Your body is crying out for sleep during these trying times, and these simple, natural solutions can help you get your best rest now.
Since the start of the stay-at-home orders for the pandemic, countless clients have contacted me looking for solutions for their disrupted sleep. You would think that having more time at home would mean more rest, but unfortunately, this isn’t the case during times of stress. Even if you personally haven’t felt deeply affected by the pandemic, I assure you that your stress hormones have had you on some form of high alert for months now – and it doesn’t look like the upheaval will be ending anytime soon.
Stress alone is enough to keep your mind racing into the wee hours of the morning, but add in hormone changes or blood sugar imbalances that wake you at odd hours, and it should come as no surprise that more than 70 million Americans already suffered with sleep problems even before the pandemic turned our lives upside down. In addition to stress, sugar, and sex hormone challenges, you could be missing the master mineral required for good sleep, your pH balance could be off, you might not be getting the right light at the right time, or you could be low in essential fats. So let’s look at why you need sleep and simple, natural remedies to help you get it.
Why You Need to Get Your ZZZs
Sleep is essential for your physical and mental health and affects every cell in your body. We spend one-third of our lives sleeping, and the quality of that sleep affects the quality of the other two-thirds of our lives. Here are some of the many ways that sleep loss affects your health:
- Sleep loss increases your risk of obesity and diabetes by changing the levels of your hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin. This signals an increase in stress hormones that include cortisol, which increases insulin over time.
- Sleep powers up your brain. Just 2 hours of sleep loss per night is enough to dull your reflexes, impair your memory, increase anxiety, and decrease your attention span.
- Sleep is when your lymphatic system detoxes your brain and flushes out the beta-amyloid protein that is the known precursor to plaques seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
- According to Stanford researchers, a sleep deficit of 4 hours is enough to cut the activity of your stem cells in half. These stem cells are essential for repairing and restoring everything from your brain tissue to your bone marrow, immune system, and so much more.
- Chronic sleep loss leads to lower bone density, lower vitamin D synthesis, decreased bone formation, and eventually osteoporosis.
- Your immune system becomes suppressed with even a few hours of sleep deprivation. Your immune cells are most active when you sleep, which allows the immune system to recharge and build memory immunity while the lymphatic system cleans house.
- Sleep deprivation doubles your risk of cardiovascular disease. Less than 5 hours of sleep each night dramatically increases your risk of hypertension, coronary artery disease, and diabetes.
- Cholesterol production by the liver peaks in the evening. Then the liver detoxifies, balances blood sugar, and breaks down stress hormones like adrenaline. The liver’s “golden hours” are between 1am and 3am according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and you need to be asleep for optimal results. Insomnia has been shown in studies to lead to Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and Type 2 Diabetes.
- Every major hormone in your body needs you to get a good night’s sleep. Cortisol and insulin rise, while sex hormones, melatonin, and even thyroid hormones decline, which feeds the cycle of insomnia, making it harder to get back to a healthy sleep cycle.
- You need your beauty sleep. Blood flow and moisture to your skin increase and the pH of your skin re-balances while you slumber.
- Just one week without enough sleep is enough for testosterone levels to fall in both men and women, which results in lower libido and weaker sexual performance. It can also eventually affect fertility.
According to the CDC, insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic, affecting 1 out of 3 of us sometime in our lifetime. Sleep may be just as key to our health as the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. So let’s look at 4 things you can do to get your best rest.
- Restore Natural Rhythms and Get the Right Light
Our bodies naturally want to follow the rhythms of the sun cycle – shine brightest during mid-day and rest at night. One of the first remedies used for sleeplessness in other cultures is to reset the body’s natural clock, known as the Circadian rhythm, by focusing your unshielded eyes on either the sunrise or the sunset outdoors every day. This is because your Circadian rhythm is ruled by light exposure.
