Sleep Tips

Sleep Tips

Aim: To get neurons (nerve cells in the brain and elsewhere) that are active in the day to switch off, and allow “nighttime” neurons to take over. To deactivate our sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight) and activate our parasympathetic nervous system (rest, recovery) so that brain activity and breathing slow, and heart rate drops. Two systems in the brain are involved in this – our circadian clocks and sleep-wake homeostasis.

Help your circadian clocks by
• Increasing your melatonin and/or reducing nighttime cortisol
• Picking a bedtime/wake time and sticking to it, even at weekends.
• Eating well and avoiding stimulants in the afternoon / evening (see below)

Help sleep-wake homeostasis by
• Exercise – but not too late, or too hard – it’s Ok to get tired, but don’t overdo weights or HIT – have days off.
• Avoiding caffeine – it blocks the build-up of adenosine, which promotes sleep-wake homeostasis

Increasing your melatonin / reducing cortisol 

Cortisol is produced from cholesterol by the adrenal glands in response to stress and low blood glucose. It is what gets us up in the morning – but is unhelpful at the wrong times of day. The obvious message it to relax – but that may not be enough. Support for the adrenal system can help (by way of vitamins C, B5,B6 and Magnesium supplements) and to “breakfast like a king,  lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper”. If reducing your cortisol seems too difficult, then concentrate on increasing your melatonin – cortisol and melatonin have an inverse relationship and helping one will help the other.

Our day/night cycle is influenced by the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is made from serotonin which is synthesised from tryptophan, an amino acid found in many proteins. To produce enough melatonin to get us to sleep through the night, we need enough serotonin, and exposure to sunshine and darkness (see below). And to get enough serotonin we need a decent diet, including tryptophan. Tryptophan is found in many foods, including eggs, poultry, seeds, nuts and beans. And we need it early in the day so that we can start making serotonin as early as possible. Scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Serotonin levels build up during the day and levels increase with sunlight. Get out into the sunlight, and then spend time in the dark – conversion of serotonin to sleep-influencing hormone melatonin is triggered by changes in light exposure.

Light
Disruption of exposure to natural light cycles is often a major contributor to our sleep problems. Studies show that a couple of weeks of wild camping with no exposure to artificial light sorts out a whole host of sleep issues. So, get as much natural light (and darkness) as you can. Daylight in the daytime is a good thing, but blue light at night (emitted from computers tablets and phones) inhibits the production of melatonin. Switch them off, as much as you can – and if you must use them at night, use the device’s night mode / colour shifting software such as flux.

Eating for Sleep

Creating good sleep is a 24/7 process. During deep sleep our brainwaves are more powerful (greater amplitude) than at any other time of day. We need energy to sleep well! Our neurons need water, and a proper balance of minerals including magnesium potassium and sodium to work efficiently. Food matters, as does water.

  • Eat tryptophan in early in the day
  • Sugar disrupts sleep
  • Fibre rich foods enhance deep sleep
  • Alcohol disrupts REM sleep, essential for processing memories/ experiences
  • Caffeine blocks adenosine, a neuromodulator that helps sleep

These vitamins and minerals are involved in the sleep cycle – do you need more?

  • Vitamin B6     Fish, Banana, Avocado, Spinach, Sunflower seeds,
  • Vitamin B12 Shellfish, Liver, Fish, Eggs.
  • Zinc                   Seafood, Spinach, Pumpkin seeds, Nuts, Beans
  • Magnesium   Dark Green veg, Pumpkin seeds, Nuts, Beans. Fish
  • Potassium       Sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, bananas
  • Sodium             Get this from high quality salt
  • Selenium           Brazil nuts – 3/4 day

More on salt & magnesium.

Recent large scale studies show that we need more sodium than was thought. Get it from high quality natural salt which contains a range of valuable minerals. Ditch table salt. We can get very low on magnesium, especially if we are stressed, and it is hard to make it up through diet. Many experts advise poor sleepers to supplement magnesium. If you do this, make sure that you use an easily absorbable form – e.g. magnesium citrate, and avoid magnesium oxide.

EMFs

The electromagnetic fields creating by electrical circuits interfere with our sleep. So do Wi-Fi signals. Sensitivity differs. Unplug nearby electrical equipment and switch off Wi-Fi in your house at night to maximise the quality of your sleep. Essential if you want to use the Zeez Sleep Pebble.

How much will these tips, sleep hygiene, CBT, improve your sleep?

If you are an acute insomniac (i.e. your insomnia has lasted between 2 weeks and 3 months) you may be encouraged by a recent study which showed that 73% of acute insomniacs (12 / 20) benefitted significantly from written guidance + one hour’s CBT therapy.[1] CBT may also help chronic insomnia – a 2012 review showed that outcomes are better with CBT than with benzodiazipine sleep medicine[2]. One study used the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) to compare results 8 months after CBT and sleep medication (temazepam) – those using CBT had improved by 1.8 points on the PSQI whereas those taking temazepam worsened[3]. But chronic insomnia is hard to treat, and 1.8 points on the PSQI is not a huge change. Given that it is linked to significant increases in heart disease, cancer, stroke[4] and mental illness it is

“ a considerable health burden both on the individual and the economy.. linked to .. physical and psychiatric .. highly prevalent and largely unrelenting..”[5]  

And that’s why we are so exited about our Zeez Sleep Pebble, and think we have something valuable to offer.

Zeez Sleep Pebble

We want you to follow good “sleep hygiene”. We think CBT is a good thing. Hypnotherapy can work[6], as can a host of other things. And quite often, nothing seems to help. It is as if our brain has forgotten how to sleep. We may be able to relax well – but lie in bed, unsleeping. Poor sleep can behard to shift. Yet long term poor sleepers often do sleep better using Zeez Sleep Pebble. Almost all of our users have had poor sleep for long periods – from teenagers who hadn’t slept properly since childhood, to older people who hadn’t slept well for 20, 30 years.  79% experienced significant and substantial improvements in their sleep – average 8 point in the PSQI. That’s big. These are the results we gathered from surveys – not independent, and our users have been supported by us, and I think have followed good sleep hygiene. We don’t know if these results can be sustained long term, but we expect continuing good results. So our final tip is: Zeez Sleep Pebble may support you in achieving good sleep even where nothing else has works.

Conclusion

  • Do everything you can to slow your brain, breathing and heart so that you sleep and stay asleep.
  • Don’t let acute insomnia become chronic insomnia
  • Sleep hygiene, CBT, work – but not always, and not always enough.
  • The Zeez Sleep Pebble may support CBT, sleep hygiene
  • There is hope for chronic insomniacs, no matter how poor their sleep.

Good Luck, and goodnight!

Anna McKay copyright 2017

www.zeez.org.uk  anna@zeez.org.uk

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4434564/ Prof. Jason Ellis Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3481424/

[3] http://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/92892

[4] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0030972 (study, 24,000 people)

[5] https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/about-us/news-events/news/2015/06/73-of-insomniacs-cured-after-1-hour-therapy-session/

[6] http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00029157.1993.10403051 3/6 chronic insomniacs responded