Your Sleep Regimen: One of the Keys to Optimal Health & Wellness — Part 1
Your Sleep Regimen: One of the Keys to Optimal Health & Wellness — Part 1
You may be wondering why I’m doing a post on sleep. Fair question. I am prepared to give you an A+ answer.
We spend more than one-third of our lives sleeping or in bed. Yet many of us suffer from sleep deprivation and its subsequent fatigue, lethargy, and irritability. Not to mention the other ills it causes to our health such as cancer, a shortened life span, premature aging, increased cortisone levels and stress, hypertension, thyroid disorders, and generalized malaise. What many of us may fail to realize is just how vital sleep is to our overall health, and how easy it is to achieve with a good sleep regimen. Sadly, sleep is often the first thing we compromise for our many obligations and responsibilities. Sleep — and the lack thereof — profoundly affects our lives physically, mentally, emotionally, and yes — spiritually.
This post is a very practical one, but I believe it’s one that is well worthy of your time and consideration. We’re going to talk about sleep and how to make that part of your life thrive so you can live in optimal health. So many people are sleep deprived and yet they fail to recognize it. They may suffer the symptoms, but erroneously attribute them to other things. For these, sleep deprivation has become “normal”. They live in a consistent sleep-deprived state that compromises their health, putting undue stress upon their bodies which can have long-term effects. With that said, I want to ask you some simple questions, and let’s see if you or someone you love doesn’t need better sleep:
When was the last time you woke up truly refreshed and well-rested?
Are you getting enough sleep, and is it quality sleep?
What factors or elements are hindering your sleep?
Are you enjoying your sleep?
Do you look forward to going to bed?
Sleep should be a luxury. It should be nourishing, enjoyable, and restorative. If that is not a reality for you, it needs to be, and it can be. I will be addressing sleep from a biblical, practical, and medical perspective so you can come away with some solid wisdom and tools to transform your sleep — which will in turn transform your life and your health.
This is the first of two posts which will discuss the following:
1.) Your current sleep regimen and how to create one that is optimal for you
2.) How to invest in and prepare a bed (and bedroom) worthy of the sleep you crave and deserve
3.) What hinders sleep and creates insomnia
4.) Natural and healthy sleep aids and adjuvants that will assist those suffering from insomnia
5.) The way God created sleep to function and its miraculous restorative properties
6.) The physiologic sleep cycles and our natural circadian rhythms
Fair warning: this is a long post. There’s a lot of rich content here, and I haven’t skimped. I encourage you to read it and share. Or perhaps target the sections you need.
Let’s get started… because there is more to come!
Somnolence & Your Sleep Regimen
This is where it begins, and so this is where we’ll start. Most people want something they can actively put their hands to, and I’m about to give you plenty. With that said, you should genuinely look forward to going to bed, and you should know when to retire. That begins with somnolence — the initial drowsiness or sleepiness that triggers or begins a sleep cycle.
In the daily grind of life sleep is the number one thing we sacrifice to make our world go round. When we are crunching hours and meeting deadlines sleep gets pushed back — way back — even to the point of being dangerous at times. Most people are sleep deprived to some degree, yet fail to recognize it. Although they wake up groggy and exhausted, they push through it day after day and this pattern becomes accepted by them as “normal”.
It’s not. And we’re going to talk about how to create a sleep regimen that works for you, and why it’s so vitally important.
Sleep can no longer be neglected in favor of a busy schedule. It’s time to put sleep at the top of our list and give it the priority and due attention it truly deserves. Sleep should be something highly regarded in your daily life, and by the end of this post you’ll understand why. Sleep is truly miraculous, and when it happens as God intended your life will very literally blossom with energy, vitality, and optimal cellular function — all which translate to a healthier and happier you.
You should be motivated to go to bed. That means an inviting bedroom, and a sleep regimen that you can look forward to enjoying every night. Your bedroom is where that begins. I personally believe that your bedroom should cater to your sleep regimen above all other activities. Your sleep regimen is the practical side of creating healthy sleep habits, and because it’s the one thing you can do to get the ball rolling, we’re going to tackle this first.
