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Improve Your Sleep Naturally

Improve your sleep naturally

On a scale of 1 - 10, how would you rate your sleep?

When I ask my followers what topics they want to hear more about, one of the top requested topics is Better Sleep. Let’s discuss why sleep is important, the best time to be asleep, and strategies to improve your sleep naturally.

Why should you care about sleep?

There are SO MANY REASONS you want to focus on quality sleep, but let’s approach it from the angle of Gut Health and Metabolic Health.

Gut health

  • Sleep is when your body recovers and heals - sleep is needed for gut healing!

  • Good sleep supports a flourishing gut microbiome.

  • Sleep activates your immune system, which helps clear gut infections like bacterial overgrowths, H. Pylori, candida, parasites and others.

  • Getting less than 6 hours of sleep downregulates your immune system, which increases your risk of disease and illness, especially in the gut.

  • Quality sleep improves your digestion and helps you manage stress the next day.

Metabolic health (i.e. how well we generate and process energy in the body, which is related to blood sugar regulation, heart health, brain health and so much more)

  • It becomes nearly impossible to lose weight without sufficient amounts of sleep.

  • Less than 6 hours of sleep increases the risk of becoming metabolically inflexible and insulin resistant, which can lead to diabetes and heart issues.

  • Lack of sleep leads to struggles with cravings and satiety.

  • Growth hormone is secreted at night while you’re sleeping, and this hormone helps the body heal and develop lean muscle mass.

  • Overall, inadequate sleep increases risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, cognitive decline, dementia, and more.

In other words, if you want to have great gut health, a healthy body weight, and live a long disease-free life, quality sleep is absolutely crucial.

How much sleep do you need?

Infants/children/teens, anyone who is ill, and females need more sleep.

Research shows that most adults require 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and up to 9 hours for some. Less than 6 hours has been repeatedly shown to cause negative health effects!

This is an interesting map: the dark red states show where a larger percentage of people sleep less than 7 hours. Lighter yellow states are states where a smaller percentage of people sleep less than 7 hours. In other words, people in the east and the south get much less sleep!

Sleep map of US states

The best time to be asleep

I talk a LOT about sleep hygiene with my clients.

Sleep hygiene is the idea that you need to actively prepare for bedtime and create a sleep-supportive environment.

To support high-quality sleep, my first sleep hygiene tip for you is not that sexy or interesting: make sure you go to bed between 9pm - 10:30pm.

I know I know… it’s so totally boring. But this is why:

  • Being asleep before 11pm is critical for proper melatonin production. Melatonin helps lower cortisol and has anti-inflammatory benefits (needed for both gut health and metabolic health!).

  • Going to be by 10:30pm will (hopefully) mean you are asleep by 11pm.

  • If you are struggling with any health condition - whether that’s being sick or healing your gut or managing a chronic illness - aim to be in bed by 9pm.

  • The hours you sleep before 2am are twice as effective in helping your body recover than those hours after 2am. In other words, you'll feel more well-rested the earlier you go to bed, no matter what time you wake up. You want to maximize your hours of sleep before 2am!

  • This might be the biggest one: a consistent bedtime every night helps you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. This includes weekends! If you go to bed late on weekends and sleep in, Monday morning puts you into a jet-leg state. every. single. week. I recommend keeping your bedtime and wake time within a 1 hour change! For example, if you wake up at 6am on weekdays, don’t wake up later than 7am on weekends.

Here’s the thing: life happens and your sleep schedule will not be 100% perfect. That’s ok! Life celebrations like weddings and birthdays and vacations can continue. But when you’re home in your routine, I highly recommend prioritizing sleep, with a consistent bedtime before 10:30pm, and a consistent wake time.

Woman sleeping in a boho room

Tips to improve your sleep naturally

These are tips that I recommend for optimizing your sleep.

Try starting with 1 or 2 strategies at a time. After adding new strategies, see if your sleep improves. Your sleep will get incrementally better as you implement more of these strategies!

  • Turn off electronics 60-90min before bed. I’m sure you’ve heard this one - and it is a TOUGH habit to build! We are constantly tempted by our computers, tablets, cell phones, TVs - all of which emit blue light which interferes with melatonin production. If there is ONE thing you could do to improve your sleep, it’s avoiding technology before bed. Electronics are a new technology and our bodies are not adapted to handle the excessive use!

