4 Steps to Healing and Thriving: Sleep

Hello friends! It’s been a looooooong time since I last blogged– I’ve been a bit busy these past six months! Mostly busy with moving from Newfoundland to Kentucky and all that comes with starting over somewhere new, such as finding jobs, cars, housing, etc. I’ve also been busy healing from the many health issues I have struggled with for the past year and a half. The long and short of it is that I’ve been struggling through adrenal dysfunction, low thyroid, imbalanced sex hormones, and low vitamin D. At times I was so fatigued, I could do nothing but lay in bed all day, with the simple tasks of eating and showering leaving me exhausted. My hair was falling out in patches and I was plagued with regular migraines that made me nauseous and unable to handle sounds and lights. Any sort of exercise beyond short walks knocked me out for 2-3 days afterword. My body was just completely inflamed. 

Thankfully, I’ve come a long way since the worst of it. I have energy most days, I rarely have migraines, my hair loss has slowed, and just last week, I started exercising again! Though your symptoms may manifest themselves differently, I know too many others, perhaps even you, who are struggling with inflammation throughout their body. Maybe you are far worse off than I was, with a full-blown autoimmune condition or other disease, or perhaps you just feel like you aren’t feeling the best you can. Regardless, it’s not how life has to be. Here I will share with you the steps that I’ve taken to heal my body and thrive in life with the hopes that I can help you in some small way to live the life you should… one where you are thriving, not just surviving.

So what’s the first topic up for discussion?

SLEEP

You need to prioritize sleep. I know you probably hear this all the time, but I mean it! Stop making excuses about why you can’t get enough sleep and MAKE IT HAPPEN. Nothing else you do will make much of a difference until you make sure you get 7-8 hours every. single. night. Sleep is when you’re body is able to repair itself from the stresses of the day and prepare for the stresses to come. Getting a good night’s sleep should be the number one priority in getting and staying healthy, above eating well, supplementation, exercise, etc. I wish getting enough sleep was as easy as just spending more time in bed, but I know that for me I had to work at it. This is by no means an exhaustive list… these are just the things that I do that work for me. You are a living experiment, so you need to find out what works for you!

Quit (or limit) caffeine. I quit caffeine cold turkey over a year ago (read about it here), and while I do drink it on occasion, I do not drink it every day. Before I quit, I had no idea how sensitive I was to it, but now I can see an affect on my sleep after having just one cup of coffee in the morning (and all is lost if I have any past noon). If you aren’t up to completely quitting your coffee habit, at least limit yourself to one cup before 10am.

Limit blue light exposure. Blue light is an important component of melatonin regulation. During the day when there is lots of blue light, melatonin levels decrease. As light decreases in the evening, melatonin levels rise, making you feel sleepy. Unfortunately, all our electronic devices release a lot of blue light, so if you’re watching TV or scrolling Facebook before bed, that’s not going to help you get some shut eye. I installed programs to limit eliminate blue light on my computer and phone in the evening hours (I use f.lux for my computer, and iPhones have a Night Shift feature to do this). I also just ordered this pair of blue-blocking glasses to wear in the evenings when my husband and I watch TV together. 

Set a nighttime routine. Instead of falling asleep watching TV on the couch, I set my bedtime (around 9pm… yes, my husband has nicknamed me “Grandma”) and at that time I move to bed where I read quietly in low light for as long as it takes to fall asleep. I also have this bedside light/alarm clock that I can set on a timer to slowly dim until it eventually shuts off. It does the opposite in the morning, allowing me to wake up more naturally. That thing is worth its weight in gold! If you’re a reader, stick to something simple and easy to read… this is not the time to be learning something new! If you’re not a reader, a period of light meditation, a warm bath, or listening to some calming music or an audiobook can help you decompress and get ready for sleep. 

And one last note on my nighttime routine… my bedtime rarely changes regardless of whether it’s a weeknight or weekend. To give you a teaser of another step in healing, this sometimes means saying “no” to late night social events. 

Create a perfect sleep environment. There’s nothing worse than finally getting to sleep to only be awakened in the middle of the night to some obnoxious light or burning up and soaked in sweat. I make sure my sleeping temperature is set to keep things cool and I have a fan on and pointed at me at all times (yup, I’m one of those people). The fan not only helps keep me cool, but it creates white noise. I’m pretty sure my husband hates it, but he’s stuck with me! And he knows I turn into Satan when I don’t sleep well, so it’s the lesser of two evils. Anyways, I also make sure my room is DARK. No annoying lights from electronics or light creeping in from outside. I hear black-out curtains are great way to keep your room dark, but I don’t have that problem since there are no windows in my bedroom (weird, I know).

Supplementation. Even after putting in a lot of work to help myself get better sleep naturally, supplementation was necessary to really get my best sleep. There are numerous supplements that can help with sleep, including herbal remedies and teas. These just happen to be the two that made the biggest difference for me!

Magnesium is probably my favourite supplement (sleep and otherwise)– it’s an important mineral that most people are already deficient in which has virtually no negative side effects. Not only is it necessary for many of your body’s functions, it helps your body to relax and reduce cortisol. Powdered magnesium by Natural Calm is my favourite, but there are also oil and pill forms. The unflavoured powdered magnesium has sour citrusy flavour that I loved simply mixed with a little lemon water, but there are flavoured versions available for your liking.

Melatonin is a supplement that I use during times when I’m having major difficulties sleeping, like during very stressful periods (traveling, a rough week at work, etc). It is your body’s natural sleep hormone, and as a hormone, care should be taken when using it. Melatonin supplementation is not a long-term solution: it’s best to put in the work to help your body release the hormone naturally, like limiting blue light exposure. It does, however, help me get my sleep back on track when I need it to without leaving me groggy the next day.

 

Getting good sleep has gotten a lot easier for me, but no doubt some nights are easier than others. I’ve been working hard at it and I’m going to keep working at it. Thankfully, it’s worth it. Getting the sleep I need has helped put me and keep on the path to healing. If you are struggling with sleep, I encourage to dig in and make it a priority to figure what you need to do to get more sleep.

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