stress relief healthy sleep

We do it every night, hopefully, and over the course of our life we will spend approximately a third of our life hopefully doing it, sleep.  But what is it?  Doctors and scientists are really just beginning to understand all the important ways that sleep affects our health and well-being, and all of the reasons we do it.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about sleep, short and sweet,

Sleep is a natural recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced reaction with surrounding.

For more information on sleeping from Wikipedia, read here.

The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are real!  A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study found sleeping too little even increases the risk of early death.  That’s why it is critically important for all of us to know the Best Natural Sleep Remedies so we can prevent or have remedies for sleep deprivation when it occurs.  Noticeable signs of sleep deprivation are:

That means not getting enough sleep or good quality sleep will damage many systems of the body and over time can contribute to risk of chronic disease and health problems. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, adults need an average of 7 hours a sleep a night for optimal health.  But, the most immediate consequences of not sleeping that you’ll notice are those that affect your mind, memory, thinking, and mood.

Restoring Your Brain  

We intuitively know we need sleep, as we need nourishment. When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you’ll likely feel tired, you won’t quite be able to think as clearly as usual, and you might be moody and irritable, as we covered above. That’s because one of the key functions of sleep is to restore the brain.

Sleep is something the brain needs by forging new connections and helping memory retention.  Our brains run on electricity, which means the chemical energy the brain uses to function has waste products, called metabolites, that need to get cleaned out.  That’s what happens during sleep,  the brain flushes out those waste chemical products and replenishes the energy the brain uses throughout the day.

intellectual well being

This NIH study confirms that one of the major benefits of a good night sleep is to rid the brain of toxic waste collected,

Recent findings suggest that sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake.

You likely won’t be measuring the ATP chemical levels of your brain on a daily basis, but they do affect our functioning in big ways.

There’s also emerging evidence, covered in another NIH study, which goes into great detail on how sleep cleans the brain of waste products. Over time, consistently not getting enough sleep is linked to the buildup of certain harmful proteins in the brain called beta-amyloids, that are linked to the development of problems like depression, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological problems.

Another NIH study found that short sleep can negatively impact brain function equal to alcohol intoxication. However restorative sleep, according to much research, improves problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance. Here are 2 examples, NIH study 1: and NIH study 2:

Restoring the Body

The other functions of your body don’t function quite right either when they are deprived of healthy rest.  Your body does many things while you get quality sleep.  Not only it help the brain by restoring memory, it also releases hormones which regulate metabolism and energy levels, per an NIH review.

Immediately after getting a poor night sleep, you may notice you’re hungrier and crave food, and also in this condition, you become more susceptable to illness such as the flu.  Research has shown, that sleep deprivation tends to lower your immune function, per a Mayo Clinic study.

now-this-is-restful-quality-sleep
Now This Is Restful Quality Sleep

Over time, chronically not sleeping well has been associated with the higher risk of more serious problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, mood, anxiety, and depression disorders, lower immune function, and premature death. The NIH study confirmed that chronic non-sleep or poor sleep has been shown to lead to more serious illnesses and diseases.

Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.

An NIH review of 15 studies found that those who don’t get good quality sleep are at far greater risk of heart disease and stroke than those who got 7 to 8 hours of sleep. According to the NIH, people sleeping less than 6 hours a night have repeatedly shown to be at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Brain Cycles

During sleep the brain cycles, repeatedly, through different progressions of sleep:

Progression One Non-REM Rapid Eye Movement Sleep.  The first stage is when you’re actually falling asleep.  Your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movement start to slow down and your muscles relax.  Your brain waves are also slowing down and it’s still very easy to be awoken during this preliminary stage of sleep.

increasing-intelligence
increasing intelligence

Progression Two Non-REM Sleep.  The second stage is when heart rates drops and body temperature lowers even more.  Eye movement stops completely and brain activity slows to very little activity, other than brief bursts of activity.

