Nine Ways to Improve Natural Sleep Patterns and Sleep Quality
In today’s fast-paced society sleep issues are becoming more common than ever. Sleep quality is essential for optimal health as every system within the body depends on sleep to function properly.
Poor sleep patterns can lead to:
- Stress and Anxiety
- Impaired Immune Function
- Accelerated Aging
- Poor Mental Performance
- Hormonal Issues
- And much more
Studies have shown that in 2020 people are sleeping less hours than our ancestors did in the past, and that sleep quality has decreased significantly as well. Sleep quality means how deeply restful our sleep is, not waking up every few hours, but rather entering a deep and restorative sleep.
Deep and restorative sleep helps the rest of our life flow better, making it possible to live a much higher functioning existence at home and at work, or wherever one wants to be!
One other keynote on the importance of deep sleep, is that it is the only time the immune system has a chance to rebuild our body and repair our DNA. If you are interested in the fountain of youth and longevity, start by focusing on sleep (and maybe gut health as well).
Okay we get it, sleep is crucial to health… so here are 9 tips from our Zuma Nutrition team on how to improve sleep cycles and sleep quality.
- Develop a Nighttime Routine
One of the greatest things we can do to improve sleep quality is to develop a bedtime routine. Over stimulation is one of the great epidemics of our time. People are constantly stimulated by phones, televisions, news, social media, work, social relationships, entertainment, and so on. With so much information and sensation flooding our minds on a regular basis, the brain easily becomes overstimulated, and it can be difficult to relax and quiet our minds from the noise of modern life.
For this reason, developing a nighttime routine is greatly beneficial for improving relaxation and sleep quality. Before going to bed, turn off all electronics and other distractions and spend an hour doing relaxing activities, such as reading, meditating, talking with a loved one or taking a bath. This can help notify the brain that it is time to put the activities of the day aside, and to shift into a more relaxed state of being. Following a relaxation routine each night before bed can work wonders on quality of sleep.
“I make sure to get home from work or other activities by 8pm every night at the latest and spend a couple hours unwinding, unplugging, disconnecting from the day’s activities. During this time I will drink tea and talk with my loved ones. I do my best to make sure no stressful conversations or conflicts come up during this unwinding time and make sure to bring those stress levels down before getting in bed.”
- Jordan Dorn, Co Founder Zuma Nutrition
- Limit Exposure to Blue Light
Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours staring at a digital screen. Studies suggest that 60% of people spend more than 6 hours a day in front of a digital device. These digital devices—computers, phones, tablets, etc.—emit a wavelength of blue light that can have a negative impact on our health and sleep quality.
Blue light messes with the body's ability to prepare for sleep because it blocks a hormone called melatonin that is responsible for making us feel tired. Melatonin is a hormone that the brain produces in response to darkness. It helps with the timing of the circadian rhythms (24-hour internal clock) and with sleep. Being exposed to light at night can block melatonin production. To improve sleep quality, it is recommended to avoid using the phone or computer before bed and consider getting a pair of blue light blocking glasses so you can watch your favorite TV show without the blue light side effects in the evenings.
- Sleep and Wake at Regular Times
Our bodies have what is known as a circadian rhythm, which is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. A part of the hypothalamus (a portion of the brain) controls the circadian rhythm. However, outside factors like lightness and darkness can also impact it. When the sun comes up in the morning the brain releases cortisol which triggers wakefulness, and in the evening as it gets dark out, the brain sends a signal to the body to release melatonin, which makes the body tired. That’s why the circadian rhythm tends to coincide with the cycle of daytime and nighttime.
The circadian rhythm works best when we have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times from day to day (including weekends). When things get in the way of our regular sleep cycle, like jet lag, daylight savings time, or some event that keeps us up into the hours of the early morning, it can disrupt the circadian rhythm, which makes one feel drained and foggy, and can make it harder to pay attention.
Aligning our sleep patterns with the natural rhythm of light and dark allows our hormones to balance and improves sleep quality.
- Exercise Regularly and Get Outside
We all know that exercise is good for us, but not everyone knows that exercise is essential to getting a good night’s sleep. Regular exercise, particularly in the morning or afternoon, can impact your sleep quality by raising your body temperature a few degrees. Later in the day, when your internal thermostat drops back to its normal range, this can trigger feelings of drowsiness and help you drop off to sleep. Also, if you exercise outdoors, you’ll be exposed to natural light, an important element in helping your body establish a good sleep-wake cycle. Exposure to natural light is crucial for healthy sleep patterns, so make sure to get outside!
- Avoid Heavy Meals And Sugar Before Bedtime
As the sun begins to set, our body’s natural biological clock begins to prepare us for sleep. One part of this process involves the slowing down of the metabolism. If we introduce a heavy meal to the system right before bed, it can interfere with the body’s natural rhythms and may affect sleep quality. Rather than focusing its energy on restoration, the body may be forced to focus on digestion, and this can inhibit the healing and regeneration that typically takes place during sleep. Also make sure to avoid any sugars at least an hour before you hit the pillow as fluctuating blood sugar levels during sleep has negative effects on immune system function and general health.