Creating your sleep regimen is a very unique thing specific to your individual needs. Therefore, knowing how you sleep and what you personally require is vitally important. Let’s consider the following:
1.) YOUR BED & BEDDING: Your bed should embrace you. And it should support you. You should feel hugged when you get into bed. Some of you may not even realize what you’re missing. Does your bed offer the key elements of proper comfort, support, and function? If not, then it’s time to invest in a quality bed that delivers all of these and much more. I suggest beginning to plan toward this investment. Get online. Go shopping. Try out a bed. Do you really know what you need or want in a bed? It’s time to find out. Make no hasty decisions. Take your time. Have as many “look-see” and “feel-touch” experiences as you can before laying down your hard-earned money. Do your due diligence. Make absolutely sure — without any doubt — that you get precisely what you want and need. No regrets here.
2.) TEMPERATURE & VENTILATION: Do you sleep hot or cold? Is your room well-ventilated? Do you need a fan? Do you need a heater? Do you prefer an open window? There are many factors affecting temperature and ventilation, which will in turn affect the amenities of your bedroom, your bedding, and any sleepwear you may choose.
3.) LIGHTING: Is your bedroom window dressed appropriately? How many windows does your bedroom have? Which direction do they face and what kind of light awakens you? What is their proximity to your bed? Which way does your bed face? Also, do you have appropriate bedroom lighting that caters to sleep? That includes a dimmer switch, a soft lamp, and perhaps even a nightlight. All of these are important to consider.
4.) BEDSIDE: Do you have what you need at your bedside? Your bedstand should include an arsenal of conveniences that cater specifically to your sleep: a hot beverage, fresh water, a book, proper light, any aromas, balms, tissues, etc. What does your bedside include? Does it serve you properly? The goal is to include anything you may need within arms reach. Within reason, you should not have to wrestle to get it. And that means staying in bed once you retire.
5.) SLEEPWEAR: What kind of sleepwear do you prefer? And is it really working for you? Does it hinder your movement, suffocate or irritate your skin, or awaken you unnecessarily? It’s time to consider fabrics, styles, and possibly the alternative of sleeping naked.
6.) ENVIRONMENT: What kind of environment do you sleep in? Are you conscious of traffic, lights, and other noises or light? Do you live in a high-crime area? Creating a safe, dark, and quiet environment is important. What does that mean for you, and how can you accomplish that so you can sleep in peace and undisturbed?
7.) NOISE: A quiet environment always provides for optimal sleep. What kind of noise are you subjected to? Traffic, sirens, TV, the phone, clocks ticking or chiming, people, animals, machinery? Are there household items that create noise such as your HVAC, refrigerator, or ceiling fan? These are things to think about. What can you eliminate? Certain sounds at night can be soothing such as the hum of crickets, falling rain, and ocean tides. God created those with a lot of wisdom. Sometimes even white noise is helpful for some. Creating a perfectly quiet environment is not always realistic. What noise do you need to eliminate or create?
8.) YOUR PARTNER: Who do you sleep with? A spouse? A pet? Do you sleep alone? If you’re in college or share a room, do you have a roommate or sibling in a bed next to you? And what are their sleep habits or requirements? Do they complement or hinder yours? Consider how to achieve what works for both of you.
9.) YOUR NATURAL CIRCADIAN RHYTHM: When do you first begin to drowse? When do you naturally awaken? How many hours are there between the two? This can indicate how much sleep your body really needs. Pay attention to that very first signal your body sends you. You alone know what it is. This is how you know it’s time to actually retire. Are you a night owl or a morning person? Set your bedtime accordingly and protect that time. Listen to your body and be kind to it.
These are all important areas to assess, and these are key questions that will help you. Yet many times we don’t consciously consider them. I encourage you to think carefully about each one so you can truly evaluate your sleep habits. Internal and external factors can dramatically affect your sleep. Make necessary changes wherever you can. Some will be easy and quick; others will be more difficult and require an investment.
