Better Sleep = Better Health. How to Improve Your Sleep With a Few Small Changes
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for maintaining good health and well-being, but for many of us it can be a struggle. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve the quality of your sleep. In this article we’ll briefly touch on the aspects of every person’s lifestyle that can affect sleep, both positively and negatively. At Rezilir, we believe that sleep hygiene is an important part of improving your general health and helping you on your way to recovery from illness.
By including some or all of the changes mentioned in this article you can drastically improve your quantity and quality of sleep, which can have a positive effect on your health and everyday life. The information we will discuss are things that can be helpful to everyone, but for individuals struggling with their sleep it is always recommended to speak to a qualified clinician to develop a customized sleep protocol.
Your Sleeping Environment and Sleep Hygiene
In addition to sleep hygiene, which will be discussed below, one of the most important and significant factors that affect your quality or sleep is your bedroom environment. An ideal sleeping environment is cool, quiet, comfortable, clean, and dark. Consider moving all electrical devices away from your bed and consider keeping your phone outside of the bedroom to avoid the temptation of using your phone in bed, including alarm clocks with jarring tones, and consider replacing them with either an alarm with softer tones or a wake light. It is additionally important to note that both the spectrum and intensity of light can cause sleep disturbances. It is recommended that you dim the lights in your living space one to two hours before bedtime. It can also be helpful to turn off overhead lights (which trick your brain into thinking the sun is up) and use lamps that are waist level or below. Incandescent red-light bulbs can also be used as they are less disruptive than white/blue light.
Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe the practices and habits that are conducive to good sleep. Optimizing your circadian rhythm is one of the most important factors for good sleep. Key factors of this include waking up at a consistent time each day, even on weekends, getting exposure to sunlight within thirty minutes of waking, ensuring any naps are concluded before 3pm, and going to bed at about the same time each night. Additionally, the consumption of food and beverages can impact your circadian rhythm in negative ways and lower your sleep quality. It is recommended that while food and alcohol should not be consumed within three hours of bedtime to allow them to be properly digested prior to sleep, caffeine intake should be stopped twelve hours or more before bedtime.
Wind down each night with a bedtime routine. Some people find practices such as meditation, journaling, reading, deep breathing, soothing music, stretching, or aromatherapy to be helpful. Avoid anything that causes stress such as watching the news, checking emails, or having stimulating conversations. It is also recommended that you refrain from doing things in bed such as watching tv, reading, studying, or anything else not related to sleeping. If you can’t fall asleep within twenty minutes, get up and move to a different room. Importantly, plan to get enough sleep. Most people need seven to nine hours; however this usually requires being in bed for eight to ten hours per night.
Cognitive Behavior and Lifestyle
There is strong evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy is a helpful tool for combatting insomnia (CBT-I). This is usually a brief form of therapy that lasts four to eight sessions, but it can have lasting results. A newer modality called neurofeedback may also be helpful by training the brain to relax and fall asleep faster. Anyone with significant sleep issues should speak to a qualified clinician about whether these options would benefit them. We know that CBT-I and neurofeedback aren’t an option for everyone, however, so YouTube is an option that is full of free content that can be surprisingly useful. Try Yoga Nidra, Andrew Huberman’s Non-Sleep Deep Rest Protocol, or self-hypnosis for sleep.
Supplements and Medications
There are several supplements that can support healthy sleep patterns, but these should only be considered after you have optimized your sleep hygiene, bedroom environment, lifestyle factors, and have spoken to a qualified clinician to determine which supplements or medications are best suited for you. It is also critical to obtain supplements from quality companies that provide 3rd party testing for purity and potency.
While melatonin is the first supplement most people think of for sleep, we generally don’t recommend taking this on a consistent basis because it is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body. Other options that are likely more helpful include some of the following:
o A mineral that plays a vital role in many physiologic functions, including sleep regulation. Magnesium threonate (2g) or magnesium glycinate/citrate (200-400mg) are popular forms that can improve sleep quality by reducing cortisol levels, calming the nervous system, and improving muscle relaxation.
o A flavonoid found in several plants, including chamomile, that has been shown to promote sleep by binding to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain, resulting in a sedative effect. Supplementing with 50mg of apigenin may help improve sleep quality and duration.
o An amino acid found in tea leaves that promotes relaxation and reduces stress levels. Supplementing with 100-400mg of L-Theanine has been shown to improve sleep quality in multiple studies1.
o A form of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) that is produced through fermentation. It has been shown to have a calming effect and can help improve sleep quality at doses of 100mg-250mg.
o A legal non-psychoactive compound found in hemp. Taking 30-100mg can be helpful for easing anxiety and promoting sleep.
o An amino acid that plays an inhibitory role in the nervous system. Taking 2-4g before bed can help improve sleep quality, with additional benefits on gut health and glutathione stores.
o Probiotics such as lacticaseibacillus paracasei Lpc-37 have been documented to reduce anxiety and improve resiliency to stress2. It may also be helpful for sleep. The gut’s connection to the brain and psychological states, called the ‘psychobiome,’ is a fascinating area of research that is just being discovered.
Regarding prescription medications, a 2022 meta-analysis of pharmaceutical medications for insomnia showed that many drugs are not effective, have significant side effects, or have unknown long-term safety data3. For example, benzodiazepines (temazepam) and nonbenzodiazepine receptor agonists (Ambien) have been used for decades to treat insomnia, but recent research suggests they may increase the risk of dementia4. Additionally, although there is a new class of medications (DORAs) that looks promising, we have no long-term safety data at this point. As such, our practice is to avoid use of any sleep medications as much as possible, however, there are rare circumstances when a short-term course may be useful.
As discussed in this article, there are many ways to improve sleep quality so you can experiment with different techniques to see what works best for you. Remember, getting enough sleep is essential for your brain and overall well-being. It is worth putting the effort needed to ensure high sleep quality. If you would like to optimize your sleep or have trouble sleeping, it’s important to speak to a qualified healthcare provider for further guidance.
For more information on Sleep Tips, please continue to watch the video below with Dr. Danny Angerbauer from Rezilir Health. For more information, please visit our website at www.rezilirhealth.com or call us at 786-780-1188.