Progression Three Non-REM Sleep.  Next comes deep sleep.  This is the stage of sleep that is heavy and restorative.  Your heartbeat and breathing slow down the greatest during this stage of sleep and it is most difficult to be woken up.  This stage is the time your brain makes repairs.

REM Sleep.  Finally comes REM sleep, when your eyes begin to dart quickly back and forth from side to side, even though your eyelids are still closed.  Brain activity excellarates, closer to the extinct of activity that happens when you’re awake.  This is the stage of sleep when most of your dreaming occurs.  Your breathing gets quicker and irregular during REM sleep.

Heart rate and blood pressure start to go back up nearer to the awake-function speed, though the muscles of your arms and legs become temporarily paralyzed during REM sleep.  Sleep experts suspect this paralysis is a mechanism our bodies developed to help protect us from injury or other harm, that might otherwise ensue, if we were able to physically act-out our dreams.

Each cycle of sleep, consisting of all the progressions, usually takes about ninety minutes.  Here is a 2-minute Neuroscientifically Challenged video (1)which will review what you just read in a summarized way.  And most people tend to spend more time during each cycle in deeper sleep earlier in the night, and more time in REM sleep later on.

another-awful-sleepless-night
Another Awful Sleepless Night

Each stage of sleep is important and both deep sleep and REM sleep play, critical functions in terms of the learning and memory consolidation processes that happen during sleep.  Remember, the consolidation process involves your brain improving on, and reinforcing, new learned activity previously when you were awake.  An NIH study summed it up quite easily, sleep should be restful and uninterrupted in order to allow your brain to go through all 5 stages of each sleep cycle.

Why and When You Sleep

Two internal systems control when you sleep and when you’re awake.  First there’s the sleep-wake homeostatic drive.  The longer you’re awake, the more our bodies crave sleep,  and the longer you’re asleep, the more your body wants to wake up, according to a Sleep Foundation study “Sleep Drive and Your Body Clock”.

The homeostatic sleep drive affects how deeply you sleep, too.  For instance, if you were to stay awake for 24 or 36 hours instead of the typical amount of time you spend awake during a day, such as 16 or 17 hours, sleep-wake homeostasis is the mechanism that drives you to sleep longer and deeper.

sleepless-nights-a-big-health-problem
sleepless nights a big health problem

Then there’s your circadian rhythm, your body’s biological clock, which is what helps sync our body functions with environmental cues.  These internal clocks are what drives you to feel sleepy at night and more awake in the morning, even, for instance, if you slept poorly the previous night, or even pulled an all-nighter.  These internal clocks are regulated by hormones, such as the stress hormone cortisol, and the sleep hormone melatonin, which get secreted by the brain which transfer these wake and sleep signals to the body. According to an NIH study,

The levels of several hormones fluctuate according to the light and dark cycle and are also affected by sleep, feeding, and general behavior.  The regulation and metabolism of several hormones are influenced by interactions between the effects of sleep and the intrinsic circadian system; growth hormone, melatonin, cortisol, leptin, and ghrelin levels are highly correlated with sleep and circadian rhythmicity.

These are two complementary systems in the brain.  And when there’s a discrepancy between the homeostatic drive to sleep and the signal to sleep that comes from the circadian system, problems like jet lag and other disordered sleep occurs.

This is why people who wake up at different times every day or do shift work, may feel more tired.  The brain doesn’t know how to predict when those should be awake. According to the NIH study, circadian disruption, typically induced by shift work, may negatively impact health.

blue-light-affects-circadian-rhythm
Blue Light Affects Circadian Rhythm

It’s like being constantly jet-lagged, per an another NIH study.  Circadian rhythm sleep disorders (CRSD) are sleep disorders characterized by a mismatch between the desired timing of sleep and the ability to fall asleep and remain asleep, leading to insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness, which can lead to negative medical, psychological, and social consequences.

The more sleep researchers learn about these two systems that control sleep, the more it is clear why not only getting enough hours of sleep, but also having good sleep habits, such as going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, is important.