Of all the investments you make toward sleep, there is none more important than
My friend who has been a long-time insomniac has struggled to sleep for reasons that are rather mysterious. And she made a brilliant point: We spend more than one-third of our lives in bed sleeping (or trying to), yet we fail to invest in a bed that is worthy of that need. But we invest in everything else! Cars, houses, clothes, and even an education. But when it comes to buying an exceptional bed that will serve us well, we frown upon putting money on the table. That nonsensical mindset needs correcting. The truth is, a great bed will afford us a wonderful life of restorative sleep. Doesn’t it make sense to invest wisely and well? Of course it does!
So let’s talk about that investment…
Please know, I speak to you as one who has forked over the cash. I have laid my hard-earned money on the table, and I will tell you it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I bought a premium bed during an annual sale and saved additional money by asking for the floor demo item — which was brand new. By the time it was said and done, I had saved more than 50% on my bed. I did good. So use your scruples about you, and I promise you’ll do good as well.
I speak to you as one who has worked as a night nurse for more than 5 years; who came home after long 12-14 hour shifts totally exhausted. I had to sleep with all the daytime noises of neighbors, music blaring, dogs barking, kids playing outside, and lawn mowers roaring by my window — not to mention the sunshine streaming through my south window. It wasn’t easy, and it took an overall toll on my health that was very expensive. My blood pressure went up, I gained weight, and I became very moody — so much so that I was miserable with myself. In addition to all of that I was horribly sleep deprived. This affected my social life and my spiritual life.
I have made the following investments discussed below, and have seen enormous results. Although I no longer work nights (thank God), I now enjoy the fruits of those investments every day. I can tell you they will pay you back in ways money simply can’t buy. Do what you must to invest in your sleep regimen. It’s absolutely worth it. Investing in your bed will more than pay you back.
1.) YOUR MATTRESS: Sleeping, resting, and restorative leisure — your bed should cater to them all. When we consider all the activities we do in bed, it’s really rather astounding how much time we spend there. Reading, reclining, watching TV, napping, playing with our babies, and of course the precious intimacies with our spouse. All considered, there is more than enough evidence for investing in a bed that will deliver optimally. Yet so many of us settle for less. Let’s end that right now. I encourage you to begin planning to invest in a bed that will afford you the sleep you genuinely need and deserve. There are a plethora of options out there. Take all the time you really need to investigate and research. Take advantage of those opportunities retailers afford you in trying out their product. In the meantime, save your money. Purchase wisely. Your bed should last you at least 10 years when well-kept, and is the single most important investment you will ever make toward a healthy sleep regimen. Just in case you’re curious, four years ago I purchased a Serta memory-foam with cooling gel. It’s companion base is an adjustable frame that offers massage, and it’s been nothing shy of pure heaven.
2.) YOUR BEDDING: Newsflash — You can ruin a wonderful bed with poor bedding. Therefore, dressing your bed is equally as important as buying the right mattress, not only for sleep, but for the many other functions in which your bed will serve you, including aesthetic beauty. You should love your bed — and it should love you. It should be an inviting and luxurious retreat. With that said, bedding can make it or break it. It is very literally the clothing your bed wears. And you will “wear” it, too, because it embraces you while you sleep.
Make no mistake: bedding is an enormous investment when it includes the following items: mattress pad or cover, sheets, blanket, duvet and coverlet, comforter, pillows, shams, and any skirting. Knowing how to dress your bed well requires a basic knowledge of textiles and fabrics. My personal knowledge of textiles and fabrics came from my college education. Classes on textiles, interior design, and sewing were things I studied as I prepared for my degree. Today these continue to be domestic treasures that I use frequently. I think I can help you make some wise choices. When investing in proper bedding, the following elements are necessary:
a.) DURABLE FABRIC & CONSTRUCTION: Linens are investment items, regardless of whether or not they are for your bedroom or bath. When well cared for properly they can last a lifetime. This is where we commonly err. We go for what is comfortable, but cheap. Don’t make that mistake. Sheets should be a one-time investment. They should provide you years of use (yes, years). In fact, when well-invested and taken care of, your sheets should provide at least 25 years of use or more. Quality sheets will “ripen” with age, becoming all the softer.
