It’s no secret that the better we sleep the better we feel. But a lack of sleep can make us feel grouchy and run down. Once that happens, our problem-solving skills decrease, reasoning becomes impaired, and attention to detail is lost.
So the aim of this article is to first help you appreciate the value of your sleep and then show you ways to improve it.
Let’s go take a look under the hood.
The body has been using sleep to recharge and repair itself since the day we were born. Sleep also plays a huge role in detoxification. And yet, so many of us fight the idea of going to bed at a reasonable time.
Straight out of the gate you should know that your brain is a big fat energy hog. Even though it makes up just two percent of your body’s weight, the brain gobbles up a whopping twenty percent of your daily energy intake! At night as our brain sleeps something quite remarkable happens. A cleanup crew moves in and begins washing the brain cerebrospinal fluid. No really, it’s true.
Cerebrospinal fluid is a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It sweeps through the brain along a series of channels that surround blood vessels. This process is managed by the brain’s glial cells. Hence, science has recently defined this as the “glymphatic system.”
Cleaning the brain with cerebrospinal fluid helps to remove a toxic protein called beta-amyloid from brain tissue. Are you getting this bit? It’s kinda important. Beta-amyloid is known to accumulate in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease!
Our quest for a better nights sleep begins with going to bed at a reasonable time. It’s a radical step I know especially when we feel the need to check our email every 60 seconds and that new Netflix series is totally awesome.
We all grasp the importance of recharging our cell phones, but in this digital age, we are quick to disregard the importance of giving our own body a chance to recharge.
As it gets dark outside our brain begins to produce a hormone by the name of melatonin. Since the beginning of time melatonin has been regulating our sleep-wake cycles, this is how we evolved. Then along came the electric light bulb and screwed everything up. Here’s why..
When the eye senses daylight it switches off melatonin production. That's a pretty neat trick especially if you happen to be a human going through a period of evolution and you need to wake up to hunt for food.
However, it doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to see the electric light can have a similar effect. More so if it has a blue hint to it which the brain may associate with the morning blue sky. Can you see where I am heading with this?
Our body is programmed to go to sleep when it gets dark outside and wake up to a blue sky. Blue light throws our sleep cycle into total chaos. So this is actually quite simple. If step 1 was going to bed at a reasonable time, then step 2 is to switch off those blue light emitting TV and computer screens two hours before going to bed.
Tip- You can limit the amount of blue light that’s being emitted from your computer screen by installing a free app called F.lux. This tracks the time of day in your time zone. As evening comes around it gradually reduces the amount of blue light on your computer screen. It may seem a little odd at first, but it can serve as a helpful reminder that you should be winding down. If you decide you don’t like it, simply uninstall it.
Sabotaging your nighttime sleep with blue light is easy to do, LED lighting can have the same negative effects. If you want to become a champion sleeper, challenge yourself to become a total blue light Nazi.
Street lighting streaming in through a bedroom window is something else to think about. For better sleep, black-out curtains are an inexpensive fix. If you find yourself waking in the middle of the night to use the bathroom DON’T put those harsh lights on. Rather than disrupt melatonin, try using small plug-in night lights.
If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with a snack attack it could be a sign that your blood sugar isn’t being regulated properly. If this is you, it may help to eat a bowl of rice an hour before bed. Although it’s a carbohydrate, rice is pretty slow to digest.
As you sleep, the brain still uses a certain amount of energy. It gets it by tapping into glycogen which is a form of sugar stored in the liver. If you find yourself constantly waking every night try taking a teaspoon of raw honey just before bedtime. This helps to deliver just enough energy to the brain as you sleep. For best results, be sure to use locally sourced honey.
If you have been dealing with sleeping problems for any length of time, be sure not to take anything that might spook the system after 6 p.m. For sensitive people, caffeine, medications, and even some natural health supplements can all throw our sleep off.
I’m not a fan of sleeping pills as they can leave a person feeling groggy throughout the following day. Even worse, drug dependence can become a real problem down the road. If you need a little extra help to fall asleep try the following.
Sustained levels of stress will deplete magnesium levels. If our goal is to experience better sleep then magnesium is your friend.
However, before you head off to buy a bottle of magnesium pills lets remind ourselves that magnesium isn’t absorbed very well through the digestive system. The better way to get magnesium into the system is through transdermal means. Transdermal simply means that it is absorbed through the skin.
SALT AND SODA BATH
To increase your magnesium level (and help you sleep better), it may help to try a “salt and soda bath.” To do this, simply pour a cup of quality Epsom salts into a hot bath one hour before bedtime and then soak in it. The heat will allow the Epsom salts to be absorbed through the skin and thus flood the system with magnesium sulfate.
Add the same amount of Arm & Hammer baking soda to the water and this may help drain the lymphatic system and balance your pH. Some reports suggest that a Salt and Soda bath may even be helpful to decrease radiation levels from x-rays — but that’s a whole other story.
Without wanting to sound like a hippy, you could also add a few drops of lavender oil directly to your pillow. This will further aid relaxation and help reduce nighttime anxiety. This can be particularly helpful for young children. If you want to upgrade this technique try adding a few drops of lavender into an oil diffuser.
If you are still struggling to sleep, perhaps it’s time to bring out the big guns. CBD oil has recently become more mainstream thanks to new numerous studies linking CBD oil to a wide range of health benefits. By simply adding a few drops to the tongue, CBD oil gently eases us into a deep sleep.
To be absolutely clear, CBD cannot get high from CBD oil, sorry if that disappoints some readers. CBD oil is a legal derivative of cannabis; however, CBD oil can only be sold with the TCH component extracted. TCH is the part of cannabis that’s sought after by people who are looking for a high.
BETA-1, 3D GLUCAN
If CBD oil still sounds a little too rock and roll for you then we could try something that has more than fifty years of research behind it, Beta-Glucans are arguably one of the most studied naturally derived supplements on the planet. Like so many other effective compounds, Beta-Glucans have a wide range of health benefits but today we are only looking at its effectiveness as a sleep aid.
Beta-Glucans work as immunomodulators. This simply means it helps restore balance to the immune system. As with any product, you tend to get what you pay for. If the price is an issue, don’t be afraid to try some of the less expensive brands and work your way up.
There are also lots of herbal teas on the market and my personal favorite is chamomile tea. Allowing the tea to steep will increase its potency. That said, it’s important not to try too many things at the same time. Although a little tweaking from time to time may bring good results. Just to be clear, I said tweaking not twerking.
Many of us have heard that we need eight hours of sleep, but I would like to suggest that the quality of sleep is more important than the quantity. Many of us will need more or less sleep depending on our age. Ever wonder why teenagers always seem to sleep more? Teenage years are a critical time for the brains development.
If you are a teenager, show this book to Mom; if you are a mom, let your teenager know playing grand theft auto at midnight isn’t helping the cause. Perhaps a trade could be an early night off the computer for a few hours of extra sleep in the morning…. just sayin’.
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Thanks for reading.