Many people in today’s world have terrible trouble both falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night. Taking hours to fall asleep, or experiencing night waking several times before morning, isn’t just an annoying problem; it also sets in motion a myriad of health problems that interrupt daily life.
A lack of sleep can lead to a lack of energy, difficulty rising in the morning, impaired digestion, increased appetite, hormone imbalances, mood disturbances, focus and concentration issues, and much more. Basically, a lack of sleep impacts every moment of the following day. Imagine not sleeping well at night, waking up exhausted, getting to work grumpy, not being able to focus on your work, bingeing on foods that fuel your symptoms, coming home from work and being snippy with your family, lying awake a night with racing thoughts, and then starting the same cycle over again the next day. It’s not a good way to live, and it’s not an optimal way to enjoy your health.
There are a number of good remedies to combat these symptoms, including herbs and supplements, and there are also a number of lifestyle changes that can be made to revitalize your sleep health. Below are some tried and true methods that not only let you fall asleep easier, but more importantly, help you stay asleep throughout the night so you can wake up rested and ready to take on the day.
Cortisol is proving to be the biggest reason for troubled sleeping. Take action to ensure that your cortisol doesn't spike back up after it’s naturally fallen, which is typically when the sun goes down. As soon as daylight starts fading, your hormone system decreases your cortisol and increases melatonin, your sleep hormone. You naturally start to feel more tired as your body and mind prepare for rest. The problem occurs because so many of us push past this natural rhythm, suppressing melatonin and increasing cortisol once again. This practise can cause more than sleepless nights, it can cause unwanted weight gain!1 2
Let's begin improving your sleep with support for your adrenal system and nervous system.
For specific dose information regarding any of these nutrients, herbs and foods, please consult your health care practitioner.
Even though we're typically supposed to go to sleep when the sun goes down, we generally don’t follow this practice. Why? Because even though the sun goes down, we view LED computer screens, TV screens, tablets and smartphones that emit energy and radiation. These light boxes bombard your face with artificial sunlight, which suppresses your melatonin levels and increases your cortisol levels. making you not want to go to bed, and instead causing your body and mind to “get back up again”. This is what's happening when you 'catch your second wind', and this is a compounding cause for troubled sleeping — stay awake messaging fuelled by your use of electronics.
If you don’t go to bed when you first start getting naturally tired (around 9–10pm), your body ramps up again for your second wind — and everyone loves their second wind! It provides an almost addictive feeling because you get a rush of adrenaline and mental clarity that allows you to be productive and get a multitude of things done.
You feel energized and ready to take on more because, technically, you’re living a 'fight or flight' response, which isn’t a healthy place for your body to be when there’s no real enemy for you to be fighting or fleeing. Because your body is in this state, it believes it needs to do things “right now!”, which is why the feeling that your best work is done after 10pm is so common. This is often called “the time of the mind”; your mind is sharp, ready for action and creative. However, once your work is done and you try to get to sleep at midnight, 1 or 2 in-the-morning, your mind doesn’t turn off. Without the work for your mind to conquer, it can over-rev with thought patterns, generating concern about what’s not right in your life and driving you stir-crazy making 'mountains out of molehills'. You might start getting nervous or having anxiety, which makes it even harder to fall asleep, and before you know it, it’s almost time for you to get out of bed and start the next day—completely sleep deprived.
Basically, no one is getting enough sleep and it’s actually been proven that if you sleep less than 6 hours a night, you shorten your life span.3
Don't bring your smartphone to bed; don't watch your tablet three inches from your face; don’t have a date with Netflix late into the night; don’t promise yourself just one more hour of work on the computer. It’s not worth your health.
Turn all devices off at 9pm, and try to keep the majority of electronics out of your room as they emit radiation that can disrupt your sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. Turning off and tuning-out will help you go to bed when you start to feel tired, avoiding your second wind.
If you eat really late, your liver has to work hard overnight to digest this late-night meal. So, while you might be tired, your liver is wide awake, which can disrupt your sleep patterns. And it’s not just food; if you drink wine or spirits at night, your liver has to process those substances as well, which often will cause you to wake up between 2–4am. Furthermore, when your liver is working overtime, it also creates a problem with your sex hormones. If you have a congested liver because of late night eating, drinking, stimulants or lifestyle behaviours, it can cause you to have estrogen dominance which, in turn, wakes you up in the middle of the night with hot flashes.
The second tip is really sort of 3-in-1 : avoid eating past 7pm; avoid alcohol and stimulants (at nighttime especially); and avoid other substances that cause a burden on your liver (chemically-laden personal care products, for example). Taking these 3 actions will help your liver to rest, which will, in turn, help your mind and body get a rest as well. Learn more about supporting your liver and improving your sleep in my book, Hot Detox.
If you practice these lifestyle tips well and still have trouble sleeping, there are immediate remedies and supplements that can help you get to sleep.
Meditation, soothing baths, essential oils, yoga, prayer, journalling or other relaxation techniques can help soothe your mind and relax your body. Find ways to release your energy in healthy ways and manage your stress levels to have positive influence on your sleep patterns.
Here’s your checklist of things you can do to support and cleanse your liver, transfer energy down from your overworked brain and help your healthy sleep hygiene.