Since March’s Uplift theme is rest and restore it’s the perfect time to take a closer look at your sleep habits. Many people overlook sleep as an important healing and detoxing tool. Sleep is essential for maintaining and repairing your body, maximizing your metabolism, balancing moods, clearing toxins from your brain, and even preventing illness. The hormone melatonin, which naturally increases after dark within the sleep-wake cycle known as circadian rhythm, increases immune function. Sleep deprivation increases levels of appetite stimulating hormones making quality sleep an effective appetite suppressant. Lack of sleep can also hinder mental function, increase cortisol and cause cravings for sugar and refined carbs.
For millions of years our bodies have adapted to wake with the sun and wind down and sleep when it’s dark. Modern artificial lighting has gotten us off track from our normal circadian rhythm.
How and when you sleep is important to maximize its healing effects. Follow this check list to make sleep a priority:
- Strive for 7 – 9 hours of sleep every night.
- Create a regular rhythm of going to bed and waking up at the same times every day, including the weekends.
- Plan for lights out by 10 or 11 pm. It is during the earlier part of the night that your body experiences the deepest sleep where the most tissue repair and restoration takes place.
Before Bed Routine
- Dim the lights in your house at least 60 minutes before bedtime. Darkness supports the natural rhythm of your sleep hormone melatonin (which is also a powerful antioxidant). Artificial lights, even though beneficial for our modern lives, have led to confusion within humans’ internal clocks to know when to sleep or be awake.
- Wear amber-colored glasses at night if it’s not possible to dim all house lights. (Uvex is the brand I recommend, available on Amazon.)
- Avoid computers, smart phones, tablets, TVs – anything with a screen – for at least 60 minutes before bed time. The blue light emitted from screens signals your brain that its day time. A free app for your computers, phones and tablets is f.lux (justgetflux.com). F.lux changes the color of the light emitted from your electronic devices according to the time of day. Blue light for day time and a gradual shift to orange light after dark, which tells your brain it’s nighttime. Even with the f.lux app, it’s still recommended to power down electronics, including the TV, at least one hour before bed.
- Use LED (red or orange candles) around the house at night and while using the bathroom during the night (rather than turning on the bathroom light which can interrupt melatonin production).
- Turn off your Wi-Fi at night by using a simple timer and program it to turn back on in the morning. It installs on the socket where you plug your router in. This will stop the wireless radiation exposure at night since it is interferes with melatonin levels.
- Wind down and relax for an hour before bed so you naturally feel sleepy.
- Do not eat a big meal within 3 hours of bed time since energy will be shifted to digesting rather than to the repair and healing that should take place at night. However, if you’re prone to blood sugar imbalances, a small protein-based snack (scoop of almond butter, handful of nuts, hard-boiled egg) is beneficial to help you sleep since low blood sugar stimulates cortisol release waking you up or keeping you awake.
- If you’re a night owl it’s probable that your cortisol and melatonin levels are imbalanced, commonly a result of stress. Testing is available to measure these hormones.
In Your Bed Room
- Use your bedroom for sleep and romance only; avoid doing other activities there, such as work or checking email on your phone.
- Create a calm and peaceful bedroom void of stressors and clutter.
- Keep your bedroom cool around 60-70 degrees.
- Sleep in total darkness. Again, artificial light disrupts your circadian rhythm by decreasing production of melatonin.
- Don’t use your cell phone as an alarm clock since it emits EMFs. Turn it off and keep it in another room of your house at night, not your bedroom.
Disclaimer: Nutrition therapy is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, prescription, or cure for any disease, or as a substitute for medical care. Jen Marshall and Stacy St Germain are not licensed medical providers. Nutrition plans are not intended as a substitution for traditional medical care, nor should be interpreted as medical advice, but instead is an adjunctive and supportive therapy.