When we stay up late scrolling through social media, binge-watching TV, reading an e-book, or watching stressful news reports right before sleep, we are exposing ourselves to light with a higher concentration of blue light than natural light, and this wavelength suppresses melatonin – the sleep hormone – more than any other. Blue light at night disrupts your Circadian rhythm and can cause chronic insomnia.
The first key to getting a good night’s sleep is to watch the sun go down, then set the mood with low light, avoiding screens for 2 hours prior to bedtime, keeping electronics at least 3 feet away from your comfortable bed, and turning off the WiFi for the night while you rest. It also helps to avoid stimulants like caffeine, sugar, and B vitamins after 3pm, and get moderate exercise during the day. If you’re in front of screens most of your day, then consider supplementing with 3 to 6 milligrams of melatonin before sleep to help offset losses.
- Take a Soothing, pH Balancing Bath
My beloved mentor, Dr. Hazel Parcells, taught me the importance of having a balanced pH inside your cells. When chronic illness takes hold, the pH inside your cells can actually become more alkaline, while the rest of your body becomes more acidic. When this happens, you are not only at risk for most chronic diseases, but it also brings on fatigue (especially after meals) and makes it difficult to maintain restful sleep.
Her remedy is simple – take a bath. Baths are not only deeply relaxing and calming, but can also be therapeutic. I’ve been using her salt and soda bath with my clients for more than 40 years now for everything from radiation exposure to sleeplessness, with great results. It’s very easy to do:
- Run a bathtub to the hottest temperature you can manage. Dissolve 1 pound of sea salt or rock salt and 1 pound of baking soda into the water, and begin to soak.
- Sip a glass of warm water mixed with ½ teaspoon of rock salt and ½ teaspoon of baking soda.
- Get out of the bath when the water is cool. Don’t shower for at least four hours.
- Restore Your “Master Mineral” Levels
If you are suffering from insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, muscle cramps or spasms, then you may be missing what’s been called the “master mineral” – magnesium. Involved in more than 350 of the body’s critical functions, magnesium helps with sleep, stress relief, energy production, muscle relaxation, bone health, blood sugar balance, blood pressure, and so much more. It’s estimated that more than 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium, primarily because of stressful lifestyles and high carb diets – it takes 54 molecules of magnesium to process just one molecule of sugar.
I have no doubt that this pandemic has left many more of us magnesium deficient, so I’m recommending supplementation to everyone with insomnia right now. It’s important to choose a highly absorbable form, which is why I only recommend Mag-Key from UNI KEY Health. Just 5 milligrams per pound of body weight per day (500 milligrams for 100 pounds, for example) may be all you need to get a good night’s sleep again and restore optimal tissue and glandular health.
- Calm Your Nerves and Get Your Best Rest with Omega 3 Fats
America is still in love with Omega 3 fats and fish oil – and for good reason. Not only do they support heart, brain, immune, joint and eye health, but they also contribute to a better night’s sleep.
Here are several ways studies have shown that Omega 3 fats can affect your sleep:
- Higher blood levels of DHA are associated with an easier time falling asleep, better quality sleep, fewer episodes of night terrors and sleepwalking, and less sleep disturbance.
- Lower ratios of DHA are linked to lower levels of melatonin, your main sleep hormone.
- Omega 3s regulate your norepinephrine levels, a stress hormone known to decrease REM sleep when it’s elevated.
- Lower red blood cell levels of DHA are associated with more severe obstructive sleep apnea, according to a study from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Not all Omega 3 supplements are created equal and in fact, it’s one of the supplements I am most particular about. Toxic levels of heavy metals, PCBs and dioxins have been an ongoing issue with fish oil supplements. This is why I only recommend the molecular distilled Super-EPA from UNI KEY Health. They use small bodied fish (sardine and anchovy) from pristine South Pacific waters and stringent laboratory testing confirms their purity and potency.
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I do take 3 ea Mag-Key before bed and find it really helps me relax. I will add the omegas you are talking about. I didn’t know how helpful DHA is for sleep