Research like this NIH study, has shown having a regular sleep schedule where you go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends, is much better for regulating your circadian rhythms.  Regularity and routine is the key.  The NIH study referenced above had this to say about how circadian rhythms directly influence many bodily functions,

Irregular rhythms have been linked to various chronic health conditions, such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.

How Much Sleep

totally exhausted-and stressed-from-lack-of-sleep

How much sleep you actually need each night varies somewhat for each of us depending on our age.  For example, it’s thought, younger people typically need more sleep than adults. Is that the case?  Is that correct? Research seems to show something different occurs.    Could it be younger people are more vulnerable to the condition of chronic sleep deficiency?  According to an NIH study, the later is true.

The study found that while young and older adults reported similar levels of subjective sleepiness, objective measures of sleepiness revealed that young adults were more vulnerable and had more attentional failures than the older adults.

Or, because of genetic makeup, some people are naturally shorter sleepers than others, per a Harvard Medical School study.  The study found genes (genetics) influence how fast or slow our internal clock runs and, as a result, how closely it, and our body’s functions and align with the 24-hour day.

Changes in these genes, known as mutations, from one generation to the next can affect the clock’s timing.  For example, this can cause a child to have a faster or slower clock than his or her parents.  According to NIH research, other factors, such race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic background can also play a role for sleep disparities, finding with racial/ethnic minorities and the socioeconomically disadvantaged tending to get less sleep and experiencing a higher risk of sleep problems.

But, for the Best Natural Sleep Remedies, we typically recommend between seven and nine hours each night, which is the same as the guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

healthy-restorative-sleep-for-aging
Healthy Restorative Sleep For Healthy Aging

The NSF recommendation, along with additional recommended sleep times for younger children, adolescents, and older adults, is based on the amount of sleep associated with the best health outcomes in a number of areas, including things like mood, learning, accidents, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and pain.

What’s important to understand, is to be not to overly concerned about getting a specific number of hours of sleep each night, but, optimally, it should be at least 7 hours.  The main issue  of concern, is waking up refreshed.

You should never wake up tired.  If you do wake up feeling tired, something is out of balance and you should implement the best natural sleep remedies you’ve learned here to correct it.

Waking up sleepy could be an indicator that the quality of your sleep is poor.  Maybe you’re spending too much time in light sleep, and not getting enough restorative deep sleep, for example.  If that’s the case, it might be a good idea to ask your doctor about getting checked for a sleep disorder, or see a sleep medicine specialist.

Better Sleep

As you can readily see by the research, there’s no one foolproof formula for getting a good night’s sleep, but there are several steps you can take that have been associated with better sleep overall, if you’re struggling getting the recommended number of hours of sleep you know you need, or if you wake up feeling less rested than you want to be, try the following suggestion that will assist you to improve your sleep quality:

Commit to a consistent sleep-wake routine.

couple-enjoying-healthy-restful-restorative-sleep
Couple Enjoying Healthy Restful Restorative Sleep

Aim to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time in the morning, including on the weekends,  and try not to vary it more than an hour or so, as the research referenced above showed. The times that you regularly go to bed and wake up are the signals you give your body’s natural clock, and when they’re consistent, that clock helps you wake up and fall asleep regularly and routinely.

If those signals are to inconsistent, your body clock gets thrown off and you experience the same drowsiness associated with jet lag.  You also may struggle to fall asleep at night or wake up when your alarm rings.

Now let’s throw in a little twist!  There is growing evidence that waking up in the middle of the night isn’t necessarily insomnia.  More than one-third of American adults wake up in the middle of the night on a regular basis.  Of those who experience these awakenings, nearly half are unable to fall back asleep right away.

Doctors frequently diagnose this condition as a sleep disorder called insomnia, and prescribe medication to treat it, which may be the wrong approach?  Those nocturnal awakenings aren’t abnormal at all; they are the natural rhythm that your body gravitates toward.

