The irony of insomnia is that we don’t feel good, so we don’t sleep, which makes us feel worse. The past few months have been stressful and worrisome for many of us which can make troubled sleep even more challenging. The first place to start when you are having trouble with sleep is to address your “sleep hygiene”. This means you do everything you can to make sure your bedtime ritual (which, realistically, should start an hour before you want to sleep) supports falling asleep and staying asleep for the night. If you have tried to create your ideal sleep situation and are still having trouble, we can look at three primary systems in your body to try to help: Musculoskeletal, Endocrine, and Neural. This means we make sure your muscles are not tight, your hormones are in balance, and your neurotransmitters (the chemicals that tell your brain what to do) are supporting sleep. Here are some tips for working on getting a good night’s sleep:
First thing: Look at sleep hygiene! Some strategies to fall asleep and stay asleep:
- Screen time–put the TV, computer, and all devices to bed one hour before you want to sleep.
- Bedtime Rituals– Just like when you were a kid. Try a bedtime snack (see below), a warm drink such as chamomile tea, a hot bath, stretching, reading, yoga, or meditation.
- Comfort– Make sure your pillow and bed support your structure and don’t cause pain. Address any temperature or light issues in the room.
- Food and Drink–
- Alcohol may make you feel sleepy but can cause you to wake in the middle of the night–try avoiding alcohol if you are having trouble with sleep
- Caffeine can disrupt your ability to fall asleep–stop caffeine by 11am.
- A small protein snack can help you stay asleep through the night. Some options are: apple with peanut butter, handful of nuts, a hard boiled egg, or a slice of cheese
If you have tried all of the above, we generally look at three systems to get to the heart of the issue:
Musculoskeletal: If your body is in pain or your muscles are tight it can interfere with sleep. Here are some tips for the last hour before bed to get your muscles ready to relax:
- Mental/Cognitive– Meditation, biofeedback, cognitive therapy
- Exercise: Yoga, stretching, foam roller
- Make sure you are well hydrated! This keeps muscles relaxed and reduces muscle spasm. However, if waking in the night to urinate is a problem “stack” water consumption towards the beginning of the day and stop water by 8pm.
- Minerals–eat foods high in magnesium (leafy greens, seeds and nuts, tofu) and potassium (Coconut water #1, also potatoes, bananas, avocados) *can also supplement with these, let me know if you have questions!
- *Thyroid, Cortisol, and reproductive hormones can all cause insomnia if they are out of balance!*Let Dr. Grigel Know if you suspect this is the case and you would like to test for these.
- Can try a protein snack before bed–this keeps cortisol levels low throughout the night
- Supplements to retrain the adrenal glands, balance reproductive hormones, and normalize thyroid can make a big difference. Some examples of these are ashwagandha, chaste tree berry, black cohosh, and phosphatidylserine
- When our stimulating neurotransmitters (Glutamate, PEA, Norepinephrine) are out of balance with our relaxing neurotransmitters (GABA, serotonin, melatonin), our brain can have trouble relaxing. *These can also be tested!
- We can use amino acids (precursors to our relaxing neurotransmitters) to rebalance. Some of these are: GABA, 5-HTP, L-Theanine, and Taurine.
*If you have questions or want to look further into these issues, feel free to contact Dr. Grigel! If you would like a printable version of this information, click below: