Want to sleep better at night? Read on!
Whether it’s multiple awakenings, problems falling asleep, long waking hours during the night, and/or early rising in the morning, we now live in a full-fledged sleep-deprived society. According to the American Sleep Association (ASA), 50-70 million U.S. adults experience some sort of sleep disorder.
As a former insomniac, I can attest how destructive and scary non-sleep can be. I recall restless antagonizing nights where I’d finally fall asleep at 7 a.m., only to wake up an hour and a half later to head to work. I watched myself unravel and got so desperate that I raised my hands to the gods and offered to sleep with Morpheus, the winged god of dreams. If only he would let me back into his kingdom!
Unfortunately, the most commonly used medical approach to treat sleep disorders are prescription drugs that only mask the issue and come with side effects such as severe grogginess, addiction, and withdrawal. As I jumped down the rabbit hole of health, I discovered that understanding my own chemistry and deficiencies and choosing natural treatments could indeed help me hack my sleep cycle and get the quality rest I needed.
The journey wasn’t easy, but today we have a better understanding of the human body and the importance of homeostasis. Meanwhile, identifying pitfalls can also give you a leg up — or rather an ear down — on your condition.
For those who have trouble sleeping, keep in mind that new research reveals that Sunday is by far the cruelest night. Three times as many of us sleep badly Sunday as on any other single night, according to a Yougov poll of 4,279 Americans and Britons, commissioned by Calm, an app to help you sleep better.
“Sunday may be the day of rest but it seems (to be) the night of restlessness,” says Michael Acton Smith, co-founder of Calm. “Thursday, in contrast, seems (to be) the true night of rest.”
The biggest reason so many people sleep badly on Sundays is that the weekend is when they throw off their normal sleep routine, says Dr Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist and insomnia specialist.
Letting go of the weekend and the cozy comfort of home and returning to the less cushy environment of work is usually the trigger for Sunday night poor sleep.
Sleep disruption is rooted in “separation anxiety,”adds Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent. “When we are stressed, going through major changes, or life transitions the first place we see symptoms is in sleep disruption.”
In 2017 there are a lot of newfangled natural treatments to help you sleep better and get your zzzz. Here are six.
While technology gets a bad name when it comes to sleep, there are ironically several apps out there that help, which you can easily download to your smartphone. I have chosen just a few that I’ve personally discovered help me sleep better.
Calm, a California-based meditation app, recently launched its own new natural sleep aid in the form of bedtime stories for grown-ups called Sleep Stories. Calm’s 30+ sleep-inducing tales mix soothing words, music, and sound-effects to help adult listeners wind down and drift off to dreamland. They have now been listened to over 10 million times since their launch at the end of 2016.
They’ve since released Baa Baa Land, the dullest movie ever made.; an eight-hour slow-motion film with no plot, dialogue, or actors — a contemplative epic, entirely starring … sheep.
“It’s better than any sleeping pill – the ultimate insomnia cure,” says Alex Tew, Baa Baa Land’s executive producer and co-founder of Calm.
If sheep aren’t your thing, you could just try watching Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day.
Studies illustrate that mind-calming practices that focus on breathing and awareness of the present moment can help you sleep better.
Muse is a nifty brain-sensing headband that offers you real-time EEG feedback while you meditate. The feedback guides you to a deeper focus and a more rewarding and enjoyable meditation practice. By listening to what is actually happening in your brain, you can experience all the health benefits meditation has to offer. And when your mind wanders away from your breath, Muse will sense it and cue you back.
Meditation will not only help sleep better but help you achieve an improved mental state. As a bonus, you can save your findings and if you let the headband peer into your head and succeed in remaining calm for a sustained amount of time, you’ll earn accolades such as a Birds of Eden Award.
3. Thync Relax Pro
Let digital drugs annihilate sleep and anxiety medications. This app also comes with a triangular apparatus you place at the base of the neck.
“Thync Relax Pro puts you in a relaxed, calm state so you can fall asleep easily and stay asleep,” says CEO Isy Goldwasser, who started Thync with a vision of creating the first personal technology to interact directly with the brain.
Neurostimulation offers a drug-free way to activate mental, emotional, and physical abilities we possess. Our most consistent and powerful effect is to lower stress and anxiety by reducing sympathetic tone (fight or flight stress response).
The device works by modulating cranial and spinal nerve pathways using a combination of targeted electrode placement and proprietary transdermal electrical neuromodulation waveforms. These nerve pathways modulate stress levels, mood, and sleep cycles.
“Thync Relax Pro has really helped improve my quality of sleep,” attests Ivy Palencia of Los Angeles. “It has also encouraged me to engage in mindfulness activities to enhance my experience such as doing guided meditation, body scan, and deep breathing exercises.”
