I've touched on sleep before in a previous blog post, but wanted to dig a little deeper. I've been posting about this on Instagram and Facebook the last week, and feel it's such an important topic as lack of restful sleep, or the inability to fall asleep plagues many women.
Sleep is vitally important for many functions including physical and psychological regeneration. As sleep cycles become disturbed, we can snowball into reduced brain powder, mood issues, fatigue, and weakened immunity. And sleep of less than 7 hours per night increases hunger hormones, leading to over eating and weight loss resistance – another common complaint!
WHAT DO WE DO IF WE CAN'T FALL ASLEEP OR STAY ASLEEP?
Before going straight to sleeping pills or melatonin, I always advise to first look at evening routine and sleeping environment. Download all of these in a printable format by clicking on SLEEP HACKS.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. The body wants to be on a predictable rhythm. Going to bed before 11 pm has also shown to improve sleep rhythms and deeper, restorative sleep.
Minimizing screen exposure several hours before bed, or wear blue light glasses. Blue light impairs the body’s ability to make melatonin, making it hard for you to fall asleep.
Once it’s dark outside, turn down the lights in your home, only using lamps and light that is lower than your eyes. Ceiling LED lights trick the brain into thinking its day light and you'll block melatonin production.
Put away the social media, news, or anything else that could create stress. Unwind to a good fiction book, relax with family, turn off work, write in a journal, mediate! Write down any to-do’s so you can leave them for tomorrow and not have to worry you’ll forget.
Take a bath with plain, unscented Epsom Salt. The magnesium in the salt will help you to unwind, relax and detox. Drink a chamomile or SleepyTime tea.
Exercise in the first part of the day. Late afternoon or evening exercise raises cortisol levels making you feel wired and awake.
Be sure your bedroom is cold and pitch black – lower the temp, and use black out shades.
Evaluate and address noises in the house, and things that could disrupt sleep – cell phones pinging, children, pets moving around.
Avoid eating 2 hours before bed, so the body can focus on regeneration instead of digestion.
Alcohol greatly disrupts your ability to get restorative deep sleep. Although many people think it’s a great evening “relaxant” it actually prevents the ability to sleep soundly.
Once you’ve tried all of these things without success, it’s time to dig deeper and consider testing for underlying causes.
Test your cortisol and melatonin levels. Cortisol should rise in the morning and decline steadily throughout the day. It’s your “stress” hormone, and also helps you to feel energized and vibrant. Melatonin has an opposite pattern, rising as bed time approaches, and dropping off as we need to wake up. If your hypothalamus-pituitary access is off from chronic stress, cortisol might be dysregulated, being higher at night than it should be, contributing to the inability to fall asleep and feeling wired at bedtime. The normal pattern is greatly influenced by light and sunshine exposure.
Adrenal supplements are the biggest rage, and often people take them without knowing their effects. There are many different kinds, some raising cortisol levels, some lowering them. The biggest mistake I see people making is taking adrenal supplements or adaptogenic herbs without knowing their cortisol rhythm, or understanding the actions of the herbs. Randomly taking adrenal support without knowing your biochemistry can be a recipe for disaster.
Melatonin supplements are also tricky as they only work if melatonin is truly low. Melatonin helps you fall asleep, not stay asleep. Taking melatonin if your levels are naturally normal can sometimes do the opposite and impair sleep. It is made from serotonin, and requires magnesium, B6, folate, iron, zinc, and vitamin C in order for it to be converted into melatonin. Any deficiency will cause the body not to make it.
If you are waking up between 1-3 am it’s time to evaluate your toxin levels and/or blood sugar issues. The liver is most active at this time, so frequent waking in the middle of the night at this time could signal that your liver is overburdened (or that you have had alcohol). Blood sugar dysregulation can also cause your blood sugar to fall too low in the middle of the night, waking you up so you can get a surge of adrenaline to release more blood sugar from your liver.
So many factors play into sleep dysregulation, which is why testing and knowing your biochemistry is so important before blindly throwing supplements at it. Supplements are wonderful but taking the rights ones will bring better and lasting benefit if you give your body exactly what it needs.
WHAT ARE MY FAVORITE SUPPLEMENTS?
Again, I rarely recommend supplements without knowing my clients biochemistry. Test don't guess. The one nutrient I am ok with recommending first is Magnesium Glycinate. Magnesium is the most important nutrient, and most people are deficient. Not only does it help to relax you, but it provides building blocks for so many reactions in the body. Taking around 400 mg per evening can really help to set you up for good sleep.
Biotics Research has a magnesium powder called ACTI-MAG. It has b-vitamins to help make melatonin, and other calming factors to help the body naturally relax. It's a great melatonin free supplement.
Microbiome Labs makes ZENBIOME SLEEP, another great product for overall relaxation. L-theanine promotes deeper sleep, and it's formulated with a spore-based probiotic that targets the HPA-axis to regulate stress by modulating the gut bacteria!
Some other supplements that I love IF your biochemistry calls for it:
NUTRABIOGENESIS SLEEP FACTORS – this is a great supplement for someone that needs melatonin support, and help staying asleep. It contains a blend of melatonin, amino acids, and nutrients designed to calm the body and mind, and promote a restful sleep. It is contraindicated if you are on SSRI’s.
CORTISOL MANAGER is a great product if you are truly high in cortisol at night. Phosphatidyl serine and magnolia help block cortisol production, lowering your stress response so you can fall asleep.
GET ALL OF THESE PRODUCTS DISOUNTED HERE:
THE DUTCH COMPLETE test is my favorite test for so many reasons – not only do you see your cortisol rhythm and melatonin levels, but you also get insight into your neurotransmitters, b-vitamin and glutathione levels, oxidative stress, and female hormones levels and how they metabolize. It’s an all in one perfect test for getting a feel for your hormones and how they play a role in sleep.
For any test turned into the lab before March 31, 2023, DUTCH is offering $50 off – so act fast.
Knowing your body's biochemistry allows you to tailor your diet and supplement program to exactly what you need to bring balance back to the body. Book an appointment now to get your testing scheduled.