Things that are disrupting your sleep:

  • Watching YouTube videos, scrolling social media, and checking emails in bed.

  • Having a TV in your bedroom and falling asleep watching TV.

  • Reading a book on a tablet/Kindle.

If it’s unrealistic for you to avoid electronics before bed, the next best option is bluelight blocking glasses. Some brands I like are BonCharge, Ra Optics & Felix Gray. Avoid cheap pairs from Amazon as they may not work as effectively as an optical lab made pair.

  • Keep lights low. Avoid bright lights and ceiling lamps before bed, especially between 10pm and 4am. Try to only use as much artificial lighting as is necessary for you to move around safely at night.

  • Sleep in a cold room (ideally 65-67 degrees). In the summer you can keep windows open and have a fan on to keep the air cool.

  • Designate your bedroom space. Your bed is for sleep and sex - that’s it! Not for work, scrolling social media, or watching TV.

  • Darkness is best. Darkness will encourage the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Avoid having nightlights or any electronic LED lights in the room. You can purchase blackout curtains or wear an eye mask to block out light.

  • Mouth taping. I do this every night! The root problem of your sleep issues might be mouth-breathing, and by using mouth tape, you are training your body to nose-breathe. Mouth breathing can cause snoring, sleep apnea, fatigue, and worsening of asthma. Mouth breathing also disrupts your oral microbiome, which is related to tooth decay, dry mouth, gingivitis, cavities and bad breath (hellooooo morning breath!). If you’re willing to give mouth taping a try, I recommend this one (you can reduce stickiness by sticking it to your pillowcase a few times, and remove it very slowly from your lips in the am!).

  • Take magnesium glycinate. A supplement I often recommend is Magnesium Glycinate from Pure Encapsulations at 2 capsules (240mg) about 30min before bed. This has worked wonders for many of my clients! Plus, it can help with constipation and period pain. You can order it through Fullscript. There are other sleep-supportive supplements that are great, but I need to know more about specifics about the client before I can make safe recommendations. Another option to replenish your magnesium is through Epsom salt baths.

  • Don't drink alcohol. Alcohol is a major sleep disruptor, particularly for REM sleep. It interferes with cortisol balance - alcohol increases cortisol at night when it should fall, and suppresses melatonin when it should be high. If you are having a few drinks, make sure to drink lots of water (at least 1 large glass per alcoholic drink) and plan to stop drinking 2 hours before going to bed.

  • Exercise daily. Exercise daily for 30 minutes (even if it’s just brisk walking). However, avoid exercise three hours before bed, because this can affect sleep.

  • Eat enough. Make sure you’re eating enough during the day, since hunger can disrupt your sleep. Overall focus on lots of healthy fats (olive oil, coconuts, nuts, seeds, eggs w/ yolks, fatty fish, full-fat dairy if tolerated), quality protein (organic meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, beans, lentils), and complex carbohydrates (mostly starchy veggies and low-sugar fruits).

  • But don’t eat too close to bedtime. Have your last meal 3-4 hours before bed to properly support your circadian rhythm. You don’t want to be digesting food as your body is in major healing-mode!

  • Get morning sunlight. We have to start prepping for sleep from the moment we wake up! Try to view sunlight by going outside within 30-60 minutes of waking, or by 9am. Ideally spend time again outside in the late afternoon, prior to sunset. Try to spend 10min outside each time if it’s sunny, but if it’s overcast closer to 30min (this can be your time for a brisk morning walk!). Morning sun helps release cortisol to wake you up, and sets the timer on your melatonin release to get released 14 to 16 hours later so you’re sleepy. (Tips: when you go outside, it’s best to avoid sunglasses, but eyeglasses and contacts are fine. It is NOT the same to be inside by a window, so make sure to get outside!)

  • Avoid caffeine 8-10 hours before bedtime. Some people are more sensitive and do better stopping caffeine 12-14 hours before bedtime.

Do you feel like you already do all the things to improve your sleep, but you’re still not sleeping well? Not able to fall asleep? Waking up between 2-4am? There are likely bigger imbalances going on - could be hormonal issues, blood sugar imbalances, gut dysbiosis, or something else.

I can help you! Let’s get to the root cause of your sleep issues so you can finally sleep like a baby. Book a Free Discovery Call so we can chat!



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