You’ve tried everything. You’ve read through my sleep articles here and here and of course, here, and you’re still not sleeping well. This column is for you. Five insomnia fixes that work for some of the most stubborn sleep problems around. And three important reasons to keep looking until you find something that works for you. One blog I like lists dozens and dozens of sleep solutions: no one needs all of them, but each of us needs a different combo of solutions if we are sleep-challenged.
FIRST: Love the clock, the circadian clock.
You might be able to avoid completely the alarm clock, waking fresh and refreshed at your rising time if you honor your internal clock. Our body loves to work on a 24 hour schedule, kind of a like a sleepless toddler, that is—once it’s properly trained!
Start by relying on your alarm clock: send yourself to bed at the same time every night and, more importantly, get up at the same time every day. Even the weekend days! Keep your bedroom cool and dark for sleep.
Greet the morning: and if itsn’t sunny where you live, light up your house as much as you can so you see bright lights in the morning. Getting some late afternoon dimmer light is helpful as well, and keep things really dim in the evening, just one light source in your room. And no blue lights (computer, mobile devices) for at least two hours before bed. (Orange or red blue-blocking glasses in a pinch or the app IRIS on your device, but seriously: better to just turn off the extra stimulation and the blue lights!)
Eat 30 grams of protein (4 eggs? Eggs and meat? Hamburger?) within 30 minutes of getting up in the morning
SECOND: Ear Plugs.
Let this be my encouragement to keep looking until you find a kind you like!
I had given up on ear plugs until a clerk in our local travel store suggested I look not at their ear plugs, but some I could find at a local department store! They work great: they don’t block all the sound, but mute it well. I can sleep through little noises way better than before, and they seem to create a feeling of being cocooned for sleep. These are the ones that work for me and a link to where you can buy them is here.
THIRD: Help your body make melatonin.
Your body needs many component molecules to generate the melatonin you should normally be making to regulate sleep. As we age, it’s common to need some help with melatonin. The two supplements that seem to help me best are methyl folate (5MTHF, 5 mg, which is helpful because I have the heterozygous C677T genetic variant) and vitamin D (4000 i.u. of D3, which definitely helps you make melatonin and sleep. However, reponse to D3 is divided. Most folks do better taking it in the morning, I do better taking it in the evening!)
If you're over the age of 50, you might need to take supplemental melatonin. Start with a youngster's dose (0.5 mg) and increase to 5 mg. as needed. If you think you need more than that, you might need attention to other sleep hygiene details.
FOURTH: Do some math, but do it as HeartMath.
Are you someone who sleeps much better when you're on vacation? If so, you might have a busy mind, whether it's filled with a rush of thoughts or perhaps just running-fast-though-empty!
The HeartMath products aim to empower you with tools easily at your disposal: your heart beat, your breath pattern and their easy-to-use apps. I have used and enjoyed Inner Balance, which is on sale for the holidays (just like everything at my store!!) through the month of December.
Check it out here.
FIFTH: Let it go easy, your gut, that is.
Obviously, if you have any pressing digestive concerns (burp, bloat, rumbling, farting, diarrhea, constipation or pain), you deserve some proper gastrointestinal attention! Our sleep is soundest and our guts are happiest when our guts are empty at night. Avoid alcohol after 6 p.m., avoid food for the last three hours before bed. I have loved the digestive motility aid Iberogast, but it is currently unavailable through all the usual sources. A bit of ginger extract might work for you, available in many forms through supplement and health food stores.
NOW WHY: Reap three important rewards from a good night of sleep.
- Losing sleep, waking frequently in the night, and being tired—all contribute to an expanding waist line. The adverse effects of sleep loss include high risk of metabolic syndrome, obesity, and a lot of trouble reversing those problems through the usual means. Remind yourself, with gentle measures, how to sleep deeply and naturally—and your body can go back into metabolic balance.
- Your brain loves it when you sleep. That down time, head on the pillow sound asleep, enables your body to filter through the day, saving what is important, making memories and discarding what is unnecessary. At least seven hours of good sleep every night are a key part of the brain health programs you've read about on this site.
- Every night you sleep well makes it more likely you'll sleep well the next night! A key regulator of all patterns in our body is the connection between our brains and our hormones, otherwise known as the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA for short) axis. When you are able to sleep deeply, your HPA axis can rest in balance, helping all the hormone producing glands function as they should.