According to historians and psychiatrists alike, it is the compressed, continuous eight-hour sleep routine to which everyone aspires today that is unprecedented in human history.

senior-man-relaxing-before-sleeping-listening-to-pain-reducing-music
Senior Man Relaxing Before Sleeping Listening To Pain-Reducing Music

Apparently, we’ve been sleeping all wrong lately, so if you have insomnia, you may actually be doing things right, like your ancestors did.  How’s that for a surprise?  Dr. Thomas Wehr at the National Institute of Mental Health conducted a landmark experiment in which he placed a group of normal volunteers in 14-hour dark periods each day for a month.  He let the subjects sleep as much and as long as they wanted during the experiment.

What he found was after an average of three to five hours of solid sleep, the subjects would awaken and spend an hour or two of peaceful wakefulness before a second three to five-hour sleep period.  So, is waking up in the middle of the night natural?  Dr. Wehr thought so,

If it’s any consolation to those of you who are awake in the middle of the night for an hour or so, reading or watching television, you may simply be the most natural sleepers.

Scientific America confirmed Dr. Wehr’s research finding humans do not sleep a long consecutive bout throughout the night, except in the middle of the summer in low latitudes.  The natural condition is bimodal, which is two bouts of sleep interrupted by a short episode of waking in the middle of the night.

Watch caffeine intake.  Be especially careful with using caffeinated-drinks later in the afternoon.  It’s a good idea to avoid caffeine within six hours of when you want to sleep.

great-physical-shape
great physical shape helps with quality sleep

Exercise Moderately.  Research shows regular physical activity, thirty minutes a day five days a week, is associated with better, restful sleep, though, it’s worth noting, you should try to avoid intense exercise close to bedtime, as it might make it harder to fall asleep.  Physical activity sends signals to your body that tend to wake you up, by increasing your heart rate and increasing your body temperature, according to the Sleep Foundation.

Now, here’s a question for you.  Is it a lack of sleep that keeps you from exercising because your exhausted?   Or, is it your exercising that’s keeping you awake at night, like the study showed?  Which is it?   The chances are, it could be both!

An NIH study found the main reason middle-aged and older adults gave for not exercising is that they were just too tired all the time.  But, some research suggest that the cause of being tired all the time is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).  However, a review study of over 1500 people found that exercise reduces the symptom of fatigue associated with CFS.

The point being, when in doubt, participate in some form of physical activity anyway, because it will help you regardless of the actual reason.  Much research shows, exercise is good for healthy, people with illness, and even people with cancer.  Here are just 2 examples: NIH study 1, and NIH study 2.  For a in depth discussion on physical activity and the benefits it provides for healthy sleep, read this article, “What Is Exercise About“.

Avoid bright lights and bright screens.

cat-and-owner-healthy-sleep
Cat and Owner Healthy Sleep

This is the time to unwind and relax your mind.  An hour or so before your bedtime avoid excessive use of technical equipment.  Blue light the kind that comes from fluorescent bulbs, LEDs, and computer and cellphone screens,  has been shown, according to research like this National Institutes Of Health study, to actually send the same signals to the brain as sunlight, and block production of the hormone melatonin that tells the brain to go to sleep.

In another NIH study, metabolic dysfunction induced by circadian rhythm and sleep disruption, is associated with being commonly exposed to less light during the day and more light at night because of artificial lighting, which may impair circadian system organization and disrupt sleep, resulting in widespread adverse effects on metabolic health.

Stay up or get up.  Remember the Dr. Wehr study?  This means at night if you’re woken up and having trouble falling back to sleep for twenty minutes or longer, get out of bed and do something to make you tired, such as reading or some gentle stretching, and you’ll quickly get back to sleep for your second round of sleep.

Staying in bed makes your body associated in-bed time as awake time, and it’s not natural, and it will actually be harder to fall asleep, if you don’t get up and do a simple activity.

In the morning, when you wake  up, get up.

