In 14 years of clinical practice, there are 2 things that stand out when it comes to helping people the most: losing weight and better sleep.
Today I want to focus on sleep, but I promise we will come back to the weight loss side of things on another post.
An old friend of mine joked with me about how long he had been asleep. He was 75 years old and said that if you are asleep for 8 hours a day, that is 1/3 of the day. If you multiply that by 75 years, then he said he has been asleep for 25 years!
I assure you that this is not time wasted! According to the National Institute of Health, “Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.”
I would also add to this that sleep is absolutely essential for the body to heal. I actually rejoice when my chronically ill patients start to get better sleep because I know that what is actually happening is their bodies are starting to get better!
The neurology of sleep is incredibly complex, yet fairly simple. The key is actually part of your brain stem called the mesencephalon or midbrain. This structure, right at the base of your brain, is the trigger for your fight or flight nervous system. When activated, the midbrain cranks out hormones that put you in a stressed, fight or flight state. During this time, sleep is nearly impossible.
Here are 6 things you can do to improve your sleep by calming your midbrain down.
- Clean up your diet. Yep. What you put into your mouth matters and here is why: the Standard American Diet (SAD) is full of chemicals, sugar, and processed foods. These foods disrupt our gut function and put our bodies into a state of stress. When we are in that stress, we don’t sleep. Start by switching to a whole food diet that is full of fiber from fruits and vegetables, grass fed meats, organic poultry, and sustainably caught fish. Talk to your functional medicine provider about what type of diet (paleo, keto, vegan, carnivore) is right for you! For a free copy of our detox manual, click here.
- Stay active during the day! I can’t over emphasize getting outside and moving your body! Your brain thrives on the activation from moving your joints through space. When you couple that with being in the sun (think vitamin D), and the above-mentioned diet you have a very valuable combination! Instead of thinking about food snacks, consider movement snacks!
- Practice meditation on a daily basis. Your brain communicates with itself through the use of 5 different electrical frequencies called brain waves. When the brain waves are functioning appropriately, they work together much like an orchestra that is led by a professional conductor. When those waives are out of sync, it sounds more like a band of Junior High kids that just got their instruments! The end result is anxiety, depression, and lack of sleep! Meditation is the practice of working your theta waves that can help turn that junior high band back into an orchestra and help you get better sleep! Sun-Thianine is a supplement that I have used to help balance brain waves. You can find it by clicking here. (You do have to set up an account and use the password USE777)
- Prepare your room for sleep! Both sight and sound fire off your brain stem and start a stress response. A dark, cool room is the best environment to foster sleep. Removal of light sources will keep you from seeing light and having that mid brain activate and disrupt your sleep. I do recommend removing all light sources (even consider switching your alarm clock to its dimmest setting) and using black out curtains to get rid of lights. I have even personally used soft ear plugs to block out the sounds of teenagers!
- Turn off your electronics one hour before bed. Artificial light from all sources winds up your mid brain and disrupts your circadian rhythm. My wife and I agreed when we got married to never put a TV in our bedroom for that reason! Resist the urge to use your phone and check your social media feed right before bed. Put everything that plugs in away 1 hour before bed and pic up an actual paper book to read to wind down!
- Last but not least, consider EMF Hypersensitivity. This condition is not yet recognized by the mainstream medical system. This condition occurs when your own body is sensitive to the EMF signals coming from electronic devices. One of the main symptoms is sleep disturbances. To mitigate this, move your phone out of your bedroom, turn off your Wi-Fi at night, and consider using the Qi Technology from Synergy Science to completely eliminate EMF signals in your home, office, and even bedside!
There you have it! 6 really easy steps you can take to sleep better!
I hope you take these to heart and live a better life by getting better sleep.
Dr. Brady Wirick, DC