Ignoring our sleep needs is possibly one of the biggest unsuspecting contributors to our declining health. Research continues to point to a lack of sleep as a major contributing factor for developing heart disease, cancer, depression, diabetes, obesity and disrupting our gut health. On an average we are sleeping many hours less than past generations did. We are living faster paced lives trying to pack more into our days. We are spending our evenings stimulated by television, iPads, computers and smart phones to “relax and wind down.” The blue light from these electronic devices plays a key role in decreasing our melatonin at a time in the day when it should be increasing. As melatonin increases, cortisol decreases and we start to get tired and fall asleep. Our body’s follow a natural circadian rhythm which is important for our sleep/wake cycles. Chronic sleep deprivation and staying up late exposed to blue lights from our electronics throws off this natural rhythm and impacts our health negatively. There is even a term called “sleep procrastination” defined as a voluntary delay in going to sleep even when we are tired. Many times we have a hard time disconnecting from our activities or feel we can’t stop because we have to much on our to do list.Adequate sleep is an important component of a healthy lifestyle! Here are some environmental and lifestyle changes that can help stimulate natural day and night lighting and create healthier sleep patterns.

Changing from a low fat high carb diet to a more nutrient dense diet helps regulate blood sugar swings that cause us to wake up in the night. Eating more protein and healthy fats stabilizes blood sugar and reduces the blood sugar lows and cortisol spike in the night. Eating your carbohydrates at dinner can help include sleep too, just don’t eat late. Carbohydrates such a sweet potato, white potato, winter squashes, plantains and yucca are the best source.

Humans are hard wired to sleep in the dark. We are meant to go to sleep when it gets dark and wake when it gets light. Dimming lights in the house and wearing blue light blocking glasses in the evening will help decrease cortisol and increase melatonin production, making you sleepy at night. Covering all lights so that the bedroom is completely dark is a must for adequate melatonin production. Blue light from TV, computers, smart phones and electric lights sends signals to the brain that it is daylight and disrupts our circadian rhythm. Turn off electronics 1-2 hours before bedtime. Use black out curtains and/ or an eye mask in your bedroom.

Many scientists believe the electromagnetic waves from all our devices and wireless systems creates another form of stress on our already toxic stressed bodies and brains. Removing your phones, computers, and electric clocks from your bedroom will increase the quality of your sleep. Turn off phones and wifi while sleeping. If using electric clock, keep it as far away from the bed as possible.

Going to bed at the same time and preferably by 10 pm especially in the winter season will give your body extra time for healing and rejuvenation. The parasympathetic rest and digest system is activated at night. This is when the most healing happens. When we stay up late our bodies make more cortisol making us insulin resistant and we crave more sugar.

Read a real book at night while lying in bed with a low light source. The eye movement promotes sleep.

Avoid stimulants after lunch. Caffeine can have a half life of up to 6 hours. Drink plenty of water

Get exercise and bright sunlight if possible every day. Exposing yourself to sunlight in the morning helps reset your circadian rhythm. Having a routine exercise program over the long term can improve quality of sleep.

Rub magnesium oil on fatty parts of the body or take magnesium supplement before bed

Having some home made bone broth or gelatin before bed supplies glycine, an amino acid that promotes sleep. Take in a supplement form if food source is not available.

A Daily meditation practice or using guided meditation has been shown to increase quality of sleep. White noise or falling rain sounds can help induce sleep.

If these changes do not bring about better quality sleep consider acupuncture, Chinese herbs and or homeopathic formulas to help reset your circadian rhythm, reduce stress and increase hormone balance.

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