How Can I get Solid Sleep? The Best Sleep Stack
Solid Sleep? What’s that? It’s something that most of us are not getting enough of. We have a lot of societal pressure on us now, and therefore we tend to put solid sleep on the back burner. I am my best, sharpest, most clear self, early in the morning. This is my internal clock. I know my own rhythm so strongly, that if I need to catch a flight or wake up early, I will instinctually wake up one minute before my alarm goes off, every single time. We all have a circadian rhythm, but many of us just don’t have that deep awareness, simply because we are so distracted by life.
A High Demand World
The pressure at work, pressure with children and sports, pressure with fitting in our movement, and everything else life throws at us. One of the first things we tend to do away with is getting adequate sleep. We lay in bed at night and our heads are just reeling with things we want to remember. Checklists. Stressing about dinner tomorrow…you know the deal. Everything builds up during the day like a gigantic volcano, making it laughable when ‘sleep experts’ give us tips on how to wind down at night. In the past, I believed that there was something seriously wrong with me because trying out those sleep tips just increased my anxiety surrounding sleep. However, sleep.is.life. I cannot stress this enough. So how can we fix this?
Disruptions of the circadian rhythms is a risk factor for mental health issues, digestive health issues, and decreased cognitive and physical performance.
Getting Solid Sleep: How Our Ancestors Slept
Let’s look at the sleep patterns of a caveman, without electricity. Circadian rhythms or our internal 24-hour clock are established, depending upon the season and the sun. There was no staring at blue lights right before bed, or being in buildings with artificial lights beaming down on them all day long. Their body biologically followed the rhythm of the sun and the seasons. Sleep-wake cycles were guided by that first light kissing their skin in the morning. They slept and woke following the sun and the seasons.
This natural rhythm is part of our inherent biology, down to the cellular level. Our trillions of microbes in our microbiome both follow and are influenced by our circadian rhythm. Therefore, our sleep cycle plays a much more critical in our health than we realized. The composition and structure of our microbiome are regulated by our own circadian rhythm. Our ‘master’ clock is regulated by pacemaker neurons that oscillate in our brain, but also in all of our cells, and hormone receptors. We now know that this sleep/wake cycle controls our metabolism down to the cellular level. Down to our genetic expression.
Sleep Loss Has a Detrimental Impact on Our Health
Sleep loss has been associated with everything from cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, weight loss resistance, and decreased cognitive performance. A new study showed that those people experiencing high levels of stress and sleep loss had a much higher cognitive impairment, memory loss, and decreased attention span. Most of us are experiencing moderate to high stress, just through our adult responsibilities and relationships.
What does this mean for us? Solid sleep is pretty important. We need to get some darn good sleep. Sleep needs to be one of our top priorities, in my opinion, it’s right up top, possibly the most important thing to prioritize. Yet for many of us, sleep is the first thing to go on the back burner. Adequate sleep is imperative for everything we’ve talked about so far. It’s imperative for growth hormone release and muscle repair. Sleep is also essential for our hormonal health, mood, energy, weight, mental health, and cognition.
Solid Sleep Needs to be a Top Priority
We are not placing a strong enough emphasis on getting adequate amounts of sleep. We are staying up late to watch our favorite shows. We’re staring at screens before bed, scrolling through social media, and reading our kindle books, which affects our ability to reach deep restorative sleep. Many people are taking both over the counter and prescription medications to help us fall asleep and stay asleep. We’ve have developed such anxiety and pressure surrounding sleep, that it just does not come naturally anymore. We are essentially a bunch of insomniacs, running throughout the day in fight or flight. This has a profound effect on our moods, hormones, metabolism, relationships, sexuality, and overall health.
Everyone is a Sleep Guru
Throughout my 20’s and early 30’s, I struggled with severe anxiety surrounding sleep. I was so tired of ‘sleep experts’ listing ways to get a ‘good night sleep,’ but none of it working for me. Deep breathing didn’t work. Meditation didn’t work. Relaxing routines became anxiety-provoking routines, because I believed it wasn’t going to work for me, and it didn’t. Sleep became a battleground for me and this impacted all aspects of my life, my mental health, and my hormones. Meditation works great for many people but never worked for me.
What worked for me? I’ve literally run the gauntlet when it comes to solid sleep, and here are the top approaches that have helped both myself and my clients with both falling asleep and staying asleep. You may find other things work better for you. However, following these steps to solid sleep has been life-changing for me, and I have been sleeping beautifully since following this routine.
