Sleep hygiene is like brushing your teeth, it is a ritual that improves your health. In the case of sleep hygiene, instead of just affecting your teeth, it affects your entire life. Sleep quality has been shown to affect weight, academic performance, mood, and markers of heart health and immune function.

Before we can dive into improving sleep with sleep hygiene, it will help to introduce two hormones that influence our sleep patterns: melatonin and cortisol.

Melatonin

Melatonin increases at night, telling your body to sleep. Cortisol (a stress-response hormone also involved in sugar regulation) spikes in the morning, telling you to get up. In order to sleep at night, we need melatonin, and low cortisol.

Melatonin secretion is decreased by light, especially by blue light. This brings us to the first aspect of sleep hygiene, decreased light exposure in the evening. Reducing exposure to light at least one hour before bed can help to prepare your body for sleep.

If you find yourself looking at a computer screen in the evening, Pixel eyewear filters out the blue-spectrum light, which helps to realign your system to natural sun cycles and aid in proper melatonin secretion. This is because blue light specifically has the greatest effect on suppression of melatonin secretion. The same eyewear also clarifies computer pictures, reducing eye strain. Additionally, F.lux is a free program you can download that reduces blue light when the sun goes down, and increases the blue light of your screen in the morning.

Cortisol

Now that we’ve covered melatonin, we need to address cortisol. Cortisol increases in response to stress. This stress can come from working late, racing thoughts about the day ahead or even watching an action-packed thriller on T.V. Thus, to improve sleep it is best to reduce activity and encourage relaxation in the evening. This will reduce cortisol levels in the evening which can otherwise interfere with proper sleep.
Establishing a nightly ritual can address both of these factors. As long as your nightly ritual includes reduced activity and light exposure, then the details of the ritual can be unique to each person. This might include a warm bath, a book, or whatever helps you to relax, as long as you can do it with minimal light exposure (reading light is fine).

Cortisol is also increased when blood sugar is low; to combat this, a small protein-rich snack in the evening (such as a handful of cashews or almonds) can help to keep blood sugar stable throughout the night, keeping cortisol low, and encouraging restful sleep.

Other tips

-In the morning, encourage wakefulness with early exposure to light, especially sunlight. This should also help to set your inner clock to go to sleep earlier in the evening.
-During the day be sure to exercise, as this will set you up for good sleep in the evening. However, avoid exercising the last 1-2 hours before bed as this can be too stimulating
-Avoid sugar, caffeine, or other stimulants in the afternoon/evening; if you are sensitive to these you might also want to avoid them earlier in the day.
-While a siesta of about 30 minutes in the afternoon is fine, try to avoid prolonged or late naps during the day.
-Other substances which can interfere with sleep include: Thyroid preparations, oral contraceptives, beta blockers, marijuana, and alcohol.

Insomnia

There are two primary types of insomnia: difficulty falling asleep which is known as onset insomnia or difficulty staying asleep, known as sleep maintenance insomnia. Both types of insomnia can be caused by a multitude of different issues, which is why it is important to always consult your healthcare provider.

Onset Insomnia

Most natural therapies are directed at helping with onset insomnia due to anxiety or stress, which is the most common cause of onset insomnia. While the first-line of therapies should be the rituals and lifestyle changes mentioned above, the next step would be some natural stress relievers.

Chamomile, lavender, and 5-HTP are all natural anxiolytics or stress relievers that can be used in the evening to help aid in the transition from the work day into a relaxing evening and restful night’s sleep.

Sleep Maintenance Insomnia

Unfortunately, lifestyle changes and natural therapies tend to be less effective in reversing sleep maintenance insomnia, and conventional medical care is often necessary, with two primary exceptions: alcohol, and pain.
While alcohol can help with sleep onset, it reduces sleep quality, and often leads to midnight waking. The lifestyle change is simple, don’t drink lots of alcohol before bed.

Pain can be related to either form of insomnia, and while there are a multitude of different natural and conventional ways to treat pain, there is one especially effective treatment discussed in the next section.

Biomat: Infrared Healing Table

How does it work?
The biomat uses amethyst crystals to direct and amplify infrared heat deep into muscle tissues. This encourages increased circulation and relaxation of muscles.

How does it help with sleep?
As mentioned above, pain can cause either type of insomnia, both reducing one’s ability to go to sleep and to stay asleep. Thus, the primary way that the biomat improves sleep is by relaxing tense muscles and relieving muscle pain.

Additionally, the muscle relaxation can produce overall relaxation and stress relief, which helps resolve the most common cause of sleep-onset insomnia, which is stress or anxiety.

Other potential benefits
-Reduces stress and fatigue
-Soothes and relaxes
-Supports the immune system
-Reduced inflammation (where applied)
Temporary relief of:
-Minor joint pain and stiffness
-Joint pain associated with arthritis
-Muscle spasms
-Minor sprains
-Minor strains
-Minor muscular back pain

Is it right for me?
Specifically those with an external pacemaker or organ transplant should not use the biomat. As with any new therapy, consult with your physician before use.

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