That’s the average amount of sleep for a person in their lifetime. In other words if we were to put altogether your sleeping time, you would sleep for 26.5 YEARS STRAIGHT !!! So yeah, since it takes quite some time, it must be important, and you better know how to do that well.
If you are having sleep problems, whether you are not able to fall asleep, wake up too often, don’t feel well-rested when you wake up in the morning, or simply want to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep, read this carefully.
In red, I have underlined the advice that is highly likely to work. In orange the stuff that I think would work. And in blue the most exotic techniques I found.
- Caffeine: AVOID IT. A recent study showed that in some people, caffeine is not metabolized efficiently and therefore they can feel the effects long after consuming it. So an afternoon cup of coffee (or even tea) will keep some people from falling asleep. Also, some medications, particularly diet pills contain caffeine. Let’s say if you’re planning to go to bed at 10/11 p.m. you should not have any caffeine after 5 p.m., so NO COFFEE after dinner for example unless it’s decaf…Even decaf has caffeine actually, in surprising amounts sometimes. You may be surprised to realize how many food and drinks nowadays contain caffein, here are a few: of course coffee, but also ANY tea (black, red, tea bags, any type of Ice Tea…), Coke, Sprite, and quite a number of other drinks. So READ THE INGREDIENTS.
- Carbohydrates: AVOID THEM BEFORE BED. This will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep. Carbs include any form of bread, rice, pasta, noodles, beans and peas, plus anything containing sugar.
- Fluids: Don’t drink any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed. This will reduce the likelihood of needing to get up and go to the bathroom or at least minimize the frequency. Go to the bathroom right before bed. This will reduce the chances that you’ll wake up to go in the middle of the night. If you’re warm in bed and you don’t want to wake up completely dehydrated, then find out the amount of before-bed water that allows you to sleep and eventually keep a bottle near you. If you wake up to drink water without getting out of bed you will be a lot likely to get back to sleep easily than if you actually stand up and go to the toilets.
- Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan need to produce melatonin and serotonin. Meat, egg, and fish and dairy products (milk, cheese, etc) are the primary sources of protein, along with some vegetables like soya or lentles. (Watch out, lentils are high in carbohydrates too). You can also get pure protein products but don’t get ripped off when buying it: proteins for people who work out is the same as that you buy in pharmacy and it is A LOT CHEAPER! Since I have used it I suggest (for hygiene and digestion reasons) the WHEY PROTEIN (Whey is a lactose-free extract of milk) rather than EGG-BASED PROTEIN.
- Also eat a small piece of fruit. This can help the tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier. But while doing so, respect the above-mentionned fluid and the sugar rule.
- Reduce or avoid as many drugs as possible. Many medications, both prescription and over-the-counter may have effects on sleep. In most cases, the condition, which caused the drugs to be taken in the first place, can be addressed by following the guidelines elsewhere on this web site.
LIGHT AND DARKNESS
- Light: Sleep in complete darkness or as close as possible (or wear an eye mask to block out light). If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and seratonin. There also should be as little light in the bathroom as possible if you get up in the middle of the night. Please whatever you do, keep the light off when you go to the bathroom at night. As soon as you turn on that light you will for that night immediately cease all production of the important sleep aid melatonin. Alarm clocks and other electrical devices: If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from the bed as possible, preferably at least 3 feet.
MIND AND SENSORS INFLUENCE ON BRAIN ACTIVITY
- WORK? AWAY ! Put your work away at least one hour (but preferably two or more) before bed. This will give your mind a chance to unwind so you can go to sleep feeling calm, not hyped up or anxious about tomorrow’s deadlines.
- THOUGHTS? IDEAS? Get rid of them : Journaling. If you often lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful keep a journal and write down your thoughts before bed. Personally, I have been doing this for 15 years, but prefer to do it in the morning when my brain is functioning at its peak and my coritsol levels are high (CLICK HERE).
- Remove the clock from view. It will only add to your worry when constantly staring at it… 2 a.m. …3 a.m. … 4:30 a.m. …
- No TV right before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom or even out of the house, completely. It is too stimulating to the brain (is it really with all this dumb contents nowadays ???) and it will take longer to fall asleep. Also disruptive of pineal gland function for the same reason as above.
- Establish a bedtime routine. This could include meditation, deep breathing, using aromatherapy or essential oils or indulging in a massage from your partner. The key is to find something that makes you feel relaxed, then repeat it each night to help you release the day’s tensions.
- Read something spiritual (or religious…). This will help to relax. Don’t read anything stimulating, such as a mystery or suspense novel, as this may have the opposite effect. In addition, if you are really enjoying a suspenseful book, you might wind up unintentionally reading for hours, instead of going to sleep.
