Are you sleeping well? Are you really? Ideally, if you are sleeping well, then you should feel well rested when you wake up and have good energy throughout the day. These past three years have brought on a lot of sleep issues with many people due to the stresses of the world. Anxiety and depression have been a big factor here. Did you know that some of the most popular over the counter products people buy at drug stores are sleep aids.
I have many patients that tell me how tired they are and aren’t sleeping well. There are many reasons for us being tired during the day but sleep issues are on the top of the list. Patients tell me all the time that they sleep “all night” for 8-10 hours but wake up and feel exhausted. They feel like they need more sleep and start drinking more coffee and having energy drinks throughout the day…which can actually make matters worse. Instead…think about how you are truly sleeping and consider making changes to better your deep sleep. I believe that we can feel rested with only 7 hours sleep if we are sleeping deeply.
What does ‘deep sleep’ actually mean? Deep sleep means that your heart rate slows down, your kidneys produce less urine, your temperature drops and you don’t dream a lot. We normally go in and out of deep sleep during our sleep cycle, but the more deep sleep you get, the less you will feel fatigue during the day.
So how do you get that deep sleep? The first thing I usually do with patients is test their thyroid, iron and cortisol levels. Cortisol plays a big role in our sleep/wake cycle. It is a hormone from our adrenal glands and it can go up at night when we are stressed or if our blood sugar is too low. When our blood sugar drops in the middle of the night, our body will raise cortisol levels to help compensate for the low blood sugar (glucose). While that may sound like a good plan it also wakes us up! If you are waking up between 2-4am and can’t get back to sleep then eat a small protein snack half an hour before bed, and consider also taking some Magnesium and L-Theanine.
Another factor that changes deep sleep is Menopause. Progesterone is the first hormone to drop in perimenopause and when that happens our deep sleep is negatively affected because progesterone has a natural tranquilizer effect. If you are going through Perimenopause consult with your Naturopath or Gynecology doctor to determine if Bio-identical Hormone replacement is right for you.
What are some good supplements to help with sleep? I have grouped several supplements available in a category called Sleep Supplements on this site. The ones I use the most are:
1) Peace and Calm is a powder you can mix in water that has myo-inositol, Taurine, Gaba and L-Theanine…a calming and relaxing powder that anyone can take.
2) MusCalm which is a blend of herbs like Valerian, Passionflower, Hops and Sour Cherry…all which have a calming effect on the nervous system.
3) L-Theanine is a supplement that can increase GABA in your brain. GABA is the most calming neurotransmitter in your brain. L-Theanine also increases the alpha wave activity in your brain which is calming and can help with focus. L-Theanine is considered a natural anti-anxiety supplement which will help you relax and sleep better.
And...I typically add Magnesium at night for everyone because of how important magnesium is in many different systems in our body. It helps to relax muscles, decreases heart palpitations and helps with blood pressure.
Melatonin can be helpful to induce sleep but you don’t need a lot. Recent research has shown that 1-3 milligrams (mg) is more beneficial for sleep than higher doses. If you are taking high doses and are having very active dreams and waking up more often, then you likely need a lower dose or you might not even need Melatonin.
Some other basic things to remember about sleep. Turn off the screens an hour or two before bed, or at least get blue light blocking glasses, so your melatonin has a chance to go up naturally. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime as that can raise cortisol levels which will make it hard to sleep. Try some deep breathing exercises like ‘breathing in a square’ before bed to lower adrenaline and calm down. Breathing in a square means you take a slow breath in for 3-5 seconds (you pick the number of seconds) then you hold for 3-5 seconds then breathe out slowly for 3-5 seconds and hold for 3-5 seconds…then repeat. This type of breathing can be done throughout the day to calm down your nervous system.
Hope this helps you to have a more peaceful and restful sleep.
Dr. Leah McNeill
Natural Medicine For Health