1. Develop a regular sleep-wake cycle and sleep in complete darkness. Why?
- Melatonin is released from the pineal gland and it regulates the body’s internal sleep-wake clock. The sleep-wake cycle influences the hormonal secretions from the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal glands, liver, ovaries etc. If you have a variable sleep cycle, you alter the normal circadian (daily) rhythm of your body, and thus the appropriate secretion of hormones.
- The photon sensors in the eyes are incredibly sensitive; they can detect even a single photon! When the photon receptors are detecting light, they send a signal to the pineal gland to lower production of melatonin. When the production of melatonin drops, the sleep-wake cycle changes and with it the circadian rhythms of all the hormones in the body
i. SOLUTION: Wind down before bed. Because of lights, television, computers and radio, we ignore signals from our body that tell us to go to bed. Turn the lights down (use candles), turn your TV, radio, cell phone and/or computer OFF 1 – 1 ½ hours before bed. This decreases the input signals to your brain and allows your nervous system a chance to relax. Read a book. Talk to a loved one. Meditate. Do deep breathing exercises.
ii. SOLUTION: go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time every morning. The physiology of the human body relies on rhythms and cycles. Hormone release is based on rhythms and cycles. The easiest way to get your body back in a rhythm is to create a consistent sleep-wake cycle. You do not have to be fascist about it – you can go out on a weekend and stay up later, but the bulk of your nights and mornings should be consistent. Set an alarm if you need a reminder to go to bed, even if you don’t feel tired. Your mind and body will adapt. Set a morning alarm if you need one. Soon enough, alarms will become obsolete for you.
iii. SOLUTION: Sleep in complete darkness. This means: no light from the hallway or window – buy black-out curtains. No light from LEDs (fire alarm, clocks, computer screens, radios, cell phones etc). Complete darkness means that if you wave your hand in front of your face you cannot see it – you can only sense it.
NOTE: the only time this changes is around the full moon – for men and women. Open the curtains the day before, the day of and the day after the full moon. Just as going to bed and getting up at the same time daily supports your circadian rhythms, this supports your monthly rhythm – yes, MEN, you too have monthly rhythms!
2. Sleeping Environment is as important as setting a sleep schedule. Why?
A) TEMPERATURE: The temperature of the bedroom strongly influences the nocturnal physiology of the body. Within a certain range of both ambient temperature and the bed microclimate temperature, together known as the ‘thermal comfort zone,’ the quantitative measures of sleep (number and duration of nightly awakenings, time taken to fall asleep, time spent in each phase of sleep, hormone levels) are only slightly modified. One must take into consideration not only the ambient air temperature, but also the temperature inside the bed which is based on pyjamas, sheets and blankets. Ideally, the thermal comfort zone that results in minimal sleep disturbances and longer hours spent in REM sleep is a bed temperature around 30°C and an ambient room temperature of less than 19°C. Of note, fever has been found to be associated with a greater number of awakenings, increased total waking time and reduced amounts of REM sleep. An elevated ambient temperature induces very similar effects on these stages of sleep! High bedroom temperatures depress REM sleep.
i. SOLUTION: Put a thermometer in your bedroom and set the ambient temperature to 19°C.
ii. SOLUTION: Take a thermometer (mercury is best) to bed, get under the covers and put it next to your body but outside your pyjamas – DON’T FALL ASLEEP with it in bed! After 30 minutes, measure the microclimate of your bed. It should be around 30°C. If it is too low, you need more layers; if it is too high, you need to remove some layers.
B) ELECTROMAGNETICS (EM): Medicine is beginning to question the safety of electromagnetic loads on health. Dr. Thomas Rau, Medical director of the world renowned Paracelsus Clinic in Lustmuhle, Switzerland, is convinced electromagnetic exposure can lead to headaches, concentration problems, ADD, tinnitus, migraines, insomnia, arrhythmias, Parkinson’s, hormonal imbalances, to name a few. Although the science and debate of electromagnetic loads is beyond the scope of this paper (see below for more information), reducing electromagnetic pollution in the bedroom is a must! Many individuals experience electrical sensitivity and are unaware of how they are being affected. Beyond simple sensitivity is the effect of metals in the mouth or worn as jewellery – all metals act like antennas in an EM field.
i. SOLUTION: Do not wear jewellery or other metal items in the bedroom.
ii. SOLUTION: Have any metal dental work removed by a knowledgeable biological dentist who has the proper equipment to protect you from further mercury exposure.
iii. SOLUTION: Remove all electronics from the bedroom, especially TVs, cell phones, radios and computers.
iv. SOLUTION: Move your bed at least 3 feet away from any electrical sockets, or better yet, turn off the breaker before going to bed (you’ll need a flashlight).
v. SOLUTION: Have an Electropollution Specialist assess your home for EM loads.
- Healthy Home Consulting – 778-862-0809 (Farren Lander, MA)
vi. For more information on Electromagnetic Pollution, visit these websites:
C) CO-SLEEPING: In today’s society, sleeping with your partner/mate is expected. However, it wasn’t always so. Not so long ago, the marriage bedroom was for intimacy alone. Husbands and wives slept in separate chambers. With the arrival of the industrial revolution and a mass movement of people towards urban centers, living quarters became much smaller. Now it is the norm for couples to sleep together. But is this the best arrangement for sleeping? For some couples yes, for others no. If your partner snores, talks in his/her sleep, thrashes about, prefers a different ambient room temperature, prefers more/less covers, wants a light on, watches a TV or uses a computer in bed, goes to bed later than you, gets up earlier than you, is a heavier sleeper than you – he or she may be affecting your quality of sleep. Research has shown that a better sleep is linked to more positive ratings of relationship quality and negative relationship interactions are linked to poor sleep quality. One can ascertain the vicious cycle that might ensue from such a correlation.
i. SOLUTION: Settle conflicts before going to bed.
ii. SOLUTION: Avoid confrontational discussions on days after which one or both partners has had a poor sleep.
iii. SOLUTION: If your partner wakes you because of any of the above-mentioned reasons (snoring, thrashing, different sleep-wake cycle etc) you should seriously consider developing an arrangement in which one or both partners have access to a different sleeping area. Such arrangements, once the norm, not only provide each individual with a personally tailored sleep chamber, but have also been shown to help improve intimacy! Better sleep, better relationship! You can always snuggle on the couch before bed, and join each other in the morning for breakfast – you might even get breakfast in bed!
3. Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep)
- Talk to your naturopathic physician as there are a number of factors that contribute to insomnia.
- Following these guidelines will probably relieve 90% of sleep difficulties and visualization will take care of the remaining 10%:
- Eliminate medical problems (including dependency on sleeping pills or alcohol, depression)
- Avoid stimulants or stimulating activity after dinner (mental or physical) – 2 hours before bed
- No naps or going to bed early, even if you’ve had a restless night
- Use your bed for sleeping and sex only to eliminate wakeful associations
- Correct your sleeping environment (temperature, air, comfortable, dark and quiet)
- Get up if not asleep in 15 min and read or do something quiet until extremely drowsy, then go back to bed, repeat as needed until success
- Use thought stopping and breath counting to silence worries
Sleep deprivation is an oft-overlooked factor of many conditions. In today’s society we are often overtired not only because of our hectic schedules, but because we are not getting the right amount or kind of sleep we need. If you suspect that your sleep (or lack thereof) might be contributing to your symptoms, talk to your Naturopathic Physician. He or she can help you improve not only the quality and quantity of your sleep, but also the quality of your daily life!