"In a survey of men and women aged 37 and older, 62% of them reported that they consistently did not sleep well."
In this post, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist, takes a look at ways to naturally improve your sleep. We will talk about the possible reasons why it’s so much harder to fall asleep and stay asleep as we get older, and then review the best mattress, pillows, and lifestyle tips to help you get more sleep.
- 4:25: Why aren’t we sleeping?
- 6:12: Stress
- 8:10: Inflammation
- 12:06: What can we do to get a better night sleep?
- 12:50: Mattresses
- 16:40: Sleep Trivia
- 25:00: Pillows
- 28:16: Weighted Blanket
- 30:15: Natural remedies you can integrate to help you sleep better
- 33:36: Wrap Up
Sleep is so wonderful when we can get it. There is nothing better than getting all cozy underneath the covers and settling in for a great night’s rest. Even better is the feeling when you wake up refreshed and ready to charge into the day. But for many of us, that feeling is illusive. In a survey of men and women aged 37 and older from 13 countries around the world, 62% of them reported that they consistently did not sleep well. On the flip side, only 10% of those people who were surveyed reported that they were good sleepers.
Why aren’t we sleeping?
The number one reason why people aren’t getting enough sleep is stress. Mentally, you cannot turn off your brain, and physically you might be suffering as well; maybe your heart is now racing from all of that stress, because your adrenal glands are in overdrive, releasing cortisol, trying to calm you down so you can finally get a little bit of rest. Stress can also cause headaches, as well as other aches and pains, especially in the shoulder and neck areas. Not getting a good night’s sleep can set the stage for this pattern to continue, and you can wake up time and time again feeling stiff and then still suffering from that headache or all of those other aches in the body.
Lack of sleep has been positively correlated to inflammatory conditions like arthritis, and has even been linked to certain types of cancers. Reducing your inflammation is going to help you lead a happy and healthy life. Always remember our equation of health, which is: Less Inflammation In + More Inflammation Out = Healthier You.
When the body is inflamed, it is naturally responding to something harmful whether that is a virus, bacteria, or some sort of toxin. Inflammation is your immune system’s natural way of fighting things off that do not belong in your body. This can result in stiff joints, muscles, chills, fever, and even swelling. For this reason, you don’t want to remain consistently in that inflamed state.
In addition to diet and stress, poor sleep or lack of sleep can lead to excessive inflammation in the body. If you don’t sleep right, and eat right, and then you are frequently stressed, you’re going to feel aches and pains and headaches and you’re not going to feel optimal.
Studies have found that sleep and inflammation function on the same biorhythms within the body. Our circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle in which the body naturally moves from sleep to wake and back again. It’s the internal clock, and they drive hormones, brain activity, cell regeneration, and energy levels. The circadian rhythms can be affected by things like light; when it is dark outside, your brain signals you to feel tired. When you watch TV late at night, that bright light will send a signal to your brain that it’s time to wake, which is not true because it is in fact dark out. This can cause you to be up all night because your circadian rhythm is turned off and your optic nerve is stimulated by the blue light.
- If you live till 75, you will have spent 25 years — a third of your whole entire life — in bed sleeping.
- Lots of birds of prey don’t need any sleep. Bullfrogs don’t need any sleep, and ostriches sleep with both eyes open. Giraffes and horses sleep only two hours per day and elephants sleep three to four hours just like deer. Whales, seals, and dolphins never fall asleep fully. Half their brain stays awake so that they can continue to go to the surface to breathe.
- The world record for sleep deprivation is 266 hours, held by Tony Wright in 2007.
- When sleeping, everyone dreams four to six times each night. 90% of people forget their dreams.
- The most common emotion that people feel when they’re dreaming is anxiety. This signals that we’re really stressed. What you dream about is just replaying what you know, see, or feel throughout the day.
- A normal person or average adult takes an average of 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep each night. If you fall asleep in less than 10 minutes, scientists say that you are sleep deprived.
- Pulling all-nighters — or not sleeping for about 16 hours — can make you behave as if you had a blood alcohol level of .05%. So your concentration and decision making skills seriously decline.
- For most people, sleep is shorter and more interrupted on the day of a full moon.
- Studies show that people who sleep between 6.5 and 7.5 hours per night live longest, across culture and genders. People who sleep less than 6.5 and more than 8 hours do not live not as long.
What can we do to get a better night sleep?
Believe it or not, less is more when it comes to a good night’s sleep. Think of good night sleep as a sport. You need the right equipment to succeed. You’re not going to show up to a baseball game with a basketball, or run a race in high heels. The same rings true for sleep. You’re not going to sleep well on the couch when you know our legs are hanging off the edge, and there is inadequate pillow support or no support for the spine. You need to be sleeping on a mattress that is going to promote the best quality of sleep for you.
When you are looking to select a quality mattress, you need to look for a mattress that allows your spine to relax and come into proper alignment, and something that feels good when you crawl into it. You don’t want a mattress that the springs are coming out of, or one that’s dipped in the middle. There is a lot of care you can take for your mattress.
A medium to firm mattress works for most people. Find a mattress that allows your spine to relax and then come into proper alignment. What you’re looking for here is an adequatesupport. What you don’t want is a mattress that does not support your hips, or sinks in the hip area. You want to feel bolstered in the hip area. A supportive mattress should feel comfortable at the various pressure points located throughout the body; the head, shoulders, hips, and knees.
