“You must master your sleep or you will fall down a hormonal flight of stairs”.
– Dr. Sara Gottfried, author, The Hormone Cure
Not enough sleep doesn’t allow your body to restore and repair itself during the night, and over time is detrimental to your system. Poor sleep can disrupt several hormones (not just a few), causing them to be out of whack and affect your appetite, fertility and mental health. “Sleep hygiene” involves a series of steps you can take to promote better sleep, and is absolutely essential for your body’s repair and rejuvenation. As Dr. Gottfried points out, “you may think that you can get away with less sleep but only about 6% of the population has a certain gene that allows them to thrive and do well on less than 8 hours of sleep.” So most of us should aim for at least 8 hours of sleep – it will serve to regulate your thyroid, cortisol and sex hormones. Developing a regular sleep routine is key in order to support mind and body healing.
Tips for for better sleep:
- Plan your sleep around the light/dark time cycles. The sleep hormone melatonin regulates your body clock – it’s secreted by the brain’s pineal gland during the dark hours and turned off during daylight. The darker your room, the more melatonin you will produce which will help you to sleep. That includes having no visible digital displays in the bedroom such as clock radios, phones, TV’s or wireless routers. These devices should be a minimum of ten feet away from the bed. In fact, turn off all your technology in the early evening – too much screen time can negatively affect your melatonin levels. Also, it’s not known why or how, but the electromagnetic fields given off by all our gizmos might be harmful to humans’ nervous system. So it’s not a bad idea to uncouple yourself from electronics for a few hours each day.
- Having an evening bath with two cups of Epsom salt will not only help you relax, the magnesium in the salt is better absorbed through the skin and is much better than a supplement.
- For most people a cool bedroom promotes sleep. By having a consistent wake up time, regardless of what time you turned out the lights, you’ll notice an improvement in sleep quality.
- It’s no secret that caffeine does us no favors in promoting sleep. Try a two week period with no caffeine and see if you are sleeping better. Try the same thing if you drink alcohol – even just one drink in the evening can impair restorative sleep.
- Waking up around four or five in the morning and can’t get back to sleep? Of course that will happen when we have stuff on our minds. Instead of just getting up and then feeling wiped out for the rest of the day, try a technique called “left nostril breathing”. Touted by Dr. Gottfried in The Hormone Cure, just by lying on your right side and holding your right nostril closed with your right thumb for a few minutes while brething through your left nostril, your parasympathetic nervous system will work to calm you down. (It’s worked for me several times, although my husband says he has “no nose” for it.)
- A daily nap that lasts less than thirty minutes and taken closer to midday is considered beneficial in making up a sleep deficit. Snoozing longer and later in the day brings diminishing returns.
- An interesting 2013 article in Harper’s magazine on sleeplessness states that, “pre-industrial” sleep was segmented, that “unlike the seamless slumber we strive to achieve, sleep once commonly consisted of two major intervals, a ‘first sleep’ and a ‘second sleep’, bridged after midnight by an hour or more of wakefulness in which people did practically everything imaginable.” The idea of getting a “solid eight hours” is barely 200 years old, and wasn’t really considered accepted until the late 1800s. Some specialists suggest the “consolidated” sleep we seek is unstable, that our transition from segmented sleep will take more than another century. So if you are often awake in the middle of the night, take relief in the knowledge that this is not necessarily abnormal.