Tips to Improve Sleep Naturally

Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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Tips to Improve Sleep Naturally
Sleep issues plague American society in all age groups. Knowledge about how to solve them is woefully lacking. Sleep is the time in which your body cleans house and recovers from wear and tear. A good night's sleep makes all the difference in the following day's performance ability, including energy level, mood, mental capability, and stamina. Problems with sleep lower stress tolerance and induce food cravings and poor eating habits. Learning to solve sleep issues is an important life skill vital to your health - it can be done!

Many individuals cut sleep short (less than 7 hours) and force their body to use up important nutritional reserves -- a problem that will speed aging and eventually result in poor health. The failure to get enough sleep, whether self-imposed or due to a sleep problem, disturbs prime fat burning time and sets the stage for weight gain.

Sleep is disrupted by "stress tension" that builds up in the nerves during the day, generally causing fatigue and irritation as the day goes on. Such people tend to have difficulty falling asleep or may wake up and can't get back to sleep. Oftentimes, the sleeplessness is accompanied by unpleasant feelings such as restless legs, heart pounding, digestive distress, foot pain, or skin prickles. These "wired" feelings in the nerves are the result of excessive substance P (from stress tension) and is a main reason for poor sleep.

If sleep problems magnify a vicious catch 22 is set up. Consequent tiredness is accompanied by a backlog of house cleaning and poor repair. It's like trying to cook in a dirty kitchen – everything works less well. Trying to make it through the day in this handicapped condition builds up more wear and tear, like a car spewing out black smoke because the engine is running so poorly. This builds up even more inflammation in the nerves resulting in progressively higher levels of substance P. In order to unravel such problems it is necessary to start with the basics and progressively go from there.

The Sleep Basics

Too much caffeine, especially late in the day or evening, including chocolate consumption at night, can significantly interfere with sleep. Pay attention, don't consume too much and don't have any too late in the day. Individual response varies considerably -- know your limits.

Eating after dinner or eating a large meal within three hours of bed invariably disrupts the quality of sleep. Minimally this causes you to wake up feeling not well rested. Eating late disturbs leptin, in turn blunting growth hormone release, melatonin release, and thyroid hormone release during sleep. It is like pushing the conductor of the orchestra off the stage and listening to the resulting chaos. High fat or large meals prior to bed also force calories into the lymphatic system, in turn getting in the way of house cleaning.

Some wired-type people feel they must eat something or they can't get to sleep. This condition is representative of a significant sleep problem. Eating raises insulin and turns off the liver's glucagon-driven stress response, which is why it seems to work. However, this never solves the problem long term. If you have to eat something try to eat 50-100 calories of mostly carbohydrates – some warm milk – or a small bowel of cereal. Then work on underlying issues so you don't feel this way before bed and don't "need" to eat something.

If you are prone to sleep problems do not eat a high protein dinner, as it is likely too activating for your metabolism. Eat most of your protein at breakfast or lunch and eat mostly complex carbohydrates with moderate fat and vegetables for dinner. Doing so naturally raises tryptophan levels before bed which in turn helps melatonin release, supporting sleep.

Seek relaxing activities, calming music, or some other way to help naturally wind-down and calm your mind if you are prone to sleep issues. Avoid conflict before bed.

Managing Demands, Maintaining Energy, and Sleeping Better

Energetically getting through the day without excessive use of stimulants or a significant power outage is vital for a good night's sleep. Think of your body as a power boat going through the water. The speed you travel is based on the demands of your day. The wake behind your boat is the inflammatory trash that is building up which must be cleaned up during sleep. If there is too much friction during the day your whole system heats up too much, a type of trash overload, inducing sleep issues. Sometimes a particularly stressful event or worry about the future will push you into disrupted sleep. If stress-related issues, including general demands, are not managed well then too much substance P can lock in that wired and racy-mind sleepless feeling even though your body may be quite tired.

