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If you are not sleeping, then the basic problem is that your cortisol (your wake-up hormone) and melatonin (your go-to-sleep hormone) are on a whacked schedule. Gotta get those pumping up, then shutting down at the right times!
Ideally, pumping starts at 6am (cortisol up, melatonin down) and shutting down at 10pm (cortisol down, melatonin in play).
Just like all humans share a normal body temperature of 98.6, all humans operate best sleeping when it’s dark.
Your #1 Sleep Hack
Your body needs to be in tune with it’s Circadian rhythm. In order to do that, you:
- Start with a 6am wake/10pm sleep cycle.
- When you wake at 6am, get natural sunlight into your eyes asap. NO LED lights until after the sun hits your eyes. Sunlight literally tells your body to release cortisol, your “wake up” hormone.
- An hour before bed (at least an hour), NO blue lights (TV, computers). If you must be on a device or watch TV, wear these blue blocker shades. (If you wear glasses, these fit over them, both are less than $10). I do. Blue lights prevent your body from making melatonin, your “go to sleep” hormone.
You must have these hormones — melatonin and cortisol — on a good cycle, matching YOUR circadian rhythm. MOST people operate NATURALLY on the 6am/10pm cycle. Yours may be slightly different. You need to start somewhere and see how it goes.
Start with 6am/10pm and commit to this for 90 days. Then listen to your body. It knows intuitively.
Here are the sleep hacks I’ve compiled over the years that help me!
I did NOT think of these — they come from years of reading books, posts, studies, articles and listening to podcasts and books on tape. I hoard FAQs — it’s my obsession.
- Start inching bedtime toward 10pm an hour at a time. (Maybe it’s already your bedtime, awesome!!!) Choose a bedtime an hour earlier than your current bedtime and commit to it. Keep this bedtime until you are falling asleep. Then repeat this process, an hour at a time, until you are in bed at 10pm.
- You won’t sleep at first. See the “bedtime rules” below under Add’l Free Hacks.
- If 6am is not your normal, start getting up an hour earlier than usual.
- If you drink caffeine first thing, have it when you wake. The goal is no caffeine after 12 noon, which would be 10 hours before bed.
- VERY IMPORTANT Have the AM sugar-free adrenal cocktail (recipe in next section) with or before breakfast — you want to have this early in your day.
- VERY IMPORTANT Have the PM adrenal cocktail about an hour before bed!
Before Bed, Don’t Eat:
- SUGAR (like cookies, ice cream, crap) or alcohol at least 2 hours before bed. Both will make you feel good but also provide a blood sugar crash within a couple of hours, waking you up feeling hungry and/or thirsty. There is a lot of science behind this.
- WATER so you don’t have to wake to pee.
- CAFFEINE after 12 noon. You can wean yourself off if you drink it all day. Just make it earlier and earlier until you aren’t having any after noon. I don’t have any after 10am! I will occasionally have one of my Energy Fizz Sticks (with guarana, a natural no-jitters caffeine) in the EARLY afternoon and sleep fine. I’m not suggesting giving up caffeine altogether. I’m not crazy.
Eat (2 items)
#1 ADRENAL COCKTAIL
HPA Axis Dysregulation (formally known as adrenal fatigue, described in detail here) is almost certainly a player. The adrenal cocktail 2x a day will be very helpful, once upon waking, once before bed.
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar for potassium
- 1/4 tsp real salt for minerals and sodium
- 1000 to 2500mg Vit C to nourish the adrenals
AM DRINK in liquid with low/no sugar. Liquid options are an Energy Fizz Stick, a short glass of water if you can take the taste (the C makes it very tart), in cool tea (hot drinks deactivate the C) or in a smoothie. If you want more sweet, add Stevia or erythritol.
PM DRINK in liquid with a LITTLE sweet. Liquid options are watered down OJ (watered down because too much sugar creates a high, then a crash which wakes you up), coconut water or cool herbal tea. Ok to add a LITTLE tiny bit of raw honey or organic maple syrup.
The little bit of sugar in the PM drink will stop your body’s cortisol production. Cortisol is your “stay awake” hormone — it doesn’t take much sweet to stop this.
