Sleep Hacks for Quality Sleep
Did you know that there is something you can do every single day that can dramatically impact your health, keep you happy and fit, improve your blood sugar balance, your sex drive, and more? It’s not taking a magic pill or eating a certain vegetable. It’s sleep. And it is much more important than you might think.
Good, quality sleep is the body’s restful state in which we heal and repair ourselves. It’s where we reset. It can improve heart health, glucose metabolism, mental health, immune health, a healthy waistline, and even extend your lifespan. Your sleep health affects every single cell in your body, and it is a pivotal component of VIBRANT health. Are you getting enough of it?
Read on to find out why sleep is so important, the one thing you should never take as a sleep aid, and my favorite sleep hacks to get you the rest you need!
What is Sleep?
While sleep is technically a state of rest, it is actually a highly complex cycle that moves through four stages. The average person moves through four to six of these complete cycles throughout the night. Each stage plays an important role in your body’s resting process. Let’s run through the stages quickly, so that we better understand this process. (Try not to fall asleep, as we do! 😉 )
Each stage can be broken down into two categories of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.
NREM Sleep Stage 1
This is the first stage of sleep when you are just about to doze off. You know the feeling when you’re awake and then you think you’re falling off a cliff, only to wake up quickly and realize it was a dream? This is Stage 1. Your breathing starts to relax, and your heart rate, brain waves, and eye movement slows.
NREM Sleep Stage 2
The second stage of non-rapid eye movement sleep further relaxes your muscles and heart rate. Your body temperature also drops—this is why many people like a cold room to sleep! A cold room can improve melatonin production, the hormone that helps you sleep. (1)
This stage can vary in length, but you’ll spend about half of your sleep time in this stage.
NREM Sleep Stage 3
Ok, now we are getting to the nitty gritty. Stage 3 is your deepest stage of sleep. It is critical for your body to achieve this state of sleep to heal and restore your body. This is the state of sleep that has you feeling bright, cheery, and refreshed in the morning.
During this stage your breathing and heart rate are at their lowest levels. Your muscles are completely relaxed, and your brain waves slow to a lower frequency called delta waves. Fun fact: delta waves can also be reached with meditation (which is also an activity that can help you sleep!). Again, this is another stage that varies in length throughout the night.
REM Sleep Stage 4
REM sleep is the state when your body is coming back to life. Your brain activity starts to stir. Your heart rate and breathing begin to increase. Your eyes also begin moving from side to side below your closed eyelids, hence the name REM. Interestingly, your muscles will experience a temporary paralysis during this stage. This is a good thing. In fact, people with REM sleep disorders do not achieve this (2). Instead, they kick, flail, and talk during this stage of sleep.
As you transition out of this stage, your body then reenters sleep stage 1 and moves through the cycle again.
Why We Need Quality Sleep
Good quality sleep is a cornerstone for vibrant health. Not getting enough of it, or getting poor quality sleep, can adversely affect every aspect of our health—including our weight.
One study found just one partial night’s sleep could create insulin resistance (2), paving the path for diabetes, obesity, and many other problems. Other studies show that poor sleep contributes to:
What NOT to Take for Sleep Support:
Before I go into my favorite sleep hacks, I want to discuss one thing you should NOT do to obtain restful sleep. I start with this because I recently had a patient tell me that she was taking Benadryl to get some extra ZZZs.
While this common, over the counter, anticholinergic medicine might seem like a good thing to reach for in your medicine cabinet because of the drowsiness that it can induce, it can have a serious impact on your brain health.
In fact, a report published in JAMA Internal Medicine several years ago highlighted a link between long-term use of anticholinergic medications like Benadryl and dementia.
This is because anticholinergic drugs block the action of acetylcholine. This substance transmits messages in the nervous system. In the brain, acetylcholine is involved in learning and memory. Reaching for an over-the-counter drug like Benadryl might seemlike a quick fix, but it can have a critical effect on your brain in the long run. Instead, look to my favorite sleep hacks below!