Construction: Quality is more than the fabric. It’s also clearly revealed in the construction. Look at the hemstitch and the quality of the thread. It should be at least a double stitch (possibly triple) with a durable cotton or polyester thread that is either a dual or possibly triple thread (for thicker sheets). Any embroidery along the top hem is usually extra and added for adornment. Elastic for the fitted sheet should be fully wrapped and double stitched, being completely hidden. There should be no exposure of elastic whatsoever. Elastic can be stitched into the fabric, or piped. Before purchasing always look at the construction. Hems should be wrapped and double stitched with a clean edge. No threads should be exposed. Corners should be tucked neatly with a full internal hem that is reinforced. Serger lines should be wrapped and stitched — never exposed. In a quality sheet every edge should be fully hemmed. The warp and woof should be aligned with the edges properly, creating an equal fold that both hangs and lays flat, creating even and smooth coverage.
Choice Fabrics: Cotton, by far, is the most prominent fabric used. Not only is it durable, but it is the most abundant, and therefore the most affordable. Note: there are many types of cotton, and many weaves, all which create a different texture and feel. There is great diversity in the cotton fiber. It’s origin, type, weave, and thread count are very specific to its use and purpose. Knowing what to choose takes time, and really is a matter of personal taste. The sateen weave is one of the most popular for sheets. This gives the cotton a sheen that resembles silk or satin. It’s incredibly smooth and softens beautifully. It makes for a very luxurious sheet. As for types of cotton, Turkish cotton is by far the softest cotton fiber (often used in towels) — with Egyptian cotton coming in close behind. Therefore, I strongly suggest a 100% Turkish, Egyptian, or Pima cotton in a sateen weave that is in the very least a 400 threat count. You can buy as great as an 800 threat count (some brands even offer up to 1200 or 1500) which is quite thick, and can be difficult to break in. If you prefer, you can purchase both: one for winter; the other for spring and summer.
Premium Fabrics: If you’re really wanting something extraordinarily soft, I recommend Viscose, which is a gorgeous and luxurious fabric made from bamboo (my favorite). It’s incredibly durable. Another option would be Tincel, which is made from eucalyptus. However, Tincel does not wear as well as Viscose, and inclines to pilling rather quickly, leaving the fabric compromised in texture and appearance. Both put cotton to shame in comfort, yet can be quite pricey. If you can afford silk, by all means this is the king of fabrics, but it carries a price tag few can pay. All of these are wonderful natural fabrics that offer an alternative to the cotton staple. If that is something you feel is worthy of your investment, by all means go for it. You’ll love them all.
Fabrics to Avoid: Stay away from polyester blends, microfibers, and satin or nylon-based fabrics — all which are synthetic. They trap heat and moisture, because they do not ventilate the skin, allowing it to breathe. They may be comfortable when you initially climb into bed, but you’ll inevitably wake up soaked and sweating. Their wear is short-lived in comparison as well, which means money will be spent two or three times to achieve the same lifespan of your product. Synthetic fibers are known for their “pilling” which makes for a shaggy sheet in very little time. A quality fiber and product will not pill, or in the very least should be resistant to pilling. Save your money on the front end by purchasing a quality product that will deliver for years to come.
Care & Maintenance: It’s important to note that new high quality sheets will often have a water-repellent fixative applied to the raw fabric that will make it feel somewhat rough or stiff upon removal from the package. This can also give the product a peculiar or unpleasant smell, and irritate the skin. This is standard for all quality manufacturing. This fixative serves to (1) protect the fibers from moisture, mold and mildew during processing, and for packaging and shipment, (2) protect dyes from bleeding or fading, and (3) serves to stabilize the fibers and threads for optimal construction and manufacturing. Unfortunately, they can easily mask the true texture of the new product, which can be alarming at first. Don’t panic. Wash your new sheets at least three times in hot water on a heavy cycle with soap and one cup of vinegar prior to use. This will provide the agitation and gentle acidity needed to remove the fixative. Dry your sheets. When water penetrates the sheet immediately and is fully absorbed without any runoff, you can know it’s been successfully removed. With that said, some fixatives are more difficult to remove than others, and can be quite stubborn. Never wash your sheets with other towels or clothing. Wash them alone, as their dyes are not always colorfast, and can bleed. Also, the shedding of other fabrics can pill upon them, damaging their texture and quality. All sheets require “breaking in”. Give them time.
