If you are reading this in the middle of the night (fighting insomnia), hoping for tips to make your sleep sound, I’ve been there, and you’ve come to the right place.
There are two categories of sleep challenges – people that have difficulty falling asleep and those that fall asleep and then wake up and can’t get back to that peaceful slumber.
Sleep for me is a non-negotiable. It’s the one thing in my schedule that I refuse to move, compromise or reschedule. Without a good nights rest, I am irritable, unproductive and feel like I am always on edge.
Sleep deprivation for me feels like my physical and emotional self is just teetering on the edge and the slightest thing can push me into a place where I feel defenseless, vulnerable and just plain exhausted.
Insomnia = Adrenaline Kick
Anyone that suffers from insomnia can relate to their body becoming increasingly sensitive to their environment. Without sleep or with only limited sleep, the body is often pushing itself into using a fight or flight response just to keep going the next day.
Our adrenals are responsible for flight and flight, as well as for our stress response, cortisol. When our adrenals support our body in one direction for most of the day we often push ourselves into overdrive. Achieving a more restful state can be difficult (and may even seem impossible) after running on high, and sometimes even draining the reserve of hormones to support us.
Our body’s hormones, which include adrenaline and cortisol, are made of the same ingredients as other hormones in the body – estrogen and testosterone, thyroid hormones as well as melatonin. It isn’t surprising that if we are using a lot of one hormone that forming others may be sacrificed.
So whether it is a lack of sufficient melatonin lulling you to sleep, or adrenaline sparking you awake in the middle of the night, here are some strategies to help the body beat insomnia, and find some rest after a stressful day/week/month/life.
- Create a Relaxing Bed Time Ritual – this ritual is something that calms the body down, slows you down and relaxes you. Ideas may include: reading, an epsom salt bath, or making a soothing tea. There are so many wonderful sleepy time teas featuring herbs such as chamomile, aveena, valerian, lavender, ashwaganda, passionflower and kava kava. These herbs work to stop the overdrive and start the nourishment of the body.
- Add in more Melatonin – if your body isn’t falling asleep easily and you feel alert for hours after heading to bed, you may not have enough melatonin to start the sleep process naturally in the body. Melatonin comes in several forms from slow release tablets to liquid. It’s an art to find the dose that hits your sweet spot. My recommendation is always start low and add more melatonin if you find it isn’t working for you. If you wake up groggy the next day, reduce the amount of melatonin you take the next day, as it hasn’t quite worn off yet.
- Reverse Your Body’s Overdrive System – there is a yoga pose called Viparita Karani (legs up the wall), which is super easy to do and can help your body to find a sense of calm quickly. Simply lie near your bed in this relaxing pose and let gravity do its job. In fact, if you wake up a night, this is a great way to lull your body back to a dream state.
- Stop Thinking – easy to say, harder to do. Ever notice when you finally have a moment to turn off your brain (often while sitting and watching TV with your family, or lying in savasana at a yoga class) that is seems so easy to fall asleep. Turning your mind off can be challenging but effective. Start by trying a simple 2 minute meditation – this can be done lying down, or sitting up. Try to clear your mind and simply focus on your breath, everytime a thought comes up, simply label it as a thought and send it packing. Meditating can help bring your body some much-needed rest in advance of falling (back) asleep.
- Darken Your Space – those funky yellow glasses that Bono often wears are designed to block the blue light out at night and help him to achieve a restful peaceful state much easier. Blue light actually stops our melatonin from flowing and can even give us a kick start. Similarly, the sun peeping out in the morning can wake some people up. Make your room as dark as you can – this may involve turning off the technology, closing the blinds or even wearing a mask to sleep. It’ may be hard to wake up when its dark, but its also easier to fall asleep.
- Take a Technology Break- beyond the blue light our bodies can also feel the frequency of our electronics. Even if you use your phone or tablet as your alarm, shifting its charging space to an adjacent room can impact the quality of your sleep. Take an electronics free trial week and see how your sleep changes.
- Tackle Your Adrenaline Wake-ups – stop the frustrating 2 – 4 am wake-ups, by connecting with a health professional that can give you some advice specific to your body. Strategies such as supplements, nutrition, botanicals and/or acupuncture can help to nourish your body and reset your clock so that 2am isn’t your new start time.
Remember you don’t have to beat insomnia alone.
The Author, Christina Carew, is a naturopathic doctor who practices functional and strategic medicine in Toronto and King City. As a medical investigator, she is in the business of changing people’s lives. Dr. Christina focuses on finding the biomedical reasons for symptoms that are often unique to each patient and helps her patients remove the obstacles that stand in the way of living a healthy vibrant life. Want to know if her approach is right for you – sign up for a free 20-minute consult at http://www.healingme.ca/book-appointment-naturopathic-doctor/
Note: This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed health care worker