When I was young and living with my future in-laws in Norway, my to-be mother-in-law would ask me each morning, “Did you sleep well?” Being a woman in my early twenties, I remember thinking, “Why is she so concerned about sleep?” As I later found out, my mother-in-law often struggled with sleeping, and the problem progressed as she aged.
In today’s day and age, my mother-in-law’s story is all too common. One in three adults in the United States report getting less than seven hours of sleep per night, and approximately 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. Furthermore, these already-high rates are on the rise.
Poor sleep habits may in part be due to long work hours, night shifts, technology and chronic illnesses, like obesity and depression. But there is also another factor at play. As we age, the body’s natural production of melatonin decreases, starting around the age of forty. Since melatonin is the prime regulator of our internal “body clock,” this decrease can have a profound impact on our sleep.
Regardless of the status of your melatonin production, there are ways to improve our sleep habits. Here are ten tips for getting some of that elusive shut-eye:
Tip 1. Our bodies thrive on “sameness.” As boring as it sounds, go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning. Having a regular sleeping schedule promotes better sleep.
Tip 2. Log off all electronic devices before 10 pm, which is about the time the pineal gland begin secreting melatonin into the bloodstream. The body produces melatonin partly in response to darkness. Unfortunately, light pollution from various devices like laptops, smartphones or the TV interfere with the body’s natural production of melatonin. Even just a few seconds of exposure can make it harder for you to enter deep sleep.
Tip 3. Your melatonin production is also influenced by what you do during the day. The circadian system, which is partly controlled by melatonin, responds to both light and dark exposure over a 24 hour period. So go outside and expose your eyes to real daylight when you wake up in the morning and take a “sun break” instead of a coffee break during your work day.
Tip 4. Tweak your eating pattern to avoid heavy meals two to three hours prior to bedtime. Why? Your cortisol levels increase when you digest food, keeping you out of deep sleep. My son-in-law, for example, doesn’t get home from work until 7pm, so it often gets to be late before they eat dinner. If you normally don’t get home from work until 7 or 8 pm, try flipping your eating pattern so that you eat earlier in the day and then add a light snack for dinner. Exercise can have a similar effect on cortisol, so it’s often best to get your workout done earlier in the day.
Tip 5. Give yourself 15 to 20 minutes to relax before bedtime. If you are still wide awake by the time 20 minutes rolls around, then get up and move to another room. Maybe find a comfortable lounge chair, sofa or another bed. Anything is better than tossing back and forth with insomnia.
Tip 6. It is important to build up a positive sleep association with a certain space. So reserve your bed for only two activities – sex and sleep.
Tip 7. Showering or bathing before bedtime can have a calming effect on your body. So if you usually shower in the morning, try switching your routine to the evening.
Tip 8. Lower room temperatures are also important for sleep. Interestingly enough, melatonin lowers our core body temperature.
Tip 9. If anxiety or worry make it difficult to sleep, try writing down ideas or thoughts that bug you. Do that without judgement or censorship for about 5 to 10 minutes and then put it away.
Tip 10. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. A glass of wine may initially makes you sleepy, but there is a paradoxical effect where alcohol begins to act as a stimulant approximately 3 hours after you ingest it.
Many people who have sleep issues end up using a melatonin supplement. Melatonin, besides being naturally produced by the body, can also be found in most popular Chinese herbs, red wine, green tea and fish. In addition, scientist have also successfully re-created melatonin in the lab – the typical source of the melatonin pills you find at the pharmacy.
At Omega3 Innovations, we recently created Omega Restore, which is a proprietary blend of several important omega-3s and melatonin. The magic happens when these important molecules work together to help destress the body. Many of the couples who take Omega Restore remark that their partner seems to get more restful sleep with a daily vial. They seem less agitated in their sleep, less restless. The bedsheets are still in place the morning after. But more importantly, they seem more alert and focused the next day. The timing of taking your Omega Restore does matter though. In experimenting with timing, we found that Omega Restore seems to work best when the vial is consume about one hour before bedtime.
Regardless of whether or not your path to better sleep includes taking melatonin, we can all stand to improve our sleep habits by making changes to our routines. If you have advice to share about how you have improved your sleep habits, leave a comment below. We’ll all be snoozing better for it.