Our body actually projects its own magnetic fields, and all 70 trillion of our cells communicate via electromagnetic frequencies. Additionally, every organ produces its own signature bioelectromagnetic field.
Now consider that anything electrical (e.g., power lines, communications towers, computers, TVs, cell phones, fluorescent lighting, microwave ovens, etc.) can impact your atoms and being — and not in a positive way. Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are disruptive to cell metabolism, chemistry, and consequently tissue function.
PEMFs (Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields) are usually administered by a device that you can lie down on or via an applicator you can bend and mold to apply to different areas of the body.
PEMFs deliver beneficial, health-enhancing EMFs, penetrating every cell, tissue, organ and even bone without being absorbed or altered, explains Dr. William Pawluk, M.D., family physician, holistic health practitioner, and leading international authority on PEMFs.
PEMFs are also able to entrain the brainwaves to induce sleep (or alertness/focus, for that matter). Since the brain is like a radio receiver, it seeks to synchronize itself with a dominate atmospheric frequency. PEMF therapy can provide this dominant frequency in any of the brainwave states — for sleep, this would be low Theta or Delta — and the brain will tune itself to that frequency, causing the person to become drowsy, adds Pawluk.
In one double-blind study, after just four weeks of PEMF treatment, 70 percent of patients experienced “substantial or complete relief” while another 24 percent reported “clear improvement” in their insomnia.
Keeping It All Natural
5. Plant Compound Better Known As CBD
Basically this plant compound interacts with our own cannabinoid receptors, primarily located in the brain. The newly discovered endocannabinoid system in our body has broad influence over areas of the brain involved in sensations such as pain perception, movement, emotion, cognition, and sleep.
“Research done on CBD indicates that it does not act on the existing receptors but rather triggers the body to use more of its own receptors,” explains Parinaz Samimi, sleep and wellness expert with Sleepys.
Early research also suggests that CBD consumption may block rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Such an effect may be more related to CBD’s anxiolytic (anxiety-inhibiting) properties than direct sleep regulation, per se. The studies that have been done on CBD actually show that it activates the same adenosine receptors as stimulants like caffeine and hence increases wakefulness and decreases the amount of deep sleep (slow wave and REM) a person gets.
While the basis for this CBD-and-sleep theory is largely made in rodent studies, some research has been done on sleep-impaired but otherwise healthy humans. And if it’s any reassurance, it’s certainl helped me sleep better as well as helped me kick my reliance on Xanax.
In a 1981 Brazilian study, researchers at the Escola Paulista de Medicina in São Paulo assigned 15 insomniacs to a CBD dose (ranging between 40 mg and 160 mg), placebo, or nitrazepam (a hypnotic drug indicated for relief from anxiety and insomnia). With the highest CBD dose, sleep significantly increased, although dream recall was reduced, compared to placebo. The reduction of dream recall is presumably due to a reduction of REM sleep, wherein dreams are most active.
Not only does CBD indirectly influence endocannabinoid receptors, it also has an affinity for activating serotonin receptors (specifically 5-HT1A), which control anxiety, calmness, and mood; vanilloid receptors, which control and modulate how we experience pain; and adenosine receptors, which control the quality and depth of our sleep.
We’ve Got The Blues
6. Blue-Blockers And Screen-Related Disorders
Taking selfies at night may mess up your beauty sleep. Yup; an overwhelming body of new research has found that screens (high energy digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and TVs) emit a harsh blue light that can wreak havoc on our circadian rhythm function (our body clock), suppressing melatonin levels, and trick our brains into thinking it’s time to stay awake, not time to sleep.
Melatonin is the hormone that makes us sleepy. About one or two hours before your normal bedtime, a small gland in your brain, the pineal gland, begins to produce melatonin. But melatonin is only adequately produced as our day winds down, and light turns to dark.
“Blue light from electronics causes people sleep difficulties even though they might not realize it,” says Dr. Catherine Darley of The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine.
Over the past few years, blue light blocker glasses have become a popular, inexpensive way to combat blue light for improved sleep while also reducing the “buzz” that often comes from staring at a bright computer screen. These orange tinted glasses are recommended to be worn 90 minutes before bedtime.
“The benefits of blue light blocking glasses are immense and varied,” says Dr. Joseph Michael Mercola, an alternative medicine proponent and osteopathic physician. “In my view the primary benefit is to prevent damage to the DHA essential fat in your retinal pigmented epithelium, which is responsible for converting sunlight into vital DC electric current your body needs.”
Sleep Better And Beat Insomnia With Some Combos
If you’re devoted to sleep better, consider combining several of these methods. I personally start my morning with Muse and meditation. In the evening, I bust out my blue blockers and take some CBD, topping off the night with Thync Relax Pro.
Morpheus here we come.