Q&A: I Can't Sleep. Help me SLEEEEEEEP!

Recently, we offered one of our FREE seminars aimed at getting clients healthier, happier, and moving better. This particular one was on supplementation; All the basics and some specifics to boot! As is often the case, people were so overwhelmed with info on that night that they don't really know what to ask in the Q&A portion... until a few days later. I received an email from one of our members and it was the perfect question to address to the masses. So, here it is! colt smile

I know two things you mentioned during last Thursday’s supplement talk that are important to me.  And as you said, if they aren’t right, you might as well forget the rest of the stuff...
...As far as sleep - I SUCK at that, and always have.  I know I do not get enough sleep, and I am not a good sleeper.  I usually can sleep for about 2 hours and then am awake, often can go back, but am up again in a few.  Going to bed earlier doesn’t help, as then I just get up earlier.  I’ve tried all kinds of things, previously sleeping aids, teas, reading, relaxing, etc, but it just doesn’t seem to matter.  I wake up and then, done.
Any thoughts or suggestions?"

This is such an important question and a LOT of people are running around sleep deprived all the time! WebMD opens a recent article on sleep like this: "For the past few years, the Sleep in America polls -- conducted on behalf of the National Sleep Foundation - have provided a snapshot of the nation's bedroom woes. Today, about 20% of Americans report that they get less than 6 hours of sleep on average, and the number of Americans that report that they get 8 hours of more has decreased." More informally, a scroll through my Facebook feed demonstrated a multitude of comments about being tired, needing a coffee, interrupted sleep, hitting the snooze and more sleep related woes. I won't belabor the ill effects of poor sleep. If you are living it, you know already! But, here's a quick snapshot for you:

Effects of Sleep Disturbance:

* Higher levels of anxiety and depression
* Increased risk of Stroke, Hypertension, Breast Cancer, and Heart Disease
* Impaired Cognition and Reaction Times
* Unhealthy Cravings
* Increased Injury Risk
None of that is going to get you any closer to feeling better, or performing better for that matter! So how do you break the non-sleep cycle?

Sleep Success:

1. Caffeine: This one seems obvious but people tell me allll the time how they aren't sensitive to caffeine, how they can drink a cup of coffee and go right to sleep at night. Ok... but do you stay asleep at night? You're reading this because you aren't sleeping well, right?!?!? As awful as it might sound, I really recommend testing yourself to see how sensitive you just might be to caffeine. Cut it out or to at least just morning time and see what happens after a week. If there's no change, you can bring it back in. I have had numerous clients who struggle with hot flashes and nighttime wakefulness report back that this really did make a difference.
2. Blood Sugar Disturbances: Are you waking up in the night to pee? You might be surprised to know that this is often due to a dip in blood sugar rather than an actual NEED to pee. Basically, the carbohydrate load in the evening is higher than is optimum for you (bowl of ice cream, some leftover Halloween candy, chips while watching TV). When the blood sugar drops again after this carb insult, it prompts you to wake up. Primally speaking, the blood sugar drop signals the body to awaken and start the hunt for food. Peeing is just a natural response to waking up. Eliminating sugary foods and eating a lower carbohydrate dinner can help with this. It is also very effective to have a small pre-bed protein snack (a slice of turkey, for example) to help maintain blood sugar through the nighttime hours.
3. Electronic/ Light Overload: Watching TV, using the computer, or staring at your cell phone in the hours before bed has been shown time and again to disrupt sleep. The unnatural light hyper-stimulates the brain and creates a scenario where it's hard to put your brain to bed. You are internally overstimulated for the particular point in your circadian rhythm. Try to dim the lights and shut off electronics at least an hour before bedtime.
4. Magnesium Deficiency: This is a case where supplementation can help. Magnesium deficiency is rampant due to our Standard American Diet and contributes to poor sleep, muscle cramps and spasms, and constipation, to name a few. It's quite safe and effective to supplement with a magnesium chelate and I like to spend 10-15 minutes soaking in a warm bath with magnesium flakes as the magnesium is absorbed through the skin and it is relaxing to boot! I actually do both a supplement and use the bath 3-5 days a week depending on stress and sleep disturbances due to that sweet Baby Colt.
5. Bedtime: Picture with me a toddler who is "overtired." You know the one acting like a complete ass and the parent sighs and says "He's just overtired." Yep, that's you when you miss your bedtime. You start doing this and that and this and that and before you know it you've passed the 12 on the clock. Our body is preset to sleep and wake in a rhythm... unless something is wrong. In that case, it pumps out cortisol and your adrenaline spikes and you can keep going to avoid the danger at hand. In other words, if you miss the sweet spot for bed, you are going to get a "second wind" until the next natural dip in your cycle. By that point you've missed valuable hours of sleep. And because it is already nighttime, you've also likely exposed yourself to tons of light and electronics making the sleep you do get restless (unless you tend to walk around aimlessly in a dark house late into the night, I guess. That's totally normal and all...)
6. EMF's: This one can sound a bit woo-woo, but I think there is definitely something to consider here. An electromagnetic field is a physical field produced by electrically charged objects. "The potential health effects of the very low frequency EMFs surrounding power lines and electrical devices are the subject of on-going research and a significant amount of public debate. The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and other US government agencies do not consider EMFs a proven health hazard. NIOSH has issued some cautionary advisories but stresses that the data is currently too limited to draw good conclusions." So, this refers to all the crap plugged into electricity surrounding you every day. People who are really into this call it "Dirty Electricity" and claim that the EMFs interfere with our own "charge." I think there is definitely something to this but I also want to stay married sooooo..... I also think some people would be more sensitive to the effects than others just like everything else regarding the body. The take away is that if you have phones and computers and a TV and DVR and Lamps and a charging kindle, etc etc all in your bedroom, maybe it's time to create a docking station elsewhere in the house.
The other day as I painstakingly walked through the steps of Baby Colt's bedtime routine, all the while hoping and praying that we nailed it just right and he slept a solid few hours (meaning I slept a solid few hours), it occurred to me that we do not put any effort into our own going to bed. It's interesting that we talk about how important sleep is for little people and every article about child rearing mentions the importance of bedtime routine. Yet, somewhere between 10 yrs old and whatever age you are now all that got lost. I'd encourage you to take a week or two and really focus in on resetting your sleep routine, nailing it. Once you're established and catching all those lost Z's, you can add and take away a step here or there to find a routine that's both practical and successful!