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Healthy Sleep Habits Brings Great Health

It can be tempting to wake up slowly, or hit the snooze button, but that drowsy sleep, after you’ve initially woken up, is fragmented, light sleep, and disrupting your circadian rhythm.  If you did get a poor night’s sleep, your best remedy is getting up, going about your day, and hitting your pillow at bedtime that evening, at which point your sleep drive will be strong and you’re more likely to actually reap the benefit of the deep restorative sleep you need.

Sleep Aids.

If you’ve tried all the Best Natural Sleep Remedies recommended and nothing has worked for getting quality sleep, there are a few proven sleep aids which will assist you in getting quality restful sleep, and they don’t involve using prescription drugs and their harmful side affects.  Here are three which have very good reviews:

David Delight Pro Device.  Improves meditation, relaxation, restful sleep, and sleep clarity.

Transquil Weighted-Gravity Blanket.  

davis-delight-sleep-device
David Delight sleep device

Brings a sense of warmth and calmness to the body, reducing nervousness, and body tension, and brings a sense of calmness to your mind an thoughts.

Muse.  Muse is a brain-sensing headband, bringing relaxation, meditation, restful sleep, and sleep clarity.

For more in depth information on each specific sleep aids, and to purchase them, read this review, “You Can Be Healthy” (B).

Eat well-balanced nutritious foods.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, one very effective strategy you can embrace, in getting healthy, sufficient, quality sleep, is eating fresh, certified organic, non-GMO, nutrient-dense foods regularly, that are high in antioxidants to fight stress and anxiety.

Here are the nutrient-dense foods that normally comprise the Mediterranean diet, and that will not only bring restful quality sleep, per an NIH study, but also optimal health and wellness:   grass-fed finished lean meats, fresh, organic, free-range finished poultry, grass-fed finished dairy and eggs (A); fresh cold-water or wild-caught fish and seafood (A); fresh organic fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, and seeds (A); and organic whole grains and complex carbohydrates, natural fermented foods, monounsaturated oils like extra virgin olive oil, fresh organic herbs and spices, and antioxidant drinks, infused water, naturally fermented red wine and beer, and fruit and veggie smoothies (A). And, reward yourself with a piece of dark chocolate. Now, we didn’t say milk chocolate.

for-sleep-healthy-healing-nutrient-rich-mediterranean-diet
FOR sleep Healthy-Healing Nutrient-Rich Mediterranean Diet

In addition, there are specific foods that have been shown to promote healthy, restful, and restorative sleep.  Here are some examples:

Almonds.  Almonds are an excellent source of melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone, per the NIH.  They also are high in healthy monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and fiber and have been associated with reducing risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, per the NIH.

Almonds are also high in magnesium, which reduce inflammation and pain, and reduces the production of harmful cortisol, promoting restful sleep.

Turkey.  Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which increases the production of sleep-regulating melatonin, like almonds, according to NIH.  It also is high in protein which promotes tiredness, and that seems to be the case.  However, According to the NIH, results from research have been mixed.  It worked with subjects with mild insomnia, or in normal subjects reporting a longer-than-average sleep latency, but less effective or mixed results with severe insomnia.

Chamomile Tea.  This tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds certain brain receptors that promote sleep and reduce insomnia.  It is also an anti-depressant, or has anti-depressant quality, and contains flavones which are antioxidants that reduce inflammation and the pain associated with it, promoting better sleep.

Kiwi.  Kiwi contain serotonin, which helps regulate sleep, and it’s antioxidants qualities, also reduce cell damage and inflammation, inflammation, which reduces aches and pain, resulting in better quality sleep, per a couple NIH studies.

Fatty Fish.  

eat-fresh-wild-caught-yellow-fin-tuna-for-sleep
Eat Fresh Wild-Caught-Yellowfin Tuna For Sleep

Salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel, and other oily fish, contain omega-3 fatty acids for reducing inflammation and reducing pain for better sleep; Vitamin D, which, according to an NIH study, helped subjects fall asleep 10 minutes faster than those who ate chicken, beef, or pork; and the omega 3s plus high in vitamin D, which increases the production of serotonin, per an NIH study.

