Sleeping Tips | Natural Ways to Fall Asleep Fast
Sleep loss has become a common theme in today’s society.
Currently, there are 50-70 million Americans suffering from some type of sleep disorder1.
There are also 100,000 deaths each year that occur due to a direct lack of sleep1.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that more than one third of the adults in the U.S. get less than 6 hours of sleep per night.
If these statistics aren’t staggering enough, sleep deprivation is linked to a whole host of health disorders.
Decreased sleep leads to a higher risk for the development of heart problems, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, weight gain, stress and even poor cognition.
Research has found a link between reduced sleep and adverse metabolic effects related to cardiovascular disorders such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension2.
I devote a whole chapter to the importance of sleep in my book, The Paleo Cardiologist: The Natural Way to Heart Health.
So if you find yourself having trouble falling asleep or reaching for ways to stay asleep all night, it may be time to change up your diet and lifestyle.
Why is sleep important?
Adequate sleep is needed for all of the physiological and biochemical reactions to occur in the body. Our bodies need quality sleep to regulate the hormones that keep our bodies properly functioning.
Our bodies need adequate sleep to rejuvenate, heal and fully function. Without proper sleep, our bodily reactions are disrupted.
This is why one of the biggest impacts on your metabolism is the amount and quality of sleep that you get.
Furthermore, high-quality sleep is needed for your overall well-being including your physical and mental health as well as your diet choices. Studies are suggesting there could be a potential link between the foods you consume and the level of sleep quality you obtain3.
Getting enough sleep each night is imperative to digestion, strengthening the immune system, repairing tissues, warding off illness, balancing hormones, detoxing the body and energy.
Quality sleep is dependent on the body’s natural circadian rhythms.
What is the circadian rhythm?
Circadian rhythm is our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. It is a 24-hour clock in the body that regulates the periods of sleepiness and alertness. This cycle is responsible for the periods of day where you feel energized and alert or drowsy and sleepy.
The hypothalamus in the brain is the control center for this cycle. Yet there are specific factors that can interfere with this process (see below).
Darkness and lightness are the two most important regulators in the sleep/wake cycle.
Darkness signals your eyes to signal to your brain that it’s getting tired. Your brain then signals the body with a release of the hormone melatonin to promote sleep.
The circadian cycle coincides with daytime and nighttime. There are proven tactics to boost the functionality of this cycle and stimulate better sleep.
What are some common sleep-disrupting factors?
- Artificial lights (blue light)
- Lack of physical activity
- Unhealthy diet
- Working night shifts
- Thyroid disorder
- Sleep apnea
What can you do to enhance sleep?
- Eat a healthy diet
There are certain nutrients that promote sleep. Eating a diet balanced with nutrient-dense foods and avoiding processed foods is key to good sleep.
- Exercise regularly
Exercise during the day regularly (but avoid exercising within three hours of going to bed). Exercise can reduce incidence of insomnia because it can lower stress hormones, decrease anxiety and regulate body temperature.
- Expose yourself to the sunshine daily
A daily dose of sunshine is what the doctor ordered. It is needed to produce enough melatonin during the daytime. You need enough sunshine to produce enough melatonin for at night. Melatonin is the key hormone that helps your body know when it is time for sleep and when it is time to be awake.
- Relax and unwind
High levels of stress inhibit sleep. Take time before bedtime each day to relax and unwind from the stressors of your day. Relax with de-stressing activities such as mediation, yoga, reading or talking with your spouse.
- Have a mocktail, not a cocktail
Alcohol is a known stimulant. It can make you feel sleepy at first but once your body begins to break it down it will have stimulatory effects. Avoid drinking alcohol prior to bedtime. Choose healthy alternatives such as chamomile tea (which is also heart-healthy) or a turmeric latte.
- Eliminate electronics at least one hour before bed
Avoid exposure to blue light whenever you can, especially before bed. This light disrupts sleep patterns due to its effects on the eyes and signals to the brain.
- Adjust the temperature
If your room is too hot or too cold it could impede your sleep. Studies have shown that temperatures less than 65 degrees and greater than 75 degrees could impair quality of sleep. Find your perfect sleeping temperature.
