We may not realize it, but sleep goes hand in hand with health! In fact, chronic sleep deprivation encourages the formation of amyloid plaques which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease (1), decreases kidney function (2), puts you at higher risk for heart disease (3) and those who sleep less than 6 hours a night are less productive, less motivated, tend to eat more, make poorer decisions, and have an increased risk of obesity.  All of these reasons show how important it is to get a good night of sleep.  Read on to obtain some ways to improve your daily sleep.

How to hack your sleep

1. Avoid light sources including overhead light, cell phones, computers and TV within one hour of bedtime.

Light discourages melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that signals the brain that it is ready to sleep. When melatonin is secreted, we start to unwind and become sleepy. Looking at those screens before bed delays melatonin production and makes it harder to fall asleep. If you are having a hard time falling asleep, avoid the light or use blue-light blocking glasses.

2. finish dinner 2-3 hours before bedtime.

So that your body has time to digest, it is recommended that you eat dinner and do not eat afterwards.  If you are waking up hungry in the night, you can consider a bedtime snack, but the process of digestion may interfere with sleep.

3. Get outside first thing in the morning to get some natural sunlight.

This is especially effective when traveling.  If possible, go barefoot, which is called grounding. This helps set the circadian rhythm and will help with sleep later on.

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4. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, including weekends.

Our circadian rhythm dictates our sleep, and going to bed at the same time daily, as well as waking up, helps keep it consistent. 

5. Make sure your room is dark and cool.

Nightlights can disturb sleep as can too high of a temperature. Around 60 degrees or whatever you can tolerate is recommended for sleep.  A cooling pad can also help. 

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*If all else fails, consider your diet and/or try a supplement. 

Food sensitivities can contribute to sleep issues, so if you are having sleep issues, try to keep a journal of what you are eating to look for a pattern.  There are a few recommended supplements to assist with relaxation naturally in the body.

Magnesium helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps with relaxation and is linked to melatonin (7)

L-Theanine is an amino acid known to reduce anxiety.
Most sleep medications increase the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter that reduces feelings of over-excitability, and allows for relaxation and relief from anxiety. L-theanine 
has been shown to increase GABA activity and improve sleep (5) 

Ashwagandha the active component of withania somnifera plants, has been shown to help induce sleep as well (6)

Have you found trigger foods, tried a supplement or made changes to sleep better? What works best for you?

Sources

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4257134/

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4257134/

(3) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190114144152.htm

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27933574

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25759004/?

(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5313221/

(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12030424

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