Sleep Concepts: Tips for Better Sleep
By Dan Gleason, DC
Good quality and quantity of sleep is important. The book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Mathew Walker details what is currently known concerning the science of sleep and is a must-read for anyone suffering from insomnia.
Walker explains that the early hours of sleep consist predominantly of non-REM sleep. This is when the brain is erasing unnecessary information, things like where we parked the car, what we ate and that dirty look from a stranger. Later in the night, more time is spent in in REM sleep incorporating important things learned that day into long-term memory. These concepts help one understand the two basic types of insomnia: trouble falling asleep or trouble staying asleep.
The first type may make it hard to forget unimportant details and even slights. The second type may make it harder to learn by incorporating new ideas.
Sleep hygiene includes behaviors that help or hinder sleep. Setting a regular sleep schedule can help. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Wind down the day in preparation by journaling about things or making a to-do list for the next day and placing that list in another room to put it aside for the night but be available for tomorrow. Reading something that is calming or even boring can help the transition. Stop using screens, TV and phones several hours before going to bed as the blue light and EMFs can disrupt the brain’s ability to shift gears.
Make the bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Blackout curtains can mitigate ambient light and moonlight. Having a quiet, orderly bedroom with muted colors, comfortable temperature and ventilation helps produce an atmosphere conducive to sleep. Mattresses and pillows come in all sizes and shapes and it may take some trial and error to find the optimal combination. Some people find comfort in white noise machines, many of which have options for music, wind or waves. Saying a prayer or verbalizing gratitude can be a wonderful ritual end to the day.
Foods, beverages and supplements can inhibit sleep. Caffeine is notorious for disrupting sleep. Some people can’t drink coffee after noon, and some can’t drink it at all without having insomnia. Other stimulants or depressives, like chocolate, alcohol, tea and certain herbs, can also cause problems.
Certain foods and supplements may enhance sleep. Warm milk before bed helps some people. Magnesium deficiency is very common and can cause cramps, palpitations, constipation and lack of sleep. Magnesium supplementation at bedtime can help. Magnesium can also be used topically via Epsom Salt baths, magnesium gels and oils. Sedative herbs such as valerian, passionflower, hops, chamomile, lemon balm, magnolia and lavender are helpful for some and many people find melatonin works, sometimes in combination with some of the aforementioned. B vitamins (especially B6), inositol, GABA and L-theonine sometimes do the trick. Cannabis combinations with varying ratios of CBD and THC are becoming more common as sleep aids. Using these remedies in combination is what usually produces good results, although it takes some trial and error to find the right combination.
Prescription medications can be effective but many doctors are hesitant to prescribe them because long-term use can be addictive and produce severe side effects.
Sleep is incredibly important. Use good sleep hygiene, avoid stimulating foods and activities, create a sleep sanctuary, test for nutrient deficiencies, take advantage of natural sleep remedies and get adequate exercise. Above all, make sleep a high priority.
Dr. Dan Gleason is the owner of The Gleason Center located at 19084 North Fruitport Road in Spring Lake. For more info: go to TheGleasonCenter.com or call 616-846-5410.