When it comes to our health we often focus on nutrition and exercise, which are great, but if we are not providing our body with adequate rest, our efforts may go unnoticed. Studies show that 1 in 3 adults don’t sleep enough. I am sharing my top strategies and tips for a better night’s sleep.
1. Establish sleep stability.
Generally, we want to be waking and sleeping at the same time each day. This is important because our bodies follow a circadian rhythm. When our circadian rhythm is disrupted, several outcomes may occur including unintentional weight gain, increases in leptin (the hunger hormone) and insulin, increased impulsivity, and slower cognitive responses.
Our sleep-wake circadian rhythm is highly based on light. Opening the blinds in the morning upon waking can help increase wakefulness in the day, and sleep quality at night.
2. Avoid substances like caffeine and alcohol in the evening.
We are each affected by caffeine differently, so this is something we each need to experiment with. Recent research actually found that coffee and tea consumption before bed didn’t affect sleep, much to my surprise! Meanwhile, alcohol and nicotine before bed did disrupt sleep.
3. Turn off electronics 1-2 hours before bed.
You may be hearing a lot about blue light lately. We are exposed to blue light from light sources like the sun, lightbulbs, and electronics. During the day sunlight is very beneficial. However, the blue light from our electronic devices, which most of us are using in the evening, may impair our production of melatonin. Melatonin is critical for sleep. One study found that evening blue light exposure decreased sleep quality. Opting for a book, music, or a podcast in the evening can limit our blue light exposure.
If being on devices is a must, there are programs available that can block blue light, such as F.lux or night mode on our phones. However, we don’t have studies yet to determine how effective these programs are. Blue light blocking glasses are available, too, which experts think may be more effective than screen programs.
4. Supplement with magnesium and/or CBD oil.
Magnesium supplementation can have several benefits including more restful sleep. One symptom of magnesium deficiency can be insomnia or restless sleep. Magnesium helps maintain GABA production which is essential for relaxation and sleep. A few studies have shown that magnesium can improve insomnia. In addition, magnesium intake has been positively associated with depression (a known factor in insomnia). I stir magnesium powder in cold water or hot tea before I crawl into bed to wind down for sleep.
CBD, or cannabidiol, contains cannabinoids, which are important players in our body’s endocannabinoid system. CBD oil is non-psychoactive but may help regulate mood. One endocannabinoid, called anandamide, that is produced in our bodies is actually referred to as the “bliss molecule”. Low levels of anandamide have been linked to decreased happiness and increased anxiety. Increased anxiety negatively impacts sleep. Particular foods can increase our production of anandamide, like dark chocolate. CBD can prevent the breakdown of anandamide, and therefore, create more bliss.
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In 2019 a clinical study was published which included 72 people. These adult subjects were given 25 mg of phytocannabinoids per day. After one month, 79% of the anxiety-sufferers experienced improvements in their reported anxiety scores. Also worth noting is that many cases of insomnia are tied to anxiety. The same study found that 67% of those suffering from poor sleep experienced improved sleep after one month. However, over time, this effect didn’t remain.
Since creating a meditation routine before bed, I have become excited when it is time for bed (this is quite a feat for a workaholic like myself). Meditation is one way to elicit the relaxation response. It has been shown to improve sleep quality even more effectively than sleep hygiene education. There are several apps available, like Headspace or Calm, as well as this free meditation by Jason Stephenson.
6. Gentle yoga.
Another way to elicit the relaxation response is through yoga. Regular yoga has been shown to improve sleep and quality of life. I opt for free yoga in the comfort of my home. I find it much easier to maintain a practice when I can sneak in 20 minutes here or there instead of making an additional trip to attend an hour-long class at a studio. Youtuber Yoga With Adriene is a great resource.
7. Avoid news, work, or other stressful triggers.
I know this one is easier said than done, and I am still working on this myself. But every stimulus can have some kind impact on our minds and bodies, particularly our nervous systems. I try to avoid the news and current events in the evenings. It can also help to let the people around you know that this is a boundary that you have set for your well-being.
Dr. Dylan Cutler
This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.
Disclaimer: As the sole author of Phruitful Dish, I have based my posts on my own experiences and personal knowledge. However, I am not a medical doctor or a licensed nutritionist. The information in this blog is not intended as medical advice, and it is not endorsed by my employers or institutions I am affiliated with. Nutritional and supplemental choices should be made in consultation with your health care provider. This blog is intended to inspire and encourage readers to educate themselves on how nutrition and lifestyle are important and often overlooked aspects of health. Therefore, please use the information at your own risk. Occasional links may be provided leading to third-party websites. The existence of these links does not infer a responsibility or an endorsement of the linked site, its operator, or its contents.