Well, the holidays are winding down, so for most of us it’s back to work and hopefully back to getting to sleep normally. I think most would agree that there are few things more exasperating than trying to force yourself back into slumber in the wee hours of the morning: laying there playing some mental game to “shut out the lights”, straining and fidgeting for a comfortable position. How you can expect to actively slow an active mind dumbfounds me. But that’s what I myself often do at night. There is hope however, if you follow a few simple guidelines and take a couple safe supplements you can easily and thoroughly get that long needed rest you so require.
First, here are the basics – the ones every expert seems to ring in with:
- Be sure to get in a bit of exercise every day, you need this actual physical expenditure for your body to put itself deeply under when you hit the hay. Even a 15 minute walk can have a dramatic effect on your nocturnal success (not to mention the waistline).
- Try to get to bed (and up) at the same time every day. Our physical bodies don’t understand or care a hoot about modern schedules. They do as nature designs. Of course an extra hour occasionally when you’ve overworked or underslept might do more good than harm, but the regular schedule should be your target for the long run. Forget the idea of “sleeping-in” till 10:00 sunday morning. Your body will spend most of the next week trying to readjust.
- Don’t have a large meal too close to retiring. This does put a workload upon your digestive system; I’ve often noticed the unpleasant sensation of my heart racing in the middle of the night if I’ve had a few the previous evening, or a large desert. This is NOT conducive to cutting the Z’s, I’d suspect…
- The next not so obvious suggestion they give: avoid alcoholic beverages at night. It’s true that alcohol might be able to “knock you out” like any other drug, but you will not experience the deep REM sleep stages you require. Again, if you love a beer for the game or that favorite dance show, go ahead and enjoy it, just limit it to one!
- Here is one that they give which I dispute: “Reserve the bedroom for sleep or sex. The television or tablet exudes rays that interfere with melatonin, etc….” One of the strangest phenomenon this strange guy (me) experiences regularly: I’m reading on line in the dark with just one small light on, I’m nodding off as drowsy as hell and so click the tablet and night light off and voila: I’m suddenly as wide awake as at a football game. This ever happened to you? Heres how I’ve coped with it: I now read with just the Ipad OR night light – well within reach, and when I start to drop off I snap it off with as little motion as possible. In conjunction with my other suggestions below this has seemed to do the trick.
If you are a real tough case in the sleep department you should give the natural sleep hormone melatonin a good try. I would recommend that you experiment with the smallest possible dose however – opt for 300-500 micrograms to start. This surprisingly may be more effective than the higher doses available. In one study (“studies” page) 300 micros worked better than 3000 (3 mg) in inducing sleep. Perhaps it’s your own body’s production making a small adaptation? At any rate you can slowly increase the dosage if you see no results. Melatonin is a very safe supplement at quite high doses. (read label for any interactions with certain drugs, etc.) You should not expect it to knock you out as a sleeping pill would, but it can greatly help your efforts in the long run, and naturally. By the way, melatonin is a very powerful antioxidant, it works its magic primarily in the brain, which is kinda important…..
Some dietary suggestions: Certain foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin (the calming neurotransmitter) and ultimately melatonin. Turkey and milk are often noted for this. They can work, but usually only if a small amount of carbohydrates are also consumed. (turkey also contains tyrosine which converts to dopamine and adrenaline!) The carbs will work to express the serotonin instead. Opt for foods such as bananas, milk and cookies (yes! but only a few), cottage cheese and seeds that contain tryptophan and also magnesium. Magnesium is a very smart choice to supplement also, as I’ve noted in many posts. Despite it’s presence in many foods, many people are deficient in this mineral, which I call the great relaxer. It’s many therapeutic effects include the ability to attain a quicker and deeper sleep.
One last important recommendation. It is important to put the day’s issues to rest before you put yourself there. Try to “finalize” them before you walk to the bedroom. This little solemn act should be part of a closing evening ritual to prepare yourself for slumber. Then as you read that boring book or article your mind is not taxed and you can thus allow it to drift around which is the desired goal. I’ve been working on a short novel for about two weeks now, it’s not a very exciting one, and I am only able to get a couple pages in before zzzzzzzz.
Hope I haven’t put you to sleep with this latest post. Well then maybe you can save it for a particularly difficult night?
To a deeper slumber