- Black it out
At night, it is best to sleep in darkness. Avoid light exposure and rid your room of electronics. Create a peaceful, sleeping environment. You could even consider room-darkening shades or a fan for white noise. Save the bed for sleep. Don’t eat, work or use electronics in it.
- Create a routine for sleep
Go to bed and wake up the same time each day to establish a healthy sleeping pattern. Follow the ways of our ancestors and sleep with sundown and awake to sunrise. This helps to support and regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythms.
What are the 5 best foods for sleep?
- Cherries (Sleep Nutrient: Melatonin)
Cherries are one of the only natural sources of a key sleep compound called melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone used to regulate the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle.
One study reported that elderly experience significantly lower levels of melatonin production and a poorer quality of sleep4.
Increase your sleep quality with a natural source of melatonin- cherries!
- Bananas (Sleep Nutrient: Potassium)
Bananas are full of the relaxation-promoting mineral, potassium. They also have adequate levels of tryptophan and magnesium, which could help contribute to a better nights rest, as well. Bananas also contain high levels of vitamin B6, a precursor to making melatonin (the sleep hormone).
Potassium is a mineral that promotes relaxation and sleep.
- Almonds (Sleep Nutrient: Magnesium)
Magnesium in almonds helps to stimulate better sleep and muscle relaxation.
One cup of almonds has an impressive 61% of the recommended daily value of magnesium. Almonds are one of the top magnesium-rich foods.
A study found that magnesium supplementation in patients resulted in improved sleep quality including time of sleep and efficiency of sleep as compared to the control group5.
- Kiwi (Sleep Nutrient: Seretonin)
Seretonin, folate and vitamins E and C (antioxidants) are all natural sleep nutrients found within this kiwi.
Seretonin is a hormone that functions as an important neurotransmitter that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. When serotonin levels are abnormal, sleep disturbances can occur.
A study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when subjects consumed two kiwi fruits one hour before bed nightly for four weeks they reported significant increases in quality of sleep and duration of sleep6.
- Eggs (Sleep Nutrient: Tryptophan)
Eggs are full of essential protein and that includes the essential amino acid tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning that humans cannot synthesize it but rather must obtain it in the diet.
The importance of tryptophan and sleep is highlighted by the fact that tryptophan is a precursor to making the sleep hormone melatonin and the neurotransmitter serotonin, both of which regulate sleep.
Eggs actually have some of the highest amounts of tryptophan present in foods.
What are the best supplements for sleep?
Relax powder contains a unique array of ingredients that supports the brain’s ability to boost neurotransmitters that promote relaxation and sleep. It works just like sleeping pills do: to boost the function of the GABA neurotransmitter and increase sleep quality.
Calm contains phenibut, which is a derivative of GABA, the inhibitory neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and an overall feeling of calm. This compound has been shown to decrease stress, reduce anxiety and improve impaired sleep.
Magnesium is one of the most powerful minerals for relaxation and sleep. Anything that is stiff or tense is a sign of a magnesium deficiency. Insomnia can be due to a low level of intracellular magnesium. Supplementing with the right type of magnesium can improve your ability to fall asleep and to stay asleep.
A good multivitamin contains a balance of essential vitamins and minerals. Our evidence-based multi contains key compounds to promote stabilization of mood and sleep. It has lithium, which can increase serotonin levels and improve sleep. This multi contains magnesium, which is needed for relaxation and quality sleep. This product also contains calcium, which can help the body regulate its melatonin activity and level of sleep. Lastly, our multi also contains selenium, a trace mineral needed for healthy sleeping patterns.
Summary of information:
- Good sleep is required for great health.
- Sleep quality is directly related to how well your body functions and your risk for disease development.
- Diet and lifestyle play key roles in sleep health. Avoid certain sleep-disrupting factors, choose to sleep-promoting foods, get supplements, and expose yourself to sunshine daily for the best sleep yet.
For more information about the health impacts of sleep, I recommend the book, Why We Sleep. This New York Times bestseller is a compelling and comprehensive dive into the purpose and power of sleep.
- American Sleep Association: https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-statistics/
- Knutson, 2010: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21112022/
- St. Onge et al., 2016: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27633109
- Lemoine et al., 2007: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18036082
- Abasi et al., 2012: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23853635
- Lin et al., 2011: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21669584