- NOISE : Listen to white noise or relaxation CDs. Some people find the sound of white noise or nature sounds, such as the ocean or forest, to be soothing for sleep. An excellent relaxation/meditation option to listen to before bed is the Insight audio CD.
BE AND KEEP WARM, BUT NOT TOO MUCH
- HOT SHOWER: Take a hot bath, shower or sauna before bed. When body temperature is raised in the late evening, it will fall at bedtime, facilitating sleep.
- Wear socks to bed. Due to the fact that they have the poorest circulation, the feet often feel cold before the rest of the body. A study has shown that this reduces night wakings (Click Here).
- Keep the temperature in the bedroom not too high. No higher than 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Many people keep their homes and particularly the upstairs bedrooms too hot.
IT’S ABOUT GOOD HABITS
- Keep your bed for sleeping. If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, you may find it harder to relax and to think of the bed as a place to sleep.
- Don’t change your bedtime. You should go to bed, and wake up, at the same times each day, even on the weekends. This will help your body to get into a sleep rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep and get up in the morning.
EXTRAS FOR A BETTER QUALITY OF SLEEP
- Make certain you are exercising regularly. Exercising for at least 30 minutes everyday can help you fall asleep. However, don’t exercise too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake. Studies show exercising in the morning is the best if you can do it.
- Avoid using loud alarm clocks. It is very stressful on the body to be awoken suddenly. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, they should be unnecessary. I gave up my alarm clock years ago and now use a sun alarm clock. The Sun Alarm™ SA-2002 provides an ideal way to wake up each morning if you can’t wake up with the REAL sun. Combining the features of a traditional alarm clock (digital display, AM/FM radio, beeper, snooze button, etc) with a special built-in light that gradually increases in intensity, this amazing clock simulates a natural sunrise. It also includes a sunset feature where the light fades to darkness over time – ideal for anyone who has trouble falling asleep.
- Get to bed as early as possible. Our systems, particularly the adrenals, do a majority of their recharging or recovering during the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. In addition, your gallbladder dumps toxins during this same period. If you are awake, the toxins back up into the liver which then secondarily back up into your entire system and cause further disruption of your health. Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and which nature intended for humans as well.
- Melatonin and its precursors. If behavioral changes do not work, it may be possible to improve sleep by supplementing with the hormone melatonin. However, I would exercise extreme caution in using it, and only as a last resort, as it is a powerful hormone. Ideally it is best to increase levels naturally with exposure to bright sunlight in the daytime (along with full spectrum fluorescent bulbs in the winter) and absolute complete darkness at night. One should get blackout drapes so no light is coming in from the outside. One can also use one of melatonin’s precursors, L-tryptophan or 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). L-tryptophan is the safest and my preference, but must be obtained by prescription only. However, don’t be afraid or intimidated by its prescription status. It is just a simple amino acid.
- Lose weight. Being overweight can increase the risk of sleep apnea, which will prevent a restful nights sleep. To extend this, I read in Men’s Health that the correlation also works the other way: Getting enough and good enough sleep helps burn more fat! CLICK HERE for Dr. Mercola’s diet recommendations.
- Have your adrenals checked by a good natural medicine clinician. Scientists have found that insomnia may be caused by adrenal stress (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, August 2001; 86:3787-3794).
- Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). These can disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and seratonin, and may have other negative effects as well. To purchase a gauss meter to measure EMFs try Cutcat at 800-497-9516. They have a model for around $40. One doctor even recommends that people pull their circuit breaker before bed to kill all power in the house (Dr. Herbert Ross, author of “Sleep Disorders”).
- If you are menopausal or perimenopausal, get checked out by a good natural medicine physician. The hormonal changes at this time may cause problems if not properly addressed.
- A technique for insomnia is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Most people can learn this gentle tapping technique in several minutes. EFT can help balance your body’s bioenergy system and resolve some of the emotional stresses that are contributing to the insomnia at a very deep level. The results are typically long lasting and the improvement is remarkably rapid.
~~~~~~~~~~ LINKS ~~~~~~~~~~
- An excellent video showing an interview of Dr. Anconi-Israel about sleep deprivation and other sleep factors. She is one of the top world experts in Sleep Discorders.
- Another video, more of a formal research presentation on the state of the art investigations and results on sleep and sleep deprivation. My opinion : Tremendously interesting, amators of witty humor will be served. Click here.
- A source I largely used for this article: 33 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep
- Tim Ferriss’ “Relax Like A Pro: 5 Steps to Hacking Your Sleep“