- Reduce Caffeine and Other Stimulants
Coffee is one of the world’s most beloved beverages, as the caffeine in coffee helps us to stay alert and focused, and this works very well for people living in a society that highly values efficiency and productivity. However, if one is suffering from sleep deprivation, caffeine (and other stimulants) may be part of the problem.
The body needs sleep. We must honor this fact and give our body rest when it needs it, or else we can greatly impact our health. Forcing ourselves to stay awake with substances, or consuming stimulants late at night can interfere with our body’s natural cycles of waking and sleeping. Limit the intake of caffeine to before noon each day, and do your best to limit to one cup per day at the most. Also pay attention to other sources of caffeine, like green or black tea which can often be found in beverages such as Kombucha.
- Build an Environment that Supports Healthy Sleep
The bedroom should be a sacred space where one gets deep and restful sleep. Creating an environment supportive for rest can be a great way to help your mind prepare for sleep when the time comes. This will look different for each person, but consider adding things to the room that make it a more calming and soothing place to be, such as himalayan salt lamps, an essential oil diffuser, house plants, etc.
Avoid using your bedroom as a work space if you can, and aim to make it a place where you can set the worries of the day aside and just relax. Consider making the investment in blackout curtains and investing in a white noise machine. SleepStream2 is a useful app that offers soothing nature sounds that can be played while sleeping. However, make sure not to keep your cell phone right by your head while you sleep!
- Make Use of Adaptogenic Herbs
Adaptogens are a select group of herbs that support the body’s natural ability to deal with stress. They are called adaptogens because these herbs aid our bodies in adapting and responding to, or recovering from, both short-term and long-term physical or mental stress.
Adaptogens work at a molecular level by regulating a stable balance in the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands—all of which are involved in the stress response. Essentially, they work by “hacking” the stress response in the body.
As adaptogens create balance in the hypothalamic, pituitary and adrenal glands, they also greatly help to support the body’s natural circadian rhythm and hormonal rhythms. Restoring this important rhythm, as well as the health of the glands associated with it, is key to improving sleep quality.
Zuma Nutrition’s Relaxation Blend is a powerful combination of adaptogenic herbs renowned for their medicinal properties. Our team has formulated this blend to not only be an effective aid in supporting a relaxed body and mind, but also to offer the body high quality nourishment on a cellular level. Through the use of these key adaptogenic herbs, one can support the body’s ability to adapt to stress, and can support natural sleep cycles.
- Eat a Well-Rounded Diet and Consider Nutritional Supplements
Make sure your diet is nutrient dense and does not contain high amounts of toxins and inflammatory foods. Some of the most inflammatory foods you have perhaps read about in our other blogs are oxidized oils, moldy foods, and pesticide-ridden produce. Read more on eating a healthy diet on our previous blog post here.
Here are some additional supplements to consider in addition to a healthy diet:
Co Enzyme B Complex Vitamins- Helps with synthesizing (the body's natural production) of melatonin, a hormone primarily released by the pineal gland that regulates the sleep–wake cycle. Healthy levels of B Vitamins are vital for adrenal health, immune system function, managing stress levels and fighting infections. B Vitamins are water soluble, not stored by the body, and are vital for many core physiological processes, so this is a great supplement to consider building a daily routine around.
Magnesium- An essential mineral, electrolyte and catalyst for over 300 biochemical functions in the body. Some of the benefits of magnesium include regulating blood pressure, supporting a healthy night's sleep, balancing nitric oxide in the body, promoting a balanced and low stress state of mind, supporting muscle tissue and nerve function and much more. Ionic Magnesium is a key ingredient in our Fulvic & Trace Ocean Mineral Complex.
L Theanine- Acts as a precursor to dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the second largest brain chemical by volume and plays a vital role by inhibiting the brain’s ability to access adrenaline which lowers stress levels. L Theanine has a half life of 4 hours so taking this amino acid throughout the day can help keep stress levels low leading to better sleep patterns.
Vitamin D/K- Deficiency in these crucial vitamins can lead to a wide range of health issues including insomnia and sleep disturbances. Vitamin K is found in dark leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, as well as in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts. Vitamin D is primarily synthesized by our body when it gets enough exposure to sunlight. Getting outside and getting in the sun is highly recommended but it is also worth noting that not everyone’s body can synthesize Vitamin D from the sun efficiently. Consider adding a D + K complex into your daily routine to ensure you receive these important nutrients.
Melatonin- Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland and optimal levels of melatonin are crucial for a healthy night’s sleep. However, side effects of high doses of melatonin include headaches, drowsiness and even nausea. We recommend you consult your healthcare physician to see if melatonin deficiency might be the cause of sleep disturbances before incorporating it into a supplement regimen.
We hope you enjoyed these quick tips from our team on ways to improve sleep patterns and sleep quality. Healthy sleep patterns are a vital element to our physical and mental health and we should aim to get at least 7-9 hours of restful sleep per night. Also don’t be afraid to take a nap if your body is tired, learning to listen to the body and slowing down in life is one of the easiest and most often overlooked ways to improve your health.