For those of us struggling with sleep, whether it’s trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, we know how devastating and health robbing insomnia can be. There are no simple answers, no quick fixes, no one pill fits all -it’s a complex mental and physical problem that requires a multi-prong approach to restoring sound sleep.
Sleep is crucial for the brain, as this is when the brain detoxifies, repairs, and heals itself. New research shows that the brain has it’s own “waste management” system, which is activated during sleep – a time when our delta brain waves are most active. The brain actually shrinks and is flushed with spinal fluid, removing the toxins and debris that have accumulated over the day. Special nervous system cells called “glial” cells rush in to scavenge additional waste in and around brain cells. In addition, the brain builds new neural connections and resets the balance of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). Without good sleep, this waste management system becomes inefficient, allowing toxicity to build up in the brain. We wake up with brain fog, mood problems, poor cognitive function, and anxiety about how we are going to manage our day…
What Is Healthy Sleep?
Sleep needs vary depending on age and lifestyle, but it is generally accepted that the average adult needs between 7-9 hours. A typical, healthy sleep cycle moves through five stages during the night. Stages 1 and 2 are both light sleep in nature, where the body adjusts by lowering heart rate and internal temperature. Stages 3 and 4 signify deep sleep, where delta, our slowest brain wave takes over. Delta brain wave activity is associated with pain relief, increases in human growth hormone for growth and repair, and strengthening of your immune system. Stage 5 is REM sleep (rapid eye movement), where intense brain wave activity and dreams occur. Here theta brain waves are most active. Each cycle lasts around 1 1/2 hours and a good night’s sleep consists of 5-6 cycles, whereas disturbed sleep consists of far fewer.
What Can I Do To Improve My Sleep?
- Devise a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same hour every
night and avoid hitting the snooze button in the morning.
- Balance your blood sugar. Avoid eating sugar and foods that quickly
convert into blood sugar, especially before bedtime.
- Eat nutrient-dense foods and correct nutrient deficiencies, so you have all the raw materials to make your brain chemicals, such as serotonin, GABA, and dopamine.
- Decrease inflammation in the brain by avoiding junk food, sugar, gluten
(which has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier), and your particular food intolerances. Increase Omega 3s, and anti-inflammatory herbs and spices.
- Create a healthy gut environment by eating pre- and probiotic foods.
You need a healthy gut in order to have a healthy brain.
- Manage your stress before it manages you. We all have stress, but you
can change your mindset to not let it control you. Practice gratitude.
- Restrict your EMF exposure. Turn electronics off at least 1 hour before
bedtime and leave them out of your bedroom.
- Create a sleep sanctuary and a bedtime routine that helps you unwind
and get ready for sleep.
- Use affirmations. Turn your anxious thoughts into positive beliefs: “I am blessed with awesome sleep”. “My body is programmed to sleep and heal”. “I fall asleep with ease and sleep through the night”. Make up your own to affirm your ability to sleep well.
- Give Neurofeedback a try! Neurofeedback has the ability to balance all brain waves, including delta and theta, guiding abnormal brain wave activity back into healthy patterns. Many of our clients find they are able to sleep better after Neurofeedback training.
These are just a few steps you can take to help reset your body and mind to improve the quality of your sleep. As naturopaths and nutritionists at Total Health, we are passionate about brain health and want to help you optimize your sleep and well being. Please call me (262) 251-2929 or any of our practitioners for a free phone consultation, come and attend our NFB seminar, or make an appointment to have a very revealing brain map.
Love your brain, love your life!