HOW TO SLEEP LESS AND REST MORE.  5 easy strategies for quality sleep.

Recent data show that an average amount of sleep of 8 to 9 hours might be too much for adults and even 5 to 7 hours will be enough to stay energized and vital throughout the day (1). The quality but not the quantity is the key point. It means if you fall asleep quickly (within 10 to 15 min) and have a profound sleep without waking up you will be rested after a shorter period of time.

The main point is when to go to bed. Everyone knows that the best time is between 9 pm and 11 pm but why? According to science about circadian rhythms in traditional eastern medicine like Ayurveda and TCM there is a special time for our bodies to recharge and restore. This is the period from 10 pm to 2 am where we should already be in a deep state of sleep. This is a main time  to ensure metabolic homeostasis . The chief detoxifying organ  liver gets active and cleans up wastes and toxins. The brain can focus on cleaning neurotoxic waste products like beta-amyloid (responsible for onset of Alzheimer disease), “digesting” emotions and feelings that we had during the day.  

The production of hormones that play a major role in appetite regulation, such as leptin and ghrelin, happens in sleep. Glucose tolerance and insulin secretion are modulated by sleep too. There is a direct connection between sleep loss and obesity (2).

The magical window from 10 pm to 2 am must be dedicated to sleep if we want to live a long and happy life. 

First, let’s talk about how to fall asleep easily. Try these strategies before taking a sleeping pill.

  • Stop eating late in the evening. Ideally to have dinner at least 2-4 hours before going to bed. Too much food sitting in your stomach prevents the body from repairing itself and falling into deep sleep.
  • Fill your plate with the right fats and protein. They keep your blood sugar steady, and you’re less likely to find yourself around the fridge at midnight. Eating salads and fruits in the evening is not the best idea. They may cause a fermentation with bloating and gases which are counterproductive for a deep sleep. 
  • Drink  the biggest amount of your fluids like water and herbal teas before 5 pm.  Sometimes we “forget” to drink during the day and remember it when we are at home. Full urinary bladder is not the best friend for your sleep.
  • Protect yourself from blue light (my favorite one).   The blue light that emits from your smartphone, laptop, and TV screens messes with your brain’s production of melatonin — the hormone that tells your body when it’s time to snooze. Blue light wakes you up and tells your brain that it’s daytime. Screens aren’t the only source of junk light — streetlamps and LED light bulbs are also to blame. Wear Blue Blockers, special orange glasses,  – I start wearing my blue blockers about 2 hours before bed.  Additionally, you can use blue light filters on your phone, but it does not have the same effect as glasses. To be honest, I wear my blue blockers sometimes during the gray winter days since they give you a feeling of warm summer sunshine.
  • Spend your evening peacefully. Watching  thrillers, doing vigorous workouts, playing competitive games do not contribute to peaceful sleep. 

Introduce a few rituals while laying in the bed. I suppose some of you got used to falling asleep while reading books, listening to podcasts or even watching TV but there are powerful techniques which work better than a soap drama.

Number 1: the BREATH. Use deep abdominal breath when your belly is rising up on the inhalation and rising down on the exhalation. Try to make them as long as possible, up to 8 to 10 counts. This technique helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and switch your body and mind into “REST MODE».  It massages  internal organs, especially liver, preparing them for the night detoxification and releasing residual bile from the gallbladder. Another benefit of this breath is that you get very warm from inside, useful for people who tend to have cold hands and feet and can not fall asleep before getting warm.

Number 2: the RELAXATION. A body scan type of meditation where you focus on the sensations in your body.  You’ll notice how each body part feels, from your toes up through your legs, chest, arms, and head. 

Number 3: the CONCENTRATION. Draw an imaginary line between your ears and bring your awareness to the  point in the middle of the line. This is a location of a pineal gland which produces melatonin, often called “sleep hormone”. The concentration on this point can help to stimulate your pineal gland and increase the production of melatonin.  Old yoga wisdom says “Where attention goes, energy flows and manifestation occurs”.

If all these strategies are not enough for you, try supplements like magnesium citrate. Magnesium is a mineral, and it is involved in everything from synthesizing proteins to regulating blood sugar and controlling neurons. A specific type of magnesium, magnesium citrate, has been found to promote mental and muscle relaxation. (3) It also reduces the muscle cramping that can happen at night.  Take 600-800 mg with dinner  to feel more relaxed and sleep better at night.  




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