Morning Sunlight Creates Melatonin
Getting morning sunlight on our skin is one of the most important ways to get solid sleep at night. We literally have photoreceptors all over our body. Our skin takes in this sunlight and helps produce melatonin, a hormone that improves sleep latency (falling asleep) and staying asleep at night. When we are exposed to dim or artificial lights in the morning, we do not get the signals to produce sufficient melatonin in the evening. Sunlight, especially the first light in the morning, corresponds to better sleep at night. This morning light helps us to create more melatonin, which tells your body it’s time to fall asleep. This is especially true in climates where it gets very cold, and we aren’t outside as much. It’s imperative in the winter to bundle up and get outside first thing in the morning, even if it’s just 20 minutes. I can’t stress enough how much this morning light sets the tone for our sleep at night!
Melatonin is a Hormone
The problem with taking melatonin at night? Melatonin is not an herbal supplement. It’s actually a strong hormone, that regulates our body’s internal clock. It tells our brain ‘time to go night nights.’ It does not contain anything secret ingredient that helps you with decreasing the time it takes for your body to fall asleep. It’s great to take when you are traveling and switching time zones (to help with resetting your rhythm to a new time zone). However, taken long term, we are technically altering our hormones and may also be numbing our hormone receptors. This is not something we really want from a sleep aid. I personally do not recommend melatonin for long-term use.
Magnesium and Sleep
Magnesium is our best friend when it comes to getting solid sleep. According to Carolyn Dean, MD and Author of The Magnesium Miracle most of us are deficient in magnesium. Due to modern farming practices, our soils are depleted of this essential mineral. Each time we are stressed (any kind, mental or physical) our body utilizes our stored magnesium. Magnesium supports over 400 enzymatic processes in our body. Dean attributes a myriad of psychological problems to magnesium deficiency. What I’m saying here as briefly as possible, is that magnesium is pretty darn important, which is why I talk about it a few times in this book.
Magnesium is known as the calming mineral that aids the brain in regulating excessive cortisol related to stress. Magnesium helps reduce the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and it has a direct impact on the function of the transport of protein p-glycoprotein, which can influence the access of corticosteroids to the brain. All of these systems are involved in the pathophysiology of stress. Therefore, not only does magnesium help to relax tense/tight muscles, but it also helps to relieve stress and anxiety we may feel before bed (when the infamous monkey brain starts going). There are many forms of magnesium, some are easier digested and assimilated than others.
My favorite Magnesium supplements (affiliate links)
Transdermal Magnesium (bypasses the need for digestion and goes straight into the bloodstream).
Liposomal Magnesium (more bioavailable)
Kava Plex and Sleep
I found something that I like BETTER than CBD oil (and I love quality CBD). It’s full-spectrum kava oil! This is not to be confused with the stuff you get at health food stores called “kava kava.” Rather, t’s the noble root variety of kava, extracted into a tincture. Kava oil helps you to fall asleep and get a solid night sleep. Many scientific studies have shown that Kavalactones in kava significantly increase GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) activity in the brain, which is the body’s main chemical for shutting down excitability and inducing relaxation. They bind to a specific site in the brain called the GABA(A) receptor, which is a key target for most anti-anxiety drugs and is known as one of the master regulators of stress and sleep in the body.
Kava is great at supporting:
- A calm, positive mood
- Prolonged deep sleep and REM cycles
- A reduction in brain inflammation that supports healthy brain health and sleep cycles long term.
- Anxiety relief
Common Misconceptions Surrounding Kava:
When searching kava, you may find health warnings and misinformation claiming that kava is bad for your liver. According to Kava Plex site: “The origin of these claims is research that was done over 15 years ago in Switzerland and Germany that led to kava drinking being banned in those countries. This ban was reversed in 2015 after a growing body of new research has called into question these early research findings. This research has showed that cases of liver toxicity attributed to kava actually occurred only when the person consumed contaminated kava products (above ground aerial parts of the plant) or Tudei varieties and was also taking other drugs and medications known to negatively effect liver function.”
A recent WHO review of kava mentions:
”Kava has had at least a 1500-year history of safe use, with liver side effects never having arisen in the ethnopharmacological data. Clinical trials of kava have not revealed hepatotoxicty as a problem. This has been confirmed by further studies evaluating the toxicology of kava drink. Based on available scientific information it can be inferred that kava as a traditional beverage is safe for human consumption.”
My favorite brand is Kava Plex-and you can get a discount on it using code: PRIMALBLISS20 (affiliate link)
Sleep Doesn’t Have to be a Battleground
Remember, solid sleep is a cornerstone of good health. There are several things you can do to get great sleep at night!
- Get adequate morning sunlight
- Limit screentime before bed
- Sleep in total darkness—use eye masks and blackening curtains
- Take a magnesium supplement
- Take a couple of droppers of kavaplex before bed (I use 2-5 depending on where I’m at in my cycle).