PS. This is a work in progress. As I do major updates, I will let you know via email and social media.
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.
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.
Hint: If you only do one thing, do the adrenal cocktail (in the EAT/DON’T EAT section below).
HOW TO GET STARTED
Read the entire article first, then come back here — this will make more sense. Everything is explained in the article.
- Start by inching bedtime toward 10pm. Start with a bedtime an hour or so earlier then your current bedtime and commit to it, meaning you will keep this bedtime until you are falling asleep. Then another inch.
- Once you have a bedtime, commit to one hour in bed before determining that it ain’t happening. It won’t happen for awhile. See the “bedtime rules” below under FREE HACKS.
- Start getting up an hour earlier. 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. Drink accordingly.
- 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.
- If the sun is up, spend your first few minutes of the day in the sunlight with eyes open. This helps your body get back in tune with the circadian rhythm.
- VERY IMPORTANT Have the PM adrenal cocktail about an hour before bed!
- No sugar or alcohol 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.
- No water before bed so you don’t have to wake to pee.
- 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.
- Ingredients: 1/4 tsp cream of tartar for potassium (buy organic at your grocer’s spice section), 1/4 tsp real salt (for minerals and sodium), 1000 to 2500mg Vit C.
- AM with low/no sugar: mix ingredients with a liquid and drink. Liquid options: an Energy Fizz Stick (as me how to get these), a short glass of water if you can take the taste, in cool* tea or in a smoothie. If you want more sweet, add Stevia or Xylitol. [*This won’t work in a hot drink because heat deactivates the C.]
- PM liquid with a LITTLE sweet: mix ingredients in watered down OJ (watered down because too much sugar creates a high, then a crash which wakes you up), or coconut water or cool herbal tea. Ok to add a LITTLE tiny bit of organic sugar or honey, maple syrup, like that. The little bit of sugar will help slow and stop the cortisol — it doesn’t take much!
- No 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 herbal energy drinks (with guarana, a natural no-jitters caffeine) in the afternoon and sleep fine. I’m not suggesting giving up caffeine altogether. I’m not crazy.
- No sugar until you are sleeping regularly again. This includes sweets, desserts, honey, maple syrup, agave, organic or processed sugar. Sugar messes with your cortisol, mood and emotions. A little stevia in your yogurt is fine — stevia and xylitol are famous for NOT messing with blood sugar.
- Weighted blanket
- Blue Blocking glasses
- 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
- 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… your eyelids are translucent so you’ll know when the sun comes up!
- Melatonin (can take up to 20 mgs/night, I used to use the time release because it helped me get sleepy but I didn’t stay asleep. The time release solved that.)
- 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’m taking this instead of melatonin.)
- 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.
- The goal is in bed at 10, up at 6. Ease into this. Decide that, when you can’t sleep, you don’t work. All stimulus must stop between 10pm and 6am. Take the remedies if you like (under supplements), commit to an hour in bed with nothing but lying there or an actual book (no electronic reading)… If, after the hour, you haven’t fallen asleep, watch funny TV (no politics or violence) until you sleep. Or not. Eventually you will.
- Do not eat 3 hours before bed so all food is digested
- No water at least an hour before bed
- Raise head of bed 6-8″. You may not notice a difference but at the very least, you are beating back silent/acid reflux!
- Get sun in your eyes first thing: this shuts off melatonin and tells cortisol to get up!
- 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
- No blue light after 9pm (can cheat with GOOD QUALITY blue blockers)
- Lights OUT at 10pm