Whole Grain Rice or Brown Rice.  Brown rice is high in carbs and high in fiber, which contributes to its high glycemic index, which promotes better quality sleep.

According to an NIH study, the loss of GABA and other nutrition-related-sleep ingredients from whole grains to polished grain foods (like white rice) are key factors that cause insomnia. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and promotes parasympathetic activity for improved sleep.

Warm Milk.  Milk primary sleep aid is amino acid tryptophan, which increases the production melatonin, combined with a little exercise increase sleep quality in older adults, per the NIH.  Besides, the psychological experience of having warm milk at bedtime like when you were a child, brings a cozy, warm, relaxing feeling.

Bananas.  Bananas, like milk, contain trytophan, and is also high in potassium which reduces inflammation and pain for more relaxed sleep, per an NIH study.

Oatmeal.  Oatmeal is high in carbohydrates and melatonin and according to research induces drowsiness if consumed before bedtime for better sleep.

for-sleeping-eat-incredible-healthy-nutrient-dense-variety-of-food
For Sleeping Eat Incredible Healthy Nutrient-Dense Variety Of Food

Research has shown that there are certain foods should be avoided because they cause tiredness and fatigue during waking hours, that may have been attributed to poor sleep. This fatigue is because of the spikes and falls in blood sugar levels which can make you feel exhausted.  One NIH study found those eating breakfasts containing greater amounts of carbohydrate reported feeling tired rather than energetic.

Another NIH study on Koreans found eating high density foods such as meat, eggs, and beans more than twice a day caused self-reported fatigue.  Another NIH study found that eating surgery snacks caused stress and fatigue in children before a soccer game.  On the other side of the coin, research shows there are a couple of foods that are really good for relieving fatigue and increasing alertness during the day.

According to an NIH study okra is not only an excellent antioxidant for stress but it also a great anti-fatigue vegetableDried Bonita broth (Japanese “Katsuobushi” smoked or fermented skipjack tuna), per an NIH study, is excellent for mental fatigue and enhancing tasks performance in individuals with high fatigue scores.  Studies have shown minimizing the use of high-sugar and caffeine helps in reducing insomnia, particularly at night, as well.

According to a University of Arizona Health Sciences study, nighttime snacking and junk food cravings may contribute to unhealthy eating behaviors and represent a potential link between poor sleep and obesity.

However, according to an NIH study, if you choose the right healthy foods, the opposite is true, choosing and eating foods before bedtime that are small in quantity, nutrient-dense, low energy foods and/or single macronutrient food, like meat or fish, rather than large mixed-meals, are considered beneficial.  From this perspective, it appears that a bedtime supply of nutrients can promote positive physiological changes in healthy populations.

Supplement With Adaptogen Peruvian Maca

fresh-superfood-Maca-root
fresh Superfood Maca root

Instead of providing hormones normally to your body, as an adaptogen, Peruvian Maca naturally responds to different bodily requirements individually, regulating them.  If you are producing too much of a particular hormone, it will help regulate the production downward, or, if you are producing too little of a particular hormone, it will the production upwards, bringing hormonal balance and homeostasis.  Peruvian Maca can improve symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, depression, heart palpitations, and disrupted sleep at night, according to the NIH.

P Maca also stimulates estradiol and suppresses the production of chemicals, like the stress hormone, cortisol, which interrupts sleep cycles, per another NIH study.

For more in depth information on this incredible, healing adaptogen and to purchase it, read the following review: Where Can I Buy Maca? (A)  Another great read on Maca is What Is In Maca Root?

Hope you found “Best Natural Sleep Remedies” informative, and if you are experiencing sleep deprivation, you will try some of the remedies.  If you have questions or comments, please leave them below.

(A)  (A) Use these links for more in depth information, more documented studies, and to purchase any of these incredible nutrient-dense foods that will allow you to not only sleep well but also bring you a life of optimal health and wellness.

(B) Use this link for more information and to purchase the various sleep-aid devices.

(1)  Neuroscientifically Challenged Video