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Anyone who’s had trouble sleeping knows that it’s just as much about your nights as it is about your days—about feeling present, energetic, and focused at work, at school, or at home with your family. The short-term effects of poor sleep, combined with the longer-term implications, makes it that much more important (necessary, even) to prioritize better sleep for better overall well-being. Below, members of our Scientific + Medical Advisory Council weigh in on frequently asked questions about how to do just this.
The body has several internal biological clocks running behind-the-scenes to maintain processes and functions. The 24-hour circadian rhythm—derived from the Latin circa (around) and diem (a day)—regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
3 tips to get on a better sleep schedule:
- Get outside
Natural light via sunshine reinforces this circadian cue.
- Go to bed and get up around the same time every day (even on weekends)
If the schedule of when we are awake and asleep varies considerably, it can cause confusion and throw off physiological processes that thrive off the routine of the 24-hour day.
- Supplement with melatonin
This is a hormone our bodies naturally produce to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Quantities increase as the sun goes down and decrease during daytime hours. Some choose to supplement their natural melatonin levels as a way to adjust and regulate their internal clocks.
Stress isn’t one-size-fits-all...and neither is sleep. Both manifest differently for different people. That’s why it’s important to first identify how stress and other mental health conditions are affecting your life and contributing to a lack of sleep—whether it's trouble falling asleep, maintaining regular sleep patterns, waking up (cue the snooze button), etc. Do you find that you’re worried about the next day? Is your mind leading you in a million directions at once with random thoughts? Is there a singular stressor (i.e. life event, project/task, etc) that’s concerning you? What about general physical restlessness?
Once you take stock of what type of stress you’re struggling with, try out one of the strategies in order to decrease your sympathetic activation and increase your chances of a good night’s sleep.
The word “natural” is thrown around quite a bit in the wellness world. When we use it in the context of supplements to differentiate from standard, over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping pills, this is what we mean:
Drug-free, non-habit-forming, and safe to take as part of a long-term wellness routine (without major side effects like next-morning grogginess).
Third-party tested for purity and to verify the absence of heavy metals, microbes, and pesticides.
Vegan, gluten/dairy/sugar-free, non-GMO. No artificial colors or binders.
Hundreds of human clinical studies have shown that there are various natural ingredients which support sleep either directly (by impacting sleep quality/quantity) or indirectly (by reducing everyday stress and promoting a sense of calm and relaxation), including:
Foods + drinks that help you get better sleep
- Nuts + seeds
- Fatty fish
- Lean meat
- Tart cherries + tart cherry juice
- Chamomile tea
- Barley grass powder
- Legumes (beans + chickpeas)
Foods + drinks to avoid for better sleep
- Large meals (especially high-carb, fried, sugary, and/or spicy ones that can cause late-night heartburn)
- Acidic foods
Menopause is marked by fluctuations in several key, sleep-impacting hormones: estrogen, progesterone, serotonin, and melatonin. This can result in sleep issues such as insomnia, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), and hot flashes/night sweats. Although any treatment plan should be tailored to your individual needs and goals, common ways to manage and treat symptoms include:
- Smart supplementation
In addition to valerian root, ashwagandha, and melatonin, Dr. Siebern notes that there’s promising research on the impact of CBD for menopausal women.
- Prescription + over-the-counter medications
Unlike non-habit-forming supplements, prescription medications are not intended for long-term use. Some may negatively interact with other medications, so it’s important to read the fine print and allocate yourself at least eight hours of sleep.
- Watching what foods you do + don’t eat
Most people immediately think of caffeinated items like coffee, dark chocolate, and black tea. But there are many other, less-well-known foods that can impact your ability to fall asleep and get enough sleep.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT involves taking supplemental hormones to replace what the body is no longer producing naturally—a course of treatment that should be discussed with your women’s health provider to better understand the benefits and risks.
- Behavioral change
Better sleep cannot be achieved without addressing underlying behavioral and lifestyle change, like avoiding alarm clock watching, developing a nighttime routine, limiting bright light and blue light exposure from cell phones and other electronic devices, getting on a consistent sleep schedule, and practicing proper in-bed behavior.
Deep sleep takes place during stage 3 (non-REM), during which time it’s difficult to wake up. This is when you get what’s called “delta sleep” or “slow wave sleep” (SWS). The brain is releasing low-frequency, high-amplitude delta waves that cause heart rates and respiration to slow down. The benefit here is for the functioning and restoration of your immune system while the benefit of REM sleep (stage 4) is for cognitive functions such as memory consolidation, creativity, and learning. (1-2)
For a list of tips on how to get more restful sleep, refer to our guide on the difference between REM and deep sleep, and how to optimize both >>
The fact that you’re even asking this question is a great sign that you’re aware of just how important your sleep environment and behavior is! After all, what you do during the day and pre-bedtime is incredibly impactful on your nights.
There are certainly lifestyle changes you can make to improve your sleep hygiene, including relaxation techniques to calm a racing mind, cultivating an evening bedtime routine (warm bath included!), and avoiding certain foods/types of physical activity at night. But for those looking for personalized guidance, support, and accountability from an expert trained in behavioral patterns and strategies for change, we recommend sleep coaching.
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