Additional Bedding Items & Their Materials: Pillows, mattress pads, comforters, duvets and coverlets, and other bedding will be necessary items to complete your new bed. Therefore, be prepared to make room for them in your overall bedding budget as part of your investment.
These items are most often filled with a nylon-based product (of various types, textures and grades) such as Dacron, which again, is synthetic. So although your sheets are letting your skin breathe, if you compromise on these other items, you may still end up sweating. For this reason, down has been a bedding staple in the construction of these items for centuries.
If you’re hot-natured I suggest a down comforter and mattress pad when possible in lieu of the nylon filled pads or comforters. When matched with a durable cotton coverlet they will be well-protected. This cover can easily be removed, washed, and replaced–no problem. As for pillows, I personally favor the nylon fill which I find to be far more luxurious than down. Keep in mind that nylon fill is also machine washable. There are options out there for everyone in fabric, fill, style, function and design.
Remember that what you buy, you must also be able to maintain, and down can be very difficult. If you don’t mind expensive dry cleaning, by all means down can be a worthy investment. There are different grades of down. Fine down is very hard to find, because it has no feather shaft, requiring more fill. It is extraordinarily expensive. Therefore, most down products are a combination of small or immature plumes with a secondary but sparse down fill.
Please be aware that most quality pillow covers and mattress pads are now being treated with anti-microbial finishes that prevent stains, bacteria, mold, and other common odors that can become resident within bedding. If that is something you want or need, it’s certainly available. A quality pillow should always come with a removable cotton cover that zips on and off. If it does not have one, I strongly suggest purchasing those covers separately. They will add years to the life of your pillow.
NOTE: Linens are investment items. Always read the tags before purchasing any product. Know your product. Keep the manufacturer tags intact. Never cut them off. These are your friend, and they will serve you very, very well following any purchase in the care of your product. In due time they will also help you replace it with an equal or similar product by giving you details on the fabric and any components, as well as listing the make, brand, and manufacturer. Do not confuse the manufacturer with the make or brand name, as they may differ.
b.) COMFORT: Comfort is much more than texture. Comfort also means providing for the health of your skin. That means your skin can breathe, and there are no synthetics that irritate. Bundle and layer all you want. The bottom line is your skin should have the ability to release its natural heat and moisture without suffocating. Your bedding should allow optimal ventilation, regardless of how many layers you prefer. Natural fabrics such as cotton, tincel, viscose, and silk perform beautifully. Synthetics such as polyester, satin, and spandex may be soft enough, but they will leave you sweating. You’ll wake up soaked, which is the epitome of misery for someone who wants to awake refreshed. When you awake your skin should be dry — not moist; not wet. Whether you prefer to sleep cool or warm, your skin should always be dry. With that said, your sleepwear is also important, which we will soon discuss.
c.) EASY TO CLEAN: A quality set of sheets should wash and dry easily and quickly. A quick 20 minute wash cycle in warm or hot water and a 15 minute tumble in the dryer, and you should be done. Voila! Clean sheets. I caution you not to over-dry sheets, leaving them unattended on a long cycle. They can indeed burn and/or catch fire if left on a full high-heat dry cycle. So beware and take care. Natural fabrics that are thin, such as sheets, will dry quickly. As for your other bedding items, make sure to read your labels and follow instructions. They should not require laundering or cleaning more than once or twice a year when well-cared for. Hanging them on the dry line in the wind and hot sun is often the best option for larger bedding items such as mattress pads, comforters, and duvets. This is the best option for refreshing them.
4.) YOUR SLEEPWEAR: Do yourself a favor and save your money on this one. You may think it unorthodox, but I suggest sleeping naked with a simple gown or robe within reach. Optimal sleep means giving your body a break. The clothes should come off. Set your body free. You should be completely unhindered from any entanglements clothing may bring that could cause discomfort or awaken you during the night. If you’re unaccustomed to sleeping naked, please consider the benefits. Try it. You’ll soon discover how beautifully you’ll sleep. Get rid of the tangled nightgown, the crumpled top creeping up your back, and the twisted waistline that leaves your skin pinched. Toss them all. Sleepwear is far too overrated. And if you’re married, why would you want anything hindering you anyway, right? But if you must have sleepwear, sleepwear you shall have. I suggest something minimal and simplistic. No nylon or spandex. No tight necklines or waistlines. No frills. No itchy lace. No ribbons to tangle in. No elastic. Just smooth. It should easily drop over you. Silk is the very best in my opinion. If you must cover yourself make sure your sleepwear is kind, being made of a soft but breathable fabric. That’s all you really need.