My Favorite Healthy Habit Sleep Hacks
When it comes to sleeping well, there is no better “sleep hack” than a healthy diet and healthy habits. Below are some of the best ways to prepare your home and your body for a restful night’s sleep!
- ☕️ Avoid a lot of caffeine or caffeine late in the day: One cup of caffeine in the morning is ideal. Try to drink it before noon and skip the afternoon tea or coffee to allow your body to begin to wind down when evening comes.
- 🍸 Avoid Alcohol: While alcohol may aid in getting you to sleep initially, it actually robs you of important REM sleep.
- 📱 Turn OFF your Phone and Lower the 💡 Lights: Overexposure to artificial, blue light that emanates from our cell phones, laptops, and tv can result in major disruptions to our sleep patterns. Exposure to this type of light before bedtime can keep us from winding down and getting to sleep faster. Try to unplug 30 min or more before bedtime. Try these blue-light blocking glasses to reduce your exposure to blue light all day.
- 🤸 Exercise! There is solid evidence that exercise does, in fact, help you fall asleep more quickly and improve sleep quality! (7)
- 🛌 Create a healthy sleep routine: Going to sleep and waking at the same time each day creates a rhythm for your body. Only use your bed for sleep or romance! Don’t keep a television in your bedroom: studies show the artificial, bright light can disrupt brain activity and alter sleep hormones like melatonin. Your bedroom should be a quiet, peaceful haven.
Try Binaural Beats!
Binaural beats are a technique of combining two slightly different sound frequencies to create the perception of a single new frequency tone. When you are exposed to two different frequencies at the same time, one in each ear, the brain actually perceives a single tone that is the difference between the two separate frequencies. Your brain, in a sense, “tunes” to this new frequency.
Science shows that exposure to binaural beats can create changes in the brain’s degree of arousal. Listening to these sounds that create a low-frequency tone, research indicates, triggers a slow-down to brainwave activity—and that may help you relax, lower your anxiety, and make it easier for you to fall asleep and sleep more soundly.
You listen to binaural beats using headphones. In each ear, you receive sound at a slightly different frequency (often accompanied by some relaxing background sounds). The BrainTap device is one of my favorite ways to wind down.
My Favorite Sleep Supplements
While there really is no substitute for healthy habits when it comes to promoting healthy sleep, sometimes you might need a little extra help. Presecription drugs or other over-the-counter sleep aids are not the best answer. There are some powerful, natural sleep aid supplements that can have you in slumberland in no time.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body to regulate circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle). Melatonin secretion may be disrupted by aging, hormonal changes, and night-time exposure to light, among other things. Melatonin is a popular natural sleep aid, as it is included in one of my favorite supplements, Sleep Time from Nutritional Frontiers.
Sleep Time was formulated to help support the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which have a role with sleep cycles and anxiety.* It includes Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA), Glycine, Taurine, L-Theanine, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), and Melatonin.
DHH-B is a natural anxiety medicine and sleep aid* that is made from the bark of the magnolia tree. It is has been a powerful traditional medicine for centuries. Its bioactive compounds have been shown to address conditions from inflammation to weight management, brain health, better sleep, stress reduction, and (most importantly for this discussion) anxiety. Read more about DHH-B.
Personalized Sleep Hacks
When it comes to sleep, everybody is different. What works for your partner, your best friend, and neighbor may not work for you. You may have to try some of these sleep hacks on for size to determine which ones are best for your personal sleep needs. Setting yourself up for sleep with the healthy habits above are an easy way to get your body relaxed and ready for slumber.
Sleep is an incredibly important component of optimal, vibrant health. Prioritize it as you would an exercise regimen or nutritional plan.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to reach optimal, vibrant health, book a consult at Tringali Vibrant Health. Our providers can customize a personal sleep plan for you with peptide therapy and more.
Let us know your favorite sleep hacks in the comments below!
In VIBRANT Health
Elizabeth Tringali, PA-C
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