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Improve your Sleep Quality

Sleep is one of the most basic things we do in life. Yet for many of us, sleeping well can be such a struggle.

Sleep is so important because it affects your energy level, your mental clarity, comprehension, memory, mood, stress, hormones, inflammation, blood sugar, and the growth and repair of your body.

While the pharmaceutical world has tried to come up with a plethora of solutions for disrupted sleep or insomnia, it has also created a slue of problems including addiction to these sleep-inducing medications. Thankfully, there are other solutions and tricks to preparing your body for restful sleep that don't involve putting potentially harmful chemicals and pharmaceuticals into your body. The last thing we want is to create more problems while trying to fix one.



Here's a few simple tips:


1) Get Some Sunlight

Getting 10 to 15 minutes of daily sun exposure in the morning helps to adjust your circadian rhythm. Often for those who find it difficult to sleep at night - especially at a decent hour - the circadian clock has been disrupted or shifted and can be the cause of those who find it difficult to get to sleep at a decent hour. Sleeping late and having an early work schedule will leave you constantly feeling tired from inadequate sleep. Getting that daily sun exposure will help to reset your circadian rhythm and also reset your naturally occurring melatonin release. Melatonin is a neurochemical that is released from the hypothalamus in the brain which helps to bring about sleepiness after the sun sets.


2) Move Daily

Daily movement has many different benefits, so it is probably unsurprising that physical activity and exercise provide benefits to even improve both sleep quality and duration. Studies have noted that even a 10 minute bout of exercise or physical activity can provide both physical and mental benefits. But current recommendations by the American Heart Association (AHA) suggest 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, which translates into about 20 minutes of exercise daily.

Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise (aka cardio) carried out no later an hour and a half before bedtime can help to improve how quickly you fall asleep, improve REM (deep) sleep, duration and overall sleep quality to help you feel more refreshed and energized the next day. Even those struggling with sleep during their pregnancy can benefit from some form of exercise or physical activity to improve their sleep quality. Physical activity can include anything from doing chores around the house, gardening, walking, hiking, dancing, running, yoga, swimming, cycling, or strength training. Just pick an activity that you enjoy and move your body!


3) Sleepy Teas

Herbal teas like chamomile, passionflower, Valerian root, lavender and Magnolia bark can help to induce a calm and relaxed state to help you get to sleep. Plus, setting rituals also helps to train the body when it is time to wind down and get ready for some Zzz's. While these herbs may not directly put you to sleep, they have anti-anxiety and calming properties to help relieve some of the mental stress. Often times, when you have trouble sleeping, it's because there are a million thoughts racing through your mind and leaving you anxious and alert. Again, setting routines and rituals and including these herbal teas can help to relax your mind and prepare your body for better quality sleep.

4) Lavender

Lavender has been used as a medicinal and therapeutic remedy since the Middle Ages for insomnia, anxiety, and mood disorders. The active components of lavender are linalool, linalyl acetate and lavandulol, camphor and a few others. Many of you may have already heard of the benefits of lavender and even used it as a natural remedy for sleep issues or anxiety. There is science behind lavender's longstanding reputation and human studies support the benefits of lavender in ameliorating sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression. Lavender can be used topically on the skin, as aromatherapy, or even ingested as an encapsulated oil preparation. I personally enjoy the scent of lavender and use a dilution topically on my skin. I apply it to my wrists, temples, and forehead and massage it in throughout the day when I notice myself tense up or get anxious. For bedtime, I also have a homemade lavender spray. I spray a few spritzes over my sheets before I get into bed at night. The scent helps to relax me as I do my bedtime meditation to calm my brain before drifting off to sleep.


5) Magnesium

Magnesium can be supplemented in many forms as it has a variety of functions and benefits within the body. Magnesium Glycinate specifically helps to relax muscles and can help make it easier to fall asleep, especially for those that feel tense and exhausted and wired when it's time for bed. BUT - if you have trouble with regularity in bowel movements, you can take Magnesium Citrate instead at bedtime. This will still have a relaxing effect, but also helps to uh ..... move things along in the morning on your trip to the bathroom.


6) Melatonin

You may have heard of or even tried supplementing with melatonin before. The benefit of melatonin over prescription sleep aids, is that melatonin is a naturally occurring neurochemical that your brain produces in accordance with the circadian rhythm AND it is not an addictive substance (unlike prescription sleep aids which are extremely habit-forming).

So when it starts to get dark, your brain starts to produce and release melatonin to prepare for sleep. And in the mornings, exposure to sunlight, will allow your body to break down and recycle melatonin to leave you more awake and alert. Now the problem is, many of you may take melatonin before you go to bed and sleep just okay and wake up super groggy. That's because there is a delay in how your body uses this substance. So to get the most benefit from your melatonin supplement, try to take it at least 1.5 - 2 hours BEFORE you plan to sleep. That way, your body gets a chance to process and absorb what's needed and you won't wake up feeling groggy and fog-brained.



And remember, always consult with your doctor or certified nutritionist to clarify what dosages are right and safe for you and to avoid any potential interactions with prescription medications.

I hope that by using a few of these simple tips, you can support your body and mind to create a healthy routine to help you get to bed more easily and without the dread or frustration that comes with insomnia or poor sleep quality. I have experienced those frustrations myself and the negative effects that poor sleep - or lack of sleep - had on my health both physical and mental. Sleep is essential to detoxing the brain, resetting hormones and restoring the body to balance. Sleep is the foundation for your health and while exercise and a healthy diet are great ways to support your wellbeing, none of it will be effective until proper sleep hygiene is in place.

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