Your Bedtime Routine
This is where you’re going to make some changes in lifestyle. The changes you make will be determined by how you answered the previous questions.
Let’s start by talking about when to retire. This is when your bedtime routine should officially begin. It needs to be consistent and enjoyable. And most of all, it should help you fall asleep. One hour is what I suggest. If you begin to drowse (become somnolent) by 9 pm, you should aim to be asleep by 10 pm. What happens within that space of time is very important. There are several things your body needs and looks for:
2.) Quiet or Silence
3.) Reclined position
4.) Internal peace
All of these help your body return to a resting metabolic rate. Melatonin production begins to surge, and your ability for its uptake needs to be maximized. Those brain receptors are critical in your ability to enter into a full sleep cycle (which we will discuss in Part II). Blood pressure lowers; heart rate and breathing slows. Pupils dilate and eyes narrow. Muscles relax. Internal organs slow down. As your body actively prepares for sleep there are some very practical things you can do to help it along in that process.
Silence: First things first. It’s time to shut things down. Lock up the house and prepare for peace and quiet. Everything needs to slow down. Begin winding down. All your external stimuli need to decrease. Turn off your phone, laptop and other devices that can bring unwelcome disruptions. Do all you can to protect and preserve this time. I personally utilize airplane mode on my phone. Or you can set it to silent or use the “Do not disturb” setting. If you want to get radical, then turn your phone off completely. I promise, you will live — and so will everyone else.
Bathing: I am a firm believer in a hot bath or shower before bed. Not only will you feel clean and sleep better, but a hot shower or bath will dilate the blood vessels thereby lowering your blood pressure, and it will relax your muscles. Throw in a candle and some scented oil and you will be setting the stage for a very sweet sleep.
Dimmed Lights: Begin to shut down the house. Close the blinds; dim the lights. Turn on a soft lamp at the bedside or light a candle. Perhaps a nightlight is what you need. There are many kinds. Be creative. Soft warm incandescent light is what your body will respond favorably toward. If the light is cool and artificial, such as with led or fluorescent lights, it is likely that you will not drowse as easily although the light may be dim. If you need to, change your bulbs at the bedside. You will notice a difference.
The Warm Tummy | Nocturnal Beverages: The stomach appreciates being warm and somewhat “full” when sleeping. Since our infancy we respond naturally to this satiation, which inspires and stimulates sleep. That doesn’t necessarily mean a hot meal, but a hot cup of herbal chamomile tea or warm milk with honey is very soothing and can do wonders right before bed. An empty cold stomach will leave you restless; more so than you may realize. Begin this practice and you’ll soon discover just how favorably your body responds. No calories needed.
Massage | Intimacy: A good rub down with aromatic essential oils is amazing. If you’re married and it progresses to other loves, then all the better. There is no better way to release tensions. Going to bed after loving and being loved is one of the most wonderful ways to enter into deep satisfying sleep that God ever created. Welcome it and enjoy it.
Reading & Prayer: The Bible, prayer, and a good book are wonderful bedtime companions. Your goal is to bathe in the Lord’s presence. Let Him wash you of all the grime of that day. Sinking into bed with the Lord brings the peaceful closure and rest that preludes a night of sweet sleep. A clean body is great, but you also need a clean soul to rest well. This is the time to review your day with Him, allow Him to cleanse you, and prepare your heart for tomorrow.
Deep Breathing & Simple Stretches: Clean air and some long simple stretches can bring your body into alignment, relieve stress, and maximize blood flow before bed. This is not a workout. In contrast, it should relax you and prepare your body for sleep. Five minutes is all you need. Don’t overdo it.
