Sleep is an important factor for optimal health and wellness. It’s vital for proper physical, mental and emotional function and plays a crucial role in weight loss, cognition, and every other aspect of our lives. But a lot of people find it hard to sleep. Some people find it hard to hit reset at night, others don’t sleep long enough, while some people sleep well and still feel lethargic in the morning.
The unfortunate thing is that most of these sleeping disorders are ripple effects of our modern lifestyle like the lightbulb and binge TV watching which have distorted our circadian cycles and rewired our brains with regards to rest.
However, all is not lost. You can still achieve a sound sleep at night if you know what to do. Here are seven functional medicine hacks to improve your sleep quality.
Functional Medicine Hack #1 – Spend More Time Outdoors
One of the reasons why it’s so hard to fall asleep is that our lives have too many artificial lights. You can beat the problem caused by artificial light by increasing the time you spend outdoors and making sure you ground yourself (touch your bare feet to the earth) as much as possible. Be sure to open your shades when you wake up in the morning and spend more time outside during the daylight hours. When its night, try as much as possible to reduce the light. Dim your lights and turn on the night mode on your computer. As you get closer to bedtime, keep screens out of reach as much as possible and try wearing orange plastic glasses to filter the blue spectrum light if you must look at a screen before bedtime.
Functional Medicine Hack #2 – Set Your Body in Sleep Mode
There are simple things that can help ease your body into rest mode as sleep time (ideally, start winding down at least 2 hours before bedtime) gets closer. You may take a shower or bath, adding lavender essential oils to soothe you to sleep, or read a book, especially with a salt lamp. Salt lamps emit a red-colored light which is warmer and less disruptive for sleep. Make sure you stay away from electronics during this time before bed, and turn the lights DOWN so you start producing melatonin, our brain’s natural sleep hormone!
Functional Medicine Hack #3 – Make Your Room Sleep-friendly
Electronics and other distractive gadgets don’t have a place in your bedroom, as they will most likely keep you awake when you are supposed to be sleeping. Keep your computers, TVs, game consoles and other electronics out of your room. Make your room dark; you could buy blackout curtains if the light coming in from the windows won’t let you sleep well. You could also make your room a bit chilly as we are programmed to become sleepy in lower temperatures. Plus, an eye mask can fast-track the process by eliminating light from your view.
Functional Medicine Hack #4 – Keep Your Phone at a distance.
One of the effects of modern living is our addiction to our phones. Taking your phone to bed is one of the biggest mistakes you can ever make as you are most likely going to check it before you sleep. While you may only want to check the last update on your social media feed, you will find out your brain is fully alert and may end up spending a better part of the night checking status updates and trending topics. The morning after will leave you lethargic and irritable.
Functional Medicine Hack #5 – Cut Down on Caffeine
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that can mess with your sleep pattern if taken too close to your sleep time. In addition, it is a well-known fact that caffeine is a primary culprit when it comes to adrenal fatigue. While this may not be an issue for some people, you should scale back your caffeine consumption if sleeping at night is difficult. If you can’t reduce your intake, at least stop taking caffeine about four hours before bedtime. Better still, enjoy your coffee sans the caffeine. Or even better yet, check out our functional medicine tips on creating energy yourself!
Functional Medicine Hack #6 – Manage Your Stress Levels
Skyrocketing stress levels, the result of our frenzied, workaholic lifestyles is one of the clogs in the wheel of our sleep patterns. An uneasy mind may find sleep as the last exciting thing, and this becomes a vicious cycle that begets more problems that can lead to catastrophic ends. Find out the stressors in your life and deal with it decisively. If you are in a toxic relationship, try to resolve matters with the other party or leave the union. If your boss is giving you a tough time, sit down and find out why he or she won’t let you rest. Whatever it is that’s working you up is not worth losing sleep over. Sleep, because your mind and body need the rest. In the meantime, just know that there are a lot of other things you can do to manage stress, especially nutritionally. In a previous blog, we talked about our top 10 functional foods, which do just that!
Functional Medicine Hack #7 – Go to Bed Earlier
It’s important to get to bed early. There is a particular time of the night when your body is ready for sleep. If you miss that time, you may never be able to find sleep again for the night. The sad part is that not sleeping may push you closer to bad habits like late night eating or social media addiction. Even if you did the laundry or finished up some office work, your productivity will suffer in the morning, and your mood may go haywire for the rest of the day.
Functional Medicine BONUS Hack – Learn How to Wind Down
You can practice some rituals that help your body get in the mood for sleep. Some people use aromatherapy, others practice breathing exercises, and there are even guided meditation tracks that can lull you to sleep. Whatever works for you, do it as long as it helps you get a sound and restful sleep at night.
For more information on sleep, check these resources out:
And as usual, don’t feel afraid to contact the clinic for a FREE 15-Minute Health Consultation!