Good sleep has been an elusive fairy. No matter how clean my eating or how energizing my exercise routine, I’m still at risk for so many sleep-related performance and health problems:
- Slowed physical & mental reaction time
- Increased errors
- Decreased vigilance
- Reduced motivation
- Increased thyroid hormone that can lead to chronic thyroid disease
- Depressed growth hormone that can lead to obesity, lean muscle mass reduction & insulin resistance
- Increased afternoon & evening cortisol levels
- Impaired immune function
- Increase in inflammatory chemicals
- Impaired carb & glucose tolerance linked to memory loss
- Abdominal pattern obesity
- Increased blood clotting tendency
- Increased triglycerides
- Increased risk for type II diabetes & high blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart attack – 5-10x risk of having high LDL cholesterol!!!
I’m particularly noticing developing memory loss, reduction in motivation, and weight gain. I had attributed the weight gain only to holiday binging, the reduction in motivation only to depression, and the memory loss only to deep defense mechanisms from childhood trauma. As my study of sleep progresses, I’m realizing that without addressing sleep deprivation, I will remain far from achieving optimal wellness and preventing disease.
The good news is that my studies have led me to what I believe is a solid plan of attack. The bad news is that resolution doesn’t come in the form of an easy pill to take. For someone who has been diagnosed with psychosomatic insomnia and who struggles with self-discipline and addiction to technology, improving my sleep naturally will not come easily.
I’d like to start by sharing my starting point in the form of a 24-hour schedule. Some notes are action items, and others are for awareness’ sake.
- Wake – lunchtime: Consume 80% of daily protein intake during first two meals. Protein increases the body’s heat production, which you want to avoid when approaching bedtime. Exercising early in the day will also reduce heat in the evening.
- 8am: Breakfast supplements to include fish oil w/vitamin E & 5,000 IU vitamin D
- 12pm: Lunch supplements to include 400 mg magnesium. No more caffeine. Exposure to bright daylight with outdoor activity.
- 6pm: Dinner supplements to include 400 mg magnesium.
- 7pm: No more carbs (within 3 hours of bed), preferably no food (5-6 hours before bed is ideal).
- 9pm-10pm: No bright lights, best to limit light after sunset. No more computer, smart phone, or TV use. Sip bedtime tea (scullcap, passion flower, valerian, or hops). Horizontal 30-60 minutes before bed. Turn on essential oil diffuser with calming & relaxing oils (lavender oil, for example).
- ~Release the events of the day. Give thanks.~
- 10pm-7am: Ideal sleep time, sleep before 11pm.
- 10pm-1am: Deepest sleep (1st 3 hours), surge in growth hormone.
- 4-6am: Melatonin peak, lowest body temperature.
- Pre-8.5 hours: If you wake early, go back to sleep; stay in bed.
As I find what works for me and what doesn’t, I’ll alter my personal routine. Changes may come when I discover what’s reasonable within my lifestyle. Brad and I are night owls, so I’m sure there will be evenings when I want to indulge in some snacking with a late game of Star Realms, and in those cases, I will have to weigh my priorities depending on how severe my sleep deprivation is at the time.
I will also consider daytime tinctures and teas:
- American ginseng to cool, moisten & slightly sedate
- Vervain to sedate without inducing sleepiness, promote relaxation through parasympathetic engagement, reduce exhaustion from long-term stress
- Chamomilla and lavender to relax
- Lemon balm to lift the mood, ease mild depression & create a relaxed alertness
I’d love feedback on this sleep plan and will report back with my own experiences. This is the start of the development of my Sleep-deprivation Protocol, and I’d appreciate any comments of personal experience or research that will improve how I treat my own sleep deprivation as well as how I advise my future clients.
Bergner, P. (2003). Sleep debt: pathophysiology and natural therapeutics. Medical Herbalism: A Journal for the Clinical Practitioner, Volume 13 (3). Retrieved from http://medherb.com/bi/Issue-133-Spring-2003.pdf.pdf