Getting a good night’s sleep
Stories by Selina Williams
When we think of a good night’s sleep we may think back to childhood. Curtains undulating in a gentle breeze, you pray, a parent gently brushes your cheek with a good night kiss, blessings, and you drift off… Psychological, physiological, and environmental factors can rob us of sleep but they can just as readily be influenced to insure restful sleep.
According to Vancouver naturopath Dr. David Duizer, “Sleep loss is divided into two categories – sleep onset insomnia and sleep maintenance insomnia. Both are troublesome and when they occur simultaneously physical, mental and emotional issues often develop. Figuring out the cause is the most important place to start. Without sleep, health deteriorates extremely quickly and insomnia is a risk factor in every major chronic condition.” With sound sleep being so important to our overall health, it’s a relief to know UBC’s sleep disorders program offers a wellspring of solutions.
When we work within our built-in, 24-hour cycle (‘circadian rhythm’), synchronizing our internal clock with nature’s light-dark cycles and other environmental cues, we get the best rest.
Work with your internal clock
• Get up at the same time every morning to set an internal rhythm.
• Avoid naps.
• Avoid shift work and working late at home.
• Give yourself time to wind down and fall asleep. Do breathing and relaxation exercises, visualize a place of beauty and serenity.
• Sleep in a cool dark room. The production of melatonin (the hormone that anticipates darkness) is influenced by a lack of light.
• Stay away from electronics like computer screens, smart phones, TV. The light and positive ions trick you into wakefulness. Dr. Duizer says, “Blue light from devices causes the pineal gland in the brain to restrict melatonin release.”
• Walk in daylight. Nature fills us with negative ions, which are relaxing and improve sleep quality.
• Exercise. Exercise fatigues the muscles and helps manage cortisol levels.
• Sleep on your side or stomach to prevent snoring and blocking airways that can wake you repeatedly in the night.
• Dr. Duizer recommends restricting fluids one hour before bed to prevent waking to urinate. It is a major cause of insomnia.
Filter out the junk
According to sleepfoundation.org there is a direct connection between insomnia and what we put into our bodies. Alcohol can make you fall asleep initially, but may disrupt your sleep later in the night. Meanwhile, caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants that can interfere with our quality of sleep. And in our diets, excitoxins are to be avoided! These affect the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls behaviour, emotions, sleep cycles, hormones and immunity. They give you a nervous stomach, and cause restlessness. Avoid instant, snack, processed and packaged foods with yeast extract, vegetable and textured protein. MSG, aspartame, gelatin, glutamic acid, and products with apartate, hydrolyzed, autolyzed, or cysteine in the name, are excitoxins.
Natural sleep remedies
Consult a medical professional to get tested for hormonal imbalances, which can disturb sleep. These natural sleep aids can help:
• Melatonin is a hormone that aids in sleep-wake cycle
• Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps synthesize proteins and is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin.
• Magnesium is a mineral that helps your body buffer acidity, handle muscle pain and tension by decreasing Cortisol levels (which prevent sleep if off balance).
• Internal Use Clay (Bentonite Clay) calms the gut and mind by absorbing heavy metals, toxins, bad gut bacteria and neutralizing acidity (the original main ingredient of Pepto Bismol).
• Herbs: ashwaghanda, passionflower and chamomile
• Netti Pot can clear sinus problems challenging breathing.
Medical Options for Insomnia
Sleep Apnea is caused by an obstruction in your breathing passage, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes or heart problems, restless legs and back issues are risk factors. UBC can help you to determine whether the following medical solutions are needed:
• CPAP Machines aid breathing by forcing air into your lungs as you sleep and keep you from waking due to blocked airways. They can be loud or awkward to wear.
• Oral Appliance can set your jaw in such a way that your air passages are open while you sleep.
• Surgery can be recommended to unblock air passages if your throat, a deviated septum or sinuses are the issue.