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The Functional Solutions You Need to Finally Get Better Sleep

It's no secret that Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. We're working longer hours, commuting further distances, and juggling more responsibilities than ever before. And the demands of our modern lifestyle are taking a toll on our health. One of the most common underlying issues that can worsen almost every marker of health is not getting enough sleep. And it's a common complaint, with many people feeling tired all the time, but having trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep. Today, we'll explore why sleep is such an important part of health and wellness, and we'll discuss some tips for improving your sleep quality and duration.

Get to the root of underlying sleep disturbances by contacting our integrative providers today.

Help! I'm so tired but I can't sleep

Insomnia symptoms and other sleep disorders occur in as much as 50% of the population, and chronic insomnia affects as much as 30% (1). That’s a lot of people who are walking around feeling groggy.

Stress during the day, blood sugar imbalances, and possibly even a disturbance in your circadian rhythm are just a few of the things that prevent getting enough quality sleep. Getting to the root cause of your sleep disturbances can improve your quality of life in immeasurable ways, and reduce your risk of developing health complications.

How do you know if you're experiencing poor sleep? You're likely:

  • Waking up in the middle of the night
  • Feeling groggy upon waking
  • Experiencing daytime sleepiness
  • Have difficulty falling or staying asleep

Book now - Get to the root cause of sleep disturbance so you can wake feeling rested. Optimize your lifestyle, hormones, gut health, and chemistry so you can get your sleep back on track. Contact us today.

The more subtle signs you're not getting enough sleep (2,3):

  • Increased thirst
  • Worsening depression or anxiety
  • Low sex drive 
  • You're more apt to see the negative or fall into negative thought patterns easily 
  • Sugar or carb cravings

Not sleeping may be doing more harm than you realize

Today, sleep is often the first thing that suffers during times of increased stress, and the ever-mounting demands of daily life. And while you may be feeling a little groggy or unfocused that day, your body will feel the effects over time. In fact, not getting a good night's rest on a regular basis may trigger or worsen:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Neurological disorders like dementia or cognitive decline
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Diabetes, insulin resistance
  • Focus and cognition
  • Emotional regulation
  • Hormone balance
  • Weight gain

Is it possible to catch up on sleep?

To make up for a lack of sleep, some people end up sleeping abnormally late on the weekends, and/or working in an afternoon nap when possible. Yet despite trying to catch up, you’ll likely still be sleepy.

This is because the more sleep you lose, the greater your "sleep debt,” which is a very limited resource.

Getting rid of your sleep debt takes consistent effort over several days. The best way to catch up on sleep is to hit your pillow 30 minutes before your normal bedtime, instead of sleeping late, and there are a couple reasons for this.

  • Most of us are on a set schedule that begins in the morning (our day begins with time-sensitive activities like work or school), so it's more effective to front-load your sleep the night before.
  • Our circadian rhythms seem to be strengthened more by going to bed at the same time each night than by waking up at a certain time (even though it's best to stay consistent with both).

It's true that taking a nap or grabbing some extra sleep on the weekend can be better than nothing, but the best way to get back on track with your sleep is actually to do exactly that—get back on track.

Read: Whether You’re An Early Bird or Night Owl, Here’s How to Get Better Sleep

Sleep changes with age

In general, older adults wake earlier, which is commonly considered to be related to the deterioration of circadian rhythms (4). 

Hormonal changes accompanying perimenopause or menopause can also be to blame for this. As early as a woman's mid-to-late 40s, she may experience sleep disturbances that make it hard to stay asleep, and wake several times during the night. 

Sticking to a regular schedule with sleep and wake times, mealtimes, and exercise can help reinforce a healthy sleep-wake cycle. This means better, more restful sleep—and it may even increase your healthy lifespan.

Learn more about conditions we treat: Menopause or Perimenopause

Circadian rhythm disorders

Bright indoor light, TV and other devices, the internet, and so many other things keep us awake and out of sync with natural day-night patterns. As a result, many of us struggle to get adequate sleep.

Humans have 24-hour internal clocks. We are diurnal beings, and our bodies respond to light or darkness, and temperature changes that occur during the day and at night. These changes are what tell your body to make hormones that allow for sleep at night and wakefulness in the day.

Arguably, humans are hardwired into this day/night schedule, though some studies suggest that certain people's circadian rhythms may be shifted earlier or later. Circadian rhythm disorders arise when light-darkness cycles are misaligned with internal time, such as shift work sleep disorder, or delayed sleep phase disorder

Related: How to Boost Serotonin Naturally

Your gut follows your sleep cycle, too

Your gut microbiome also controls circadian rhythm. In one study, scientists found that when they transplanted gut bacteria from healthy mice into germ-free mice, the recipient mice began to follow a more normal circadian rhythm (5). Basically this showed that gut microbiota could "program" normal sleep patterns.

When your microbiome is in balance, it can help keep your circadian rhythms in check. This means that improving your gut health can also help you get better sleep!

Sleep deprivation increases "bad" bacteria within the gut microbiome

People who get less sleep per night have more pro-inflammatory gut bacteria than those who sleep more.

Poor sleep can result in overactivation of your HPA-axis, which increases intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut), and ramps up inflammation.

Want to learn more?

