Sleep. We all know that we’re supposed to get 8 hours of sleep. It’s one of those old recommendations from childhood, like how grandma always told you to eat your vegetables. “Treat others how you wish to be treated.” “Don’t talk with your mouth full.” “Sit up straight.” “Get your beauty rest.”
We have all heard of the increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, decreased immune system function, higher rates of depression, and reduced tolerance to stress that are associated with poor sleep.
If we know all these things, why are we such an exhausted society? Many of those who do keep the mojo up all day often rely on energy drinks and coffee. There are some who enjoy quality sleep on a regular basis, or can at least replenish their inadequate sleep on the weekends. They are NOT parents of infants or young children.
I have had issues with insomnia since I was 8. It has been a life-long issue, and I like to consider myself well versed in sleep deprivation and home remedies. At one point in my life, I managed to improve my sleep significantly through nutrition and supplements. Since having a baby, my body needs a little extra help beyond basic nutrition to get some zzz’s. After two years of raising Sterling, my body still has a difficult time sleeping through the night. Sterling is a pretty good sleeper, but sometimes will wake up in the middle of the night. He’ll either cry for me or come to our room. Even after we get him back to sleep, my body has a hard time going back to sleep. It is especially irritating on nights that Sterling sleeps soundly until 7am, but I wake up multiple times.
Through continued work with lifestyle, nutrition, and mild supplements, my quality sleep is an ebb and flow. I am so thankful that I can get help for sleep without the use of prescription pills. While I am currently in a pretty nasty insomnia spell as I write this (it’s been almost 2 weeks since a good night’s sleep and last night was a disaster), I remain hopeful that rest is just around the corner. I saw a few recent posts from women on a couple of internet mom groups asking about tips for sleeping.
I’d like to share the habit changes and other tips that can help me sleep. It really is brighter on the well-rested side.
NUTRITION & SUPPLEMENTS
–Clean Up the Eats- I finally cleaned it up and did the Whole 30 in October. It’s a super strict paleo cleanse for 30 days. No cheats, no excuses. It was helpful to eliminate all the grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, and added sugar for a month. I’m not super strict now, but keep it pretty clean: mostly whole foods of vegetables and fruit, quality protein and fats. I do enjoy tortilla chips at a local Tex-Mex joint and love sushi. If I start feeling crappy, I tighten it up to get back on track.
–Reduce Caffeine Intake– I didn’t just quit caffeine; let’s be realistic. I did start making 1/2 caffeinated coffee by mixing some decaf beans in the coffee grinder each morning. I also limit myself to 1 1/2 mugs of coffee and make sure it’s consumed by 11am.
–Magnesium Subbed for Red Wine– Instead of having a glass of wine with dinner, I’ve been savoring a tall glass of Magnesium from Natural Calm. It’s a powdered form of magnesium citrate that you can buy unsweetened (think bitter fizzy like a tequila/seltzer/lime) or in fruity versions sweetened with stevia (I prefer the rasperry-lemonade). One cause of disrupted sleep is magnesium deficiency. Getting adequate amounts can improve a plethora of areas in mental wellness, especially sleep.
–Omega-3’s– Oh the glorious Omega-3s! There are three types of Omega-3. The one directly associated with quality sleep (and mental well-being) is EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). 1000mg of EPA can really silence that mental chatter in the middle of the night. The best natural source of EPA is cold-water fish and shellfish. Fermented Cod live Oil is amazing and also packs in Vitamins A & D!
–Hormones– Did you know that decreased progesterone levels around the 20th day of your cycle can lead to PMS-induced insomnia? I have been tracking my sleep on a monthly calender, and sure enough, my worst insomnia usually hits the week before my period. My Functional Medicine Practitioner ran some labs, and my progesterone on day 20 of my cycle was definitely on the low side. He’s got me on a topical cream that has worked wonders.
–Heavy Hitters– Through the guidance of my Functional Medicine Practitioner, I have accumulated an impressive array of nighttime supplements to support general hormone function to assist with sleep. This is an ongoing journey as my body becomes accustomed to certain supplements or has a new need for that perfect blend.
Some of the supplements include: Kavinace and Kavinace Ultra PM, Cortisol Manager, Min-Tran, and Calm ES
–De-stress– By adding certain behaviors to my day/week, I needed to eliminate or reduce others. Ideally, I decreased the stress-inducing behaviors and increased or added the stress-reducing behaviors.
high-intensity exercise- I slowed way down with CrossFit and even put it on a 45-day moritorium over the holidays.
screen time – I spend less time on social media, and no screens: including tv, tablet, Iphone, or computer in the hour prior to bed.
being right- For us Type-A people, sometimes we get caught up in getting our point across and anxiety bubbles up. Sometimes it is better to pick your battles and choose to be happy and peaceful over arguing to be right.
time to relax- I no longer feel the need to be able to do it all and pull it off. My body needs rest. So, most days I let myself have some rest. Even 15-20 minutes to relax can help me make it through the rest of the day. I remember when I was in the Army, I used to tell people that when I made General I was going to institute a mandatory siesta to the duty day. I don’t nap very well, but I will set my alarm for 15 minutes and close my eyes or do some slow yin yoga to stretch out and chillax in the afternoon.
self-care- Massage, mani-pedi, acupuncture, hair cut, and even a movie or a few episodes of Sex & the City give me just enough pampering to feel normal again. I space them out to have an appointment every few weeks. Especially since having something on my calendar to look forward to the next week helps me get through one of those not so great days.
yoga- I try to get to a class or practice on my own a couple times a week. Though, I do remain mindful of doing only those postures that support my Olympic Lifting. (i.e. too flexible without the strength the support it leads to injury)
meditation- I still have a difficult time with this as a daily practice. If I can make it to a Kundalini yoga class, I consider it a win for the day. Breathing exercises such as box breathing (8 seconds in, 8 seconds hold, 8 seconds out, 8 seconds hold, repeat) can be especially calming and grounding.
low to moderate outdoor activity- My old hobbies were rock climbing and other adventurous feats. Now, I like to work in my garden we recently planted. Just taking Sterling to the park can be enough on those really tough days when all I want to do is curl into a ball on the sofa. Being exhausted and sleep-deprived is and even bigger reason to get outside and get some Vitamin D. Also, getting moving and in the sun during the waking hours helps get the normal circadian rhythm back on track.
therapeutic-grade essential oils- The calming effect of the constituents in several oils can have a soporific effect. I am a huge fan of Young Living products, as I have been and Independent Distributor with them since 2006. I love their lavender, valerian, Peace & Calming, and Gentle Baby oils to help wind down in the evening.
So there is my big bag o’ tricks from your local insomniac. I do not recommend trying them all at once, and if you are interested in dabbling with supplements, please consult your medical professional first.
Wishing You Best in Health,