Decreasing Internal Stimuli: First, you should establish safety and security, which will help your internal sense of peace. So, lock up the house. Second, make sure you have a clean soul before bed and establish boundaries for bedtime. Refrain from intense emotional engagements just prior to bed — especially those that are negative. When we take anger, unforgiveness, offense, frustration, stress, worry, fear and other internal toxins to bed with us, we cannot and will not sleep well. Tension or turmoil can cause incredible stress. Our bodies respond to these internal stimuli negatively with increased blood pressure, cortisol, and other high-energy endorphins that interrupt our melatonin uptake and decrease its production. Sweet sleep has much to do with your internal state of affairs. Do your diligence to settle issues. Always cover those areas that can’t be immediately resolved in earnest prayer. Do all you can to clear your conscience before God. And with His help, put issues that can’t be immediately resolved to bed as well. Some things can be met practically, but for those you can’t — you must learn to lay them to rest.
The Reclined Position: Your body will immediately respond to the reclined position. Your heart is relieved of working against gravity to shunt blood to the peripheral limbs, thereby promoting rest and relaxation. Workload is reduced significantly. Get in bed, take some deep breaths, and sink into the luxury mattress and pillows you afforded yourself. Your blood pressure will drop; your breathing and heart rate will slow. When you begin to nod (and you will) it’s time to shut off the light… and that is when the magic happens: You fall asleep.
All of these are very simple practical changes you can make in your daily routine that will prepare you for a wonderful night of sleep, not only physically but spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. They should be something you eagerly look forward to and enjoy.
Bedtime should be one of the most blessed and enjoyable times of your entire day.
Make it as consistent as possible.
Natural Sleep Aids & Adjuvants
The following statements are not intended to provide professional medical counsel.
Please seek the professional medical help of a licensed physician or practitioner when beginning any sleep regimen that utilizes sleep aids or adjuvants.
I take care of patients every single day who are sleep deprived. One of the primary complaints in hospitals apart from pain is sleep deprivation. The constant commotion of staff accompanied by the various bells and whistles of equipment alarming is very disturbing to even the best sleeper. When you’re sick and in pain, and you’re in a bed that is alien to you and uncomfortable, and you’re removed from home and family — sleep becomes difficult even under the best circumstances.
More and more physicians are using natural sleep adjuvants such as Melatonin for their patients instead of medications such as Ambien, Trazadone, and Benadryl. These have either psychotropic or sedating side effects which can be addictive and otherwise dangerous or mind-altering. I’ve witnessed their adverse effects many times, and these are drugs I dread giving.
There are plenty of natural remedies that will help your body sleep naturally — provided that you have the ability for melatonin uptake. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland which induces sleep, and is stimulated by darkness.
Although melatonin in naturally produced, your production may be hindered, or you may need improved uptake. Increasing your melatonin can be done orally by taking a simple supplement about 30 minutes before bed. If you have questions about amounts, please consult your physician. Depending on your circumstance, and other medications, your dosage may differ. The standard is 3 mg.
Melatonin is only produced at night when there is darkness. Therefore, its detection in the blood during daylight hours is nearly imperceptible. Melatonin is very stable during the sleep cycle, remaining in the blood for approximately 12 hours. If you sleep 8 hours, you can still struggle with the side effects of melatonin long after you awake, which can explain why some people take longer to fully awaken than others. Therefore, a morning regimen to help shut off melatonin production is often just as important as a bedtime regimen. When melatonin is no longer produced, you will not only be awake, but you will be alert and well-rested. This is why awakening with the sunrise leaves us more alert and well-rested. Melatonin production stops. When we try to awaken while it’s still dark, we often struggle because melatonin is still being produced.
If you struggle with sleep, supplementing your melatonin is one of the easiest, safest, and most natural ways you can aid your sleep. Melatonin is readily available over the counter and is very affordable. If you have additional questions and would like to try melatonin, please consult your pharmacist or physician.
Magnesium is a naturally occurring element which serves as a vital electrolyte in the body. It enhances neurologic function by creating a smoother and more stable neuro-receptor response. Be careful. Not all magnesium is the same. There are several types of magnesium used medically, and each has a distinct purpose. Magnesium sulfate is used in treating various types of cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, and severe asthma. Magnesium citrate is a powerful laxative used for constipation. Magnesium chloride (a.k.a. Epsom salts) is the most common type of magnesium, which is used to treat toxicity in the tissues. It has a strong ability to extract impurities and has been used for decades over the counter.
