Techniques for Improving Sleep Naturally
By Taylor Smith
Sleep is vital for overall health, but elusive for many. Whether you’re a parent under stress or you’ve become reliant on prescription sleep aids like Lunesta or Ambien, here are some non-habit forming methods for improving overall sleep quality and duration.
Magnesium Glycinate Before Bed
Magnesium is an essential mineral that over 70 percent of the population is deficient in. Many deficiencies are caused by diet or as a side effect of other prescription medication use. But a simple supplement can reverse a deficiency. Taking Magnesium Glycinate before bed helps to improve muscle, brain. and nervous system function. It also acts as a natural relaxant and helps to prepare the body for bed.
Avoid Blue Light
Almost all computers, tablets, and smartphones emit a blue wavelength light that effects your suprachiastmatic nucleaus (SCN), a pin-sized structure that controls your sleep cycle and contributes to the body’s ability to produce adequate melatonin. The SCN also contains 20,000 neurons which play a further role in sleep quality. If you must work on your phone or computer before bedtime, consider purchasing the F.lux app (https://justgetflux.com), which causes the light emitting from your device to be more blue/black dominant in the morning and red dominant in the evening. This light technology thus mimics the effects of sunrise and sundown, reducing your exposure to blue light at bedtime.
Look at Your Caffeine Consumption
Let’s face it — although most people love their coffee, some are highly sensitive. Many functional nutritionists (nutritionists who evaluate specific health concerns based on an all-encompassing look at lifestyle, medical history, genetic makeup, and habits) argue that those individuals with a genetic variant of an enzyme called CYP1A2 naturally metabolize caffeine more slowly, meaning that your mid-morning cup (or two) of coffee stays with you well through the late afternoon and early evening. Research suggests that even one additional serving of caffeine per day can disrupt late evening sleep cycles. For example, did you know that a single serving of dark chocolate contains up to 30 mg of caffeine? Those with heart-related concerns may also benefit from reducing caffeine intake, as caffeine consumption can put you at a greater risk of heart attack (https://bit.ly/2GJRQug). Other caffeine culprits include diet sodas, iced teas, and pain relievers (two Excedrin Migraine tablets contain 130 mg of caffeine).
Address Your Underlying Anxiety Issues Head On
“In 2011, over 74 million prescriptions were written for Xanax and Valium,” a fact that makes obvious the problem of mental health-related anxiety issues in modern-day America (https://bit.ly/2VcPLds). Not only are drugs like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin highly addictive, they also wreak havoc on a person’s sleep cycle. Even after you remove prescription anti-anxiety drugs, the likelihood is that your chronic anxiety issues will remain along with your unhealthy sleep habits. Therapy and meditation are both effective tools for addressing serious anxiety issues. Nutrition can also play a promising role, along with reducing alcohol intake, getting adequate exercise every day, and reducing screen time before bed. Working with a therapist or a functional nutritionist may enable you to tackle your anxiety issues head on, while also developing tools for improving sleep quality over time.
In short, peeling back the layers of the insomnia onion may lead some of those suffering to discover underlying health issues that they didn’t know they had. Being aware is half the battle.