A supportive mattress should allow the muscles to relax, most importantly in the back region. Your mattress should feel like a giant exhale of relief when you crawl into bed at night. It should feel good. If you find that you are even stiffer after waking up from a night’s rest, then that’s a major flag that your mattress will not provide you long-lasting support.
Finding the right mattress is a little trickier than you might think. Look for a mattress made from high-quality materials. This usually equates to more money being spent, but if you skimp on low-quality mattresses, you may be spending even more in the long run than what you would have if you bought a quality mattress.
There are so many different mattress options to choose from; spring, air, and even water. Be sure to do your research and test a few mattresses to make sure that you're choosing the most supportive and comfortable mattress for you.
Pillows often elevate your neck and head too much and this can put undue pressure on the spine. It can also cut off important airwaves while you sleep. If you are going to use a pillow, there are a few things that you should note.
- You should be replacing your pillow at least every 18 months. Do a quick pillow-check and see if you notice any sweat stains, tearing, drool or if it smells. If you answered yes to any of the above, it is time to toss that pillow out. Go out and get a new one. Because you make skin contact with your pillow 7-8 hours per night, 365 days a year, it’s going to collect sweat, saliva, dust mites, fungus, facial grease, mildew, and dead skin cells. These can all trigger allergic reactions which can be hazardous to your health.
- Another way to tell if it’s time for a new pillow, is to fold it in half. If it doesn’t immediately spring back to life, it’s time for a new one.
- When choosing a new pillow, you want to choose one that, like a good mattress, is going to give you adequate support. Your pillow, along with your mattress, should help maintain good alignment in your spine. Do your research when it comes to choosing the right pillow. There are lots of options to choose from (wool, cotton, memory foam, down) not to mention size, fabric and the weight of the pillow.
If you have pets frightened of bad weather, you may be familiar with Thunder shirts, which are used to calm them. This is a weighted blanket that you can put over your pet to relieve stress and anxiety, and is effective in calming your pet during a storm or fireworks. It works by applying gentle but constant pressure to the pet’s torso, and this relieves anxiety and fear.
There is an equivalent of this for humans; a weighted blanket. It’s a wonderful device to help calm a wired and tired mind. A weighted blanket can weigh anywhere from 4 pounds to 30 pounds. It mimics the feeling of a gentle hug. It is much like being swaddled like a baby or receiving a massage. The effect is gentle pressure that can help take you from tension to a softer mode. The fight-or-flight mode is the overproduction of cortisol in our adrenals, and you want to get out of that mode and transition to a softer rest mode, which can lead to a good night’s sleep.
Natural remedies you can integrate to help you sleep better
In addition to choosing a good mattress and a good pillow, there are some natural remedies you can integrate to help you sleep better.
Aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night
Too much sleep can actually be detrimental in the long run. Adults typically get an average of seven hours of sleep. On weekends, maybe that number might jump to eight or ten. The key is to make sure that you get a good night’s sleep most nights and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Our bodies like structure and routine to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.
Turn off the blue light from your smart devices
Blue light insomnia is a condition that occurs when you look at TV screens or smart phone screens or other electronic devices late at night. Doing so can reduce your body’s ability to produce melatonin and alter the body’s natural circadian rhythm. The body is tricked by the blue light into thinking it is daytime, and the brain is stimulated, which can contribute to getting a poor night’s sleep.
Get your daily Vitamin D dose
Make sure that you get enough bright light or sun exposure each day can help keep your circadian rhythm in proper working order. You need 20 - 30 minutes of sunlight each day, or a good plant-basedVitamin D3 supplement (or both).
Cut out the caffeine
If you cannot kick the habit altogether, make caffeine quitting time early enough in the day that you won’t be up all night. If you suffer from insomnia, or you are getting very little sleep constantly, you may want to just cut out the caffeine altogether so that you can sleep soundly at night. Also try not to eat late at night, as this can really impact sleep and keep you up at night longer. It can also have effects on your hormones and the melatonin release within the body.
Take a relaxing bath
Taking a soothing bath or even a nice shower can help you sleep better at night. If you are a morning bather, then soak your feet in hot water for an hour before bed time and throw in a drop of lavender oil, and you will be sleeping like a baby in no time.
Take a natural sleep supplement
Try a natural supplement with 4.5 milligrams of melatonin that can help promote falling asleep and staying asleep. Anything more than that could leave you feeling more groggy the next day.Smarter Sleep has a great formula that includes the melatonin as well as bioactive milk peptides, which have been shown to improve sleep in studies.
Over half of the people polled in a sleep study that spanned 13 countries reported that they do not get an adequate night’s sleep. If you’re one of them, you are not alone in sleep deprivation. However, there are natural tips that we can follow to correct this.
A supportive mattress and pillow are essential to maintaining proper spine alignment which should translate into better sleep. If you wake up well-rested but stiff, you’re not sleeping on an adequate support system. Try a weighted blanket to help you sleep. You will feel like you are wrapped up in a wonderful, gentle hug.
There are a couple of other things you should try in order to get a good night’s sleep. These include getting up at the same time every day, including weekends, reducing the amount of screen time that you expose yourself to, especially late at night, taking a soothing bath or shower an hour before bedtime, and taking a natural, gentle sleep supplement.