A good night’s sleep is worth almost any amount of money, especially if it’s been weeks, months, or even years since you’ve slept well. Over-the-counter supplements that promise a good night’s sleep are nearly everywhere, which is clear evidence that this issue affects a significant number of us.
Research has shown that consistent quality sleep allows our body to heal and recover from the day’s events, protecting against a large number of serious health issues that can occur further down the road. But if you’re in the over 40 crowd, have a stressful lifestyle and a less-than-optimal diet, chances are good that at some point, a lack of sleep will leave you walking around like a zombie, longing for a place to catch a quick nap.
And if you are a female who’s over 45, there’s another factor to consider relating to disrupted sleep and that is the impending onset of menopause. During this period of time, a women’s hormones naturally shift and can often result in night sweats, unfounded worry, and relentless brain chatter during the middle of the night. This trifecta can undermine the stamina and resolve of an otherwise active and mentally acute woman.
A good night’s sleep is everything!
So what can be done about this sleep-deprivation situation? Thankfully, several simple strategies can help you get a good night’s rest and recalibrate your internal circadian rhythm back to normal.
1. Clean up your diet.
What we eat affects our sleep patterns. Diets high in sugar, carbs, and alcohol (especially in the evening) can result in frequent tossing and turning, keeping you from settling into a deep sleep. Blood sugar fluctuations send a signal to the brain that something’s not quite right, which then triggers a domino-like cascade of hormones and other chemical messengers that work hard to get your brain the glucose it needs. It’s during this process that your sleep gets interrupted.
Avoid consuming alcohol within two hours of bedtime (I know, not what you wanted to hear) and make sure you’ve had something for dinner besides just chips and salsa. A protein, healthy fat and fruit or veggie makes for a beautifully balanced meal that can help you drift off to sleep in no time.
2. Try some natural sleep aids
This doesn’t include melatonin or NyQuil. Instead, consider herbs such as valerian, California poppy, kava, and skullcap. These can quiet an overactive mind, relax tense muscles, ease worry from the day and calm an overexcited nervous system. Not all herbal products are alike, so quality is essential in this regard. We recommend (and use) pharmaceutical-grade herbs that are sourced from Australia. Additionally, calming minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and alfalfa can be very effective for helping you drift off to sleep and reduce the number of times you wake up.
3. Boost your sleep hormone
There’s a tiny little gland nestled deep within your brain called the pineal gland. During the day, when it’s bright outside, the pineal gland becomes quiet and waits for the onset of dusk, signaling the end of the day when sleep is eminent. This powerful gland is responsible for releasing its magical hormone, melatonin. But if you are watching TV, reading mindlessly on FB, or reading on your iPad, your pineal gland never gets the signal that it’s dark outside.
To keep your pineal happy and producing plenty of melatonin, turn off all electronics and create a version of ‘dusk’ inside your home about an hour before your normal bedtime. This sends the correct signal for your pineal gland to begin releasing sleepy hormones, inducing that enticing urge to crawl into bed and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
4. Enjoy life
Research has shown that people who are generally happy have higher amounts of another hormone known as oxytocin. Famous for being the “bonding” hormone, it is released when we engage in activities that foster relationships. Things like spending time with friends, belly laughing, playing with our pets, and spending time with our children cultivate a better night’s sleep. So put a smile on your face, hug someone and get that oxytocin flowing!
5. Create a cozy sleep space
Your bedroom should be your own sacred space, free from clutter, exercise equipment, laundry, or even a TV (yep, not conducive for a good night’s sleep). Keep the room at a comfortable temperature, preferably a bit on the cooler side. Use blackout shades to block any drifting light from streetlamps or other ambient light. Disconnect, or better yet, leave all your electronics in another room and be sure to put everything in airplane mode, so nothing disrupts your precious sleep.
Once you find your secret sauce for satisfying sleep, you’ll be snoring away in no time. A good night’s sleep helps your body heal, keeps your hormones on point, and allows your brain plenty of time to defrag and reset. Investing in finding the right combination to help you sleep will pay off huge dividends down the road.