Daily habits you may not realize interfere with sleep

A good night’s sleep doesn’t happen by accident. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy (especially when you’re already sleep-deprived) to connect the dots to why your sleep is suffering so much. Here are some things to consider:

Alcohol

Some people swear by a ‘nightcap’ to help with falling asleep quicker, but this tactic likely backfires a few hours later. Alcohol interferes with REM sleep, which includes dreaming. Therefore, you may have trouble reaching deep, restorative sleep, and wake still feeling tired. Some experts recommend avoiding alcohol up to 4 hours before bedtime (6).

Poor sleep environment

Most sleep experts recommend keeping your bedroom cool, clean, and free of electronics. This makes for a calming space in which your mind can relax.

Anxiety

Sleep and anxiety are very intertwined. It’s not uncommon for anxiety to spike just before bedtime, or as you’re laying down to sleep. Certain herbs and supplements may be helpful for this.

Sharing your bed

Whether it’s your spouse, little ones, or a four-legged member of your family—they can all cause various disruptions to your sleep. Besides things like movement, your spouse may have different preferences (temperature, light and sound levels), so it’s worth it to be proactive and find a solution that provides both partners a good night’s rest.

Not getting enough exercise

If you have a desk job or are otherwise inactive during the day, this can lead to sleep problems. Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, duration, and can help decrease the time it takes to fall asleep (7).

Stress

About 43 percent of American adults report that stress has caused them to lie awake at night (8). Stress response and management is a highly individualized issue. If stress is affecting your ability to sleep, you can explore some of these integrative tips, or contact a provider at CentreSpringMD today.

Screen time

Light exposure at bedtime can significantly impair sleep, and children are even more sensitive to light in the evening (9). If you must use a device near bedtime, wear blue light blocking eyewear, or apply the night shift mode if available. 

Medications

Certain medications can interfere with sleep, including some prescribed for hypertension, high cholesterol, depression, and some autoimmune conditions (10). 

What should I do if I can’t sleep?

If you’ve been struggling with sleep for some time, contact a patient care coordinator at CentreSpringMD to solve the root cause issues

Everyone is an individual, and what works for some may not work for others, but these tips—practiced consistently—may help you get to sleep quickly, and achieve deep sleep.

1. Stick to a regular schedule, even on weekends.

Most importantly, one of the best things you can do for overall sleep hygiene is to have a consistent bedtime and wake time. Even on the weekends, try to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day. This will help regulate your circadian rhythm so you can readily fall asleep every night and wake up easily.

2. Try a sleep-supporting supplement.

In addition to a consistent sleep schedule, supplements that contain magnesium, GABA, or relaxing herbs are a helpful part of a relaxing bedtime routine. Clinical studies have shown that Pharma GABA® helps increase the production of alpha brain waves to create a profound sense of physical relaxation (11).

Additionally, about half of adults don’t get enough magnesium, which may make it difficult to relax both your mind and body (12). Magnesium exists in several different forms, but magnesium bisglycinate or magnesium glycinate are easily absorbed and commonly used to support restful sleep.

Browse all sleep support supplements here.

3. Avoid certain foods & drinks before bedtime.

Coffee, a glass of wine, or a super sugary dessert can all interfere with restful sleep. Limit caffeine to before 12 pm, and if you’re planning to drink—consider limiting yourself to two drinks, and make sure to have a glass of water after each.

A bedtime snack that’s a good source of protein, and a moderate source of fat—like walnuts or cottage cheese—can help stabilize blood sugar and help you stay asleep.

4. Get enough movement.

Regular exercise is a great help for solving many sleep problems. Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity and you’ll likely have an easier time falling asleep.  Just remember to leave the more intense workouts for daytime hours, and not too close to bedtime.

5. Have a solid nighttime routine, and be consistent.

Last but not least, never underestimate the importance of small changes like the above to improve your sleep habits. Your bedtime routine will be unique to your situation, but aim for dim lights, low sounds, a cup of soothing tea, and a calm, inviting bedroom. If you need extra support, don’t forget a sleep supplement, and try to avoid things that are too stimulating, like your phone, TV, or bright lights.

Get better sleep with integrative medicine

Getting a good night’s sleep can literally change your life, and it’s time to start putting in their work to make high-quality, consistent sleep a priority. You may feel like you don’t have enough time in the day as it is, but sacrificing sleep now will only lead to negative long-term health effects. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to improve your sleep and wake feeling refreshed. Start by establishing a solid nighttime wind-down routine, being consistent with your bedtime and wake-up times, avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bedtime, and staying active during the day. Try out these tips and see how they impact your energy levels during the day—you may be surprised at just how great you feel after getting a good night’s sleep!

Resources 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5353813/
  2. https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/42/2/zsy210/5155420?login=false
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12107256/
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468501121000080?via%3Dihub 
  5. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2022/fo/d1fo02716f/unauth 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775419/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4341978/
  8. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep 
  9. https://www.ajmc.com/view/any-light-exposure-before-bedtime-may-lead-to-sleep-troubles-in-young-children
  10. https://www.goodrx.com/drugs/side-effects/could-your-medication-be-causing-insomnia
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16971751/
  12. https://openheart.bmj.com/content/5/1/e000668

Tags

Functional Medicine, holistic, integrative approach, sleep


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