#2 SNACKS BEFORE BED
This is totally individual. I can’t eat a meal 3 hours before bed or else the acid reflux keeps me awake. However, a protein/fat snack before bed — a piece of cheese, 1/2 a protein shake, 1/2 avocado with a little salt and olive oil, a little greek yogurt with Stevia — helps me relax, fall asleep and STAY asleep.
Some people can’t eat anything before bed or it keeps them awake. You have to see what works for you. Be honest 🙂
- White Noise Machine
- Weighted blanket
- Blue Blocking glasses <<< These are great alone (I wear while watching TV) | If you wear glasses, these fit over them.
- Download binaural beats and wear headphones to listen at bedtime. Some of the youtubes will give you a link to download free, some charge money: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=binaural+beats+sleep
- Make your room pitch black. I tape pieces of cardboard over little lights on my toothbrush charger, space heater, AC unit, modem, etc.
- Wear light-blocking sleep mask so your brain totally switches off and gets the message that this is sleep time. Your eyelids are translucent so ANY light will get in there and can keep you up.
- Magnesium!!! This alone will do wonders and some people stop right here. Take 400 mg at night — work up to this, start with 1 pill for a week, then add a second pill till you are taking 4.
- Melatonin (3mg) or Timed Release Melatonin (5 mg) You can take up to 20 mgs/night although 5 usually does it for me. I switch off and on with the time release. It does help me stay asleep.
- Essential Oils Lavender is the big one for sleep. You can make a spray or just put a drop on the soles of your feet. Works like chloroform! I use Young Living — you want PURE EOs, not the trash water from, ahem, big box stores.
- Mag Phos. This has been wonderful, I’m sleeping thru the night and a nice deep sleep. Sometimes I have to take the dose twice but I am sleeping. I’ll use this instead of melatonin most nights. Sometimes I use both.
- Coffea Cruda to quiet the brain
- Ignatia for grief and sadness (even if you don’t think you do have this, you do. We all do.)
- Drink Magnesium Bicarbonate water — I make it like this guy does. And this is the MoM I use.
Exercise at any time of day helps with overall health. As we get older, heavy weight training gives us more bang for the buck/time than any other form of exercise. Muscle mass is a predictor of longevity: more muscle = longer life and better quality.
Tabatas are wonderful (and mercifully short!) Push-ups are a fantastic full-body exercise and qualify all on their own. Do 10-100! On my post about tabatas, there is a video of Mark Sisson showing the perfect how-to.
Whatever you do, you want to do full range of motion and quickly enough so that you are out of breath (not a problem for most of us!!!) If you can up the movement for 10 minutes, that is plenty.
Strenuous exercise within a couple of hours of bedtime might keep you awake. This is very individual. I can exercise up to 30 minutes before bed with no problem. Just have to test it and see what works for you.
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Additional Sleep Hacks
- BEDTIME RULES for when you can’t sleep no matter what: Don’t work. All intellectual stimulus must stop between 10pm and 6am. Watch funny TV (no politics or violence). I will turn the volume down on the TV until I can’t make out the conversation but it is noise. The noise is distracting enough so my brain is occupied and I fall asleep. Like a white noise machine with pictures.
- If you suspect that you may suffer from silent reflux (the only symptom is a VERY sour taste in your mouth in the am), raise the head of your bed 6-8″.
- Get feet on the earth first thing. I know, I know, it sounds woo woo, but read up on earthing. It makes a certain amount of sense. We are earth creatures… why would we think it’s OK to never touch the earth with our skin?
- 6am out of bed
- Drink glass of water with lemon (EO or juice) or ACV (with mother)
- Get sunlight in your eyes asap for 10-15 minutes. Can read (an actual book, no electronics until after sunlight).
- Get feet on ground if possible.
- AM adrenal cocktail
- Breakfast (no sugar and include at least 30% good quality fats like coconut oil, MCT in coffee/smoothies, avocado)
- No caffeine after 12 noon
- Lunch (ditto)
- Dinner (ditto)
- No food after 7pm
- Herbal tea after 7pm is fine!
- 9pm adrenal cocktail
- Snack before bed if that works for you.
- No blue light after 9pm (can cheat with GOOD QUALITY blue blockers)
- Lights OUT at 10pm