Magnesium is a vital mineral. Most people are magnesium deficient and fail to realize it. Magnesium is prolific in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency are insomnia, anxiety, irritability, muscular cramping, and various cardiac arrhythmias (to name a few).
Supplementing your diet with magnesium is easy. Begin to incorporate greens, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Otherwise, you may need to purchase a supplement taken orally. Be sure to consult your doctor when beginning a magnesium supplement. Make sure it’s the right kind and the right dose. Although magnesium toxicity is possible, it is rare, and quite hard to achieve. Like any other mineral or vitamin, the body will excrete or dispose of any excess in due time. The most common symptom of Magnesium toxicity is lethargy and fatigue with other subsequent electrolyte imbalances.
Again, not all magnesium is the same. There are magnesium supplements made specifically as a sleep aid, and they can be taken via a capsule or as a powder which can be stirred into your nighttime beverage. I suggest looking at some of the products at your local health food store. There are several wonderful products out there. I trust you will find magnesium to be both affordable and effective — with many wonderful health benefits.
Chamomile is an herb from a daisy-like flower in the Asteraceae family. It has been used for centuries to aid in sleep and settle the stomach. This powerful duo makes it a wonderful nocturnal beverage. And it’s aroma is beautiful.
Chamomile has many added benefits, namely those of anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulant, and anti-spasmodic properties. You can’t go wrong with that.
Warm Milk & Raw Honey (adjuvant)
Milk and honey. Sound familiar? This biblical concoction is one that does not disappoint. It has a long history. And although there are calories, its effects are truly amazing.
Warm milk is very soothing to the stomach. It coats and soothes the membranes, providing a wonderful satiation before bed. When honey is added, we get the added benefit of its ripe sweetness and enzymatic properties — which are only found in the raw form. Honey is very medicinal, providing unique antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties only created by bees. In fact, the beehive is the most sterile natural environment on earth. In addition, honey provides vitamins, minerals, and natural antihistamines that protect us from inflammation and common allergens.
Pay yourself a treat and try warm milk with raw honey before bed. I suggest an organic brand that is local if you can find one. My favorite is the organic raw honey made by Y.S. Bee Farms — which is grown around the world in some of the most virgin areas. It’s consistency is a paste that is extraordinarily dense in nutritive value. I assure you, you will rest warm and well-satiated. This honey is the very best I’ve found, and can be purchased online or through a local participating retailer.
Valerian is a natural herb taken from a beautiful and fragrant pink flower in the Caprifoliaceae family. It has been historically used to treat insomnia. However, it has many other uses because of its sedating properties. Valerian affects your GABA receptors, making it a central nervous system depressant. You must be very careful with Valerian. It is NOT to be taken with other depressants such as benzodiazepines, alcohol, barbituates, opiates, or ethanol. Because it is a sedative, Valerian has also been successfully used as an anticonvulsant, antiseptic, and in the treatment of pain, specifically that of migraines. It is still used by western pharmaceuticals today in prescription medications.
Valerian can be found over the counter in many health food stores. Before taking Valerian, make sure you consult your physician, and take only as directed. Never operate machinery with the use of Valerian. Do not combine Valerian with any other sleep adjuvant or sleep aid unless approved.
These are all natural sleep aids and adjuvants; some which can be safely combined for holistic and synergistic effects. Adding these to your bedtime regimen is something you can do very easily and affordably in an effort to maximize your sleep safely and effectively. Be sure to consult your physician, herbalist, or pharmacist for specific dosages and proper usage.
Join us next time for Part II!
Until then, I encourage you to begin making very practical yet necessary changes in your sleep habits and routine. Establish a regimen that works for you, and begin to seriously consider investing toward that one-third of your life that is so necessary and enjoyable. Of all your lifetime investments, it will pay you back in ways money could never buy.
There is a lot more to cover. Next time we’ll talk more about sleep from a medical and biblical perspective.
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety,” (Psalm 4:8, KJV).
Cheers & Shalom,