep.
3. Add Some Relaxation Techniques
- Daily meditation practice – even 5-10 minutes per day is beneficial. There are lots of great meditation teachers on the Insight Timer App and all over the internet.
- Guided sleep meditation before bed. I highly recommend the Yoga Nidra (a practice of guided deep relaxation for sleep). I particularly like Yoga Nidra recording by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati. You can get it a CD at amazon or download it from i-tunes. There are loads of other Yoga Nidra recordings you can get for free on you tube. The Monroe Institute also has some wonderful CD’s and MP3’s.
- The 4-7-8 breath, introduced to us by Dr. Andrew Weil. Here is how to do it:
- Start by placing the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth (you will keep it there for the entirety of the exercise). You will be inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth around your tongue
- Exhale completely through your mouth making a “whoosh” sound”
- Inhale through your nose for a count of 4
- Hold the breath in for a count of 7
- Exhale completely through your mouth making a “whoosh” sound for a count of 8.
- Inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
- Dr. Weil has a video here.
4. Consider Some Helpful Supplements
- Magnesium (especially glycinate, or L-threonate). Take before bed may help to help with muscle relaxation and sleep. Please note, for some people magnesium may cause loose bowel movement or diarrhea. If this occurs, reduce the dosage or stop entirely.
- Chamomile Tea. Consume 1 cup an hour before bed (note, if you wake a lot to urinate, you may not want to drink liquid before bed)
- Melatonin 1-3 mg 1 hour before bed. Melatonin is not a panacea for sleep issues. It is a hormone that the body naturally produces but too much is not a good thing. It is a great tool if your sleep pattern has been disrupted by work on travel to a different time zone.
- L-Theanine 100-200 mg one hour before bedtime can provide a calming effect and also assist in helping you stay asleep.
- GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid), an amino acid produced in the brain. GABA is a natural tranquilizer that increases the level of Human Growth Hormones (HGH). Try 500-1,000 mg about an hour before bedtime.
- 5 HTP 100 mg 1 hour before bedtime can help with anxiety and difficulty falling asleep.
- For peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms, Swedish Flower pollen (300-400 mg per day) may help. It is a hormone-free product and it can be very helpful for night sweats and hot flashes. Note that it may take 6-8 weeks before you have full relief so be patient.
5. Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Sleep
Programs like Somly offer virtual one-on-one CBT sleep therapy and have been highly effective for both sleep onset and insomnia as well as broken sleep.
In closing, at Robinson MD, we make sleep a priority with our patients. Healthcare providers often do not ask about sleep. Make sure you tell your provider if you aren’t sleeping well.
JAMA, 2000 Dec 20, 284(23):3015-21, “Longitudinal study of moderate weight change and sleep-disordered breathing”
Continuous positive airway pressure treatment. Effects on growth hormone, insulin and glucose profiles in obstructive sleep apnea patients. (1993). Hormone and Metabolic Research, 25(7), 375-381. J Am Geriatr Soc, 2011, 59(1):82-90, “The Effect of Melatonin, Magnesium, and Zinc on Primary Insomnia in Long-term Care Facility Residents in Italy: A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Clinical Trial”
Martínez-Ceron, E., Fernández-Navarro, I., & Garcia-Rio, F. (n.d.). Effects of continuous positive airway pressure treatment on glucose metabolism in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep Medicine Reviews.
Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 4(3):207 – 214, Published Online: 19 Sep 2006, “Evaluation of sleep architecture in practitioners of Sudarshan Kriya yoga and Vipassana meditation”
The efficacy of Femal in women with premenstrual syndrome: a randomised, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, multicentre study. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18568441/
You never know when a problem with your health can arise. When you find yourself in a medical emergency, it can ease your mind knowing that your healthcare provider is available to you when you need help. Concierge medicine is designed to enhance your access to...