Mothers who experience insomnia are among those who suffer most. Years of interrupted sleep combined with the new lifestyle requires a certain kind of strength. Luckily our evolutionary wisdom gave mom’s super powers in the form rapid brain growth. Apply evidence based sleep research to put yourself at ease when bedtime comes.
Regulate Your Light Exposure
Get enough bright light exposure on your retina first thing in the morning. Open your curtains and step outside. What this does is support your cortisol awakening response. This rush of morning cortisol is a normal and important part of your physiological cycle which allows you to rest deeply at night.
Spend time outdoors each day. A short walk at lunch time is enough to anchor your circadian rhythm. This means 15 min to an hour spent outdoors each day has a cumulative effect on your ability to sleep well.
Turn down your lights at night. Use filters like flux if you must have screen time. Install side lights and dimmer switches. Use the evening for quiet activities like reading or meditation.
Make your bedroom your sleeping room. Keep it free of electronics and work related projects. Its purpose should be for rest, sex and sleep. Have dark curtains to cut out any light pollution.
Stress and Relaxation
Serotonin is the precursor for melatonin, an important hormone for sleep. Serotonin also competes with cortisol. Cortisol is our primary stress hormone and has an important secondary function of being anti-inflammatory. If it is not regulated sleep will be poor and pain will be high. Learning to relax and do things that you love will promote serotonin, dopamine and the other neurotransmitters associated with connection, pleasure and relaxation. Meditation has a significant amount of research around it.
Caffeine and sugar contribute to metabolic issues which aggravate insomnia. Remove refined sweeteners from your diet and reduce caffeine to a moderate amount only before noon. If you are tired during the day then rest for 20-30 minutes. This will allow your body to reorganize. Many parents find this very difficult to pull off. Those who have made a window before dinner or after school to rest find family life much more rewarding.
Create an Extended Sleep Schedule
This is proven to be one of the most important tools for recovering from insomnia. Give yourself longer to sleep than you think you need. Being consistent with this will support your body in trusting it and overtime you will begin to sleep more. For example, from 10pm to 8am no other activities are planned besides sleep. After about 3 weeks you’ll begin to see changes. Use guided meditations or books on tape that don’t emit light if you feel like you are going crazy at first. Many of patients use a body scan or other mindfulness techniques to help relax in bed.
Alcohol and Body Temperature
Your sleep room needs to be cooler than the rest of your home. Alcohol lowers body temperature initially so can put you to sleep. By 1 – 3am alcohol will increase your temperature and wake you.
Move Your Body
The right amount of exercise at the right time each day will support your sleep. Each person is unique but in general resistance training in the middle of the day increases HGH (human growth hormone) which supports deep sleep.
Inflammation, Weight and Sleep
One night of poor sleep can increase inflammation in the body due to the stress it causes. Cortisol triggers the release of glycogen into the blood stream and raises insulin. Prolonged sleep loss leads to weight issues because the body has to rely on these stress hormones just to keep going. Insulin resistance and diabetes can result.
Nutrient Dense Food
Not eating enough during the day can also be the cause of insomnia because it spikes cortisol. Maintain consistent meal times. Eat nutrient dense foods. Have a high protein snack before bed. Avoid processed foods. Always eat fat or protein with your carbohydrates. Make sure most or all of your carbs are coming from vegetable and fruits.
Postpartum, Menstruation and Menopause
During these times nutrients are especially important. Iron deficient anemia is the number one cause of postpartum depression because it contributes to insomnia. Menstruation and menopause are also times to focus on a nutrients and stress management. Checking your hormone profile and working with a functional medicine practitioner can reduce or mitigate any symptoms without the need for hormone replacement therapy in any long-term way.
Those with hormone issues who have taken the Baseline Reset Course have had incredible success with rebalancing mood, weight and libido. One student was overjoyed to find a solution that didn’t involved antidepressants and the pill which were the recommendations from her doctor. She was simply having some peri-menopausal symptoms. Sleep improved and meditation gave her a way to work with her emotions.