Our most popular sleep support nutritional product is called RelaxaMag. It is a combination of magnesium bound mostly to glycine, but also to vitamin C and krebs bionutrients. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant. Glycine, an amino acid, is actually a relaxing neurotransmitter in your brain. Vitamin C and krebs bionutrients help chelate toxins to assist with house cleaning. The real power in this product is that magnesium and glycine are the two key nutrients required for your brain stem to relax. Take 2-3 before bed. In many cases this is all a person needs, as it is enough to turn off stress activation and turn on sleep.*

The next product to try is low-dose melatonin (0.5 mg per capsule). Melatonin is the key hormone that triggers sleep. Its levels decline with age, but are often not functioning properly even in young adults. Take 1-6 capsules before bed, starting with 1 and increasing as needed to find an amount that seems to help. When melatonin supplementation is working well for you it is obvious that you go to sleep better and wake up feeling better. The need for melatonin increases in the winter and when temperatures drop.*

A third simple remedy, which is also my favorite remedy for small children, is high grade ocean Coral Calcium with naturally occurring magnesium. ¼ to ½ tsp of this powder in a small amount of water before bed can really help calm restlessness, even restless or jittery legs.* Many people use a combination of RelaxaMag, Melatonin, and Coral Calcium as their natural sleep enhancing system.

The other side of the sleep coin is having better and more consistent energy during the day, which enables you to arrive at bed without so much inflammatory wear and tear. The most basic nutrient for this is Daily Energy Multiple Vitamin – the only product on the market today with all pre-energized coenzyme B vitamins and high malic acid to offset fatigue.* The dose is 3-6 a day, use enough to feel an energetic difference. If needed, add other nutrients for energy support such as Thyroid Helper, Iosol Iodine, Pantethine, coenzyme Q10, and/or Activator Plus. Any one of these can help you naturally make energy and they can be used in any combination.* The goal is to use enough so that your energy comes on better in the morning, your mood stays more stable during the day, and you keep your energy going especially through the afternoon. Some people with sleep issues cannot take too many energizing nutrients later in the day.

Cleaning House More Effectively

Your immune system orchestrates the entire repair and house cleaning process during sleep. The plumbing part of this operation is carried out by your lymphatic system, which contains numerous immune cells and is highly active at night. The main plumbing outlets for your lymph system are two thoracic ducts, about the width of a garden hose, on either side of your spine in your shoulder area. Tightness and pressure in the shoulders are sure signs of lymphatic congestion.

The lymph system is a pressure system, thus a backed-up trash problem causes headaches especially in the back of the neck, top of the head, or behind the eyes. When a congested lymph system swells at night it pushes on nerves that go to your hands. This causes you to wake up with a hand or arm asleep during sleep. Other obvious lymph congestion symptoms can include excessive mucous or drainage in the morning, ongoing sinus issues, always clearing your throat, ear popping or noise, and sensitivity to environmental pressure changes (weather fronts). Not all people have all these symptoms but if your lymph system is contributing to sleep troubles it is common to have several of them that are very noticeable.

The best product to help lymph function is called Immune Plus. It helps to wake up the macrophages residing in your lymph system, your body's natural house cleaners.* Mix 1 tsp to 1 heaping tsp in a small amount of water before bed. Use again in the morning, as needed. When you are using enough any symptom in the preceding paragraphs tends to improve and you notice you are sleeping better and waking up feelings less gunky.

If your digestive tract is stuck your lymph system has no place to send waste products for final removal. Constipation can be a huge sleep-disturbing problem. Sometimes simply taking enough supplemental fiber during the day can really help general waste product removal (such as 1 heaping tablespoon of Fiber Helper before breakfast). If constipation is more difficult and does not respond to added fiber, then try taking some Motility Helper at bed (1-3 capsules). It helps get the colon moving. When you use extra fiber with Motility Helper then eventually you typically will only need the Fiber Helper to stay on track.

When plumbing isn't working right then toxins build up during night-time house cleaning and wake you up -- a very common sleep problem. It usually happens between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. It is often difficult to get back to sleep.

While there are many other tips that could be given to help sleep, the above covers a high percentage of the most common problems that are disturbing the sleep of so many people.

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