“I’ll sleep when I die”. This is what one of my favourite Instagrammers, Kenzie Brenna, thought about her sleep (but she’s now getting help). Do you think this way too? Are your nights a living hell or a nightmare on Elm Street, instead of levitating with angels on a white, fluffy cloud?
I used to feel this way. I know exactly what it feels like when you lay there, trying to get into that deep restorative sleep that you know you so deserve… Or rather NEED to get into. Because your body feels it and well, everyone keeps telling you, “You look so TIRED.” Gee, thanks! You actually are tired, exhausted, drained, deflated and slightly anxious about the daily rat race that you have been running. Not to mention the intense cravings. Oh boy!
Your chest starts pounding, as the fluffy, white-as-snow sheep you are counting begin to trample in a stampede across your chest instead of jumping over the fence. You toss and turn, get caught up in your sheets. Tangled up just like the Disney princess’s hair. UGH you get up, and think, “maybe if I pee”…
You go to the bathroom, sit there (you just peed not too long ago) and a teeny, tiny trickle sprinkles into the toilet bowl, not enough to even wipe, you should just air dry. Now you make your way back to the hell hole that has become your bed. The dark hole that you fall into and can’t get out of. You are tortured by the thought of trying to get to sleep. Because it just seems like Mission Impossible. If only Tom Cruise were there to help you get out of it. Pre-Scientology.
Why do some people sleep so deep almost as though dead, and others fidget like corn being popped?
Sleep is one of the most important health practices that we must journey to learn how our own individual body best achieves it. Yes, you read that right. Sleep is very individual, it isn’t a one size fits all kind of thing.
Individualized Sleep Patterns
I remember when I was a kid growing up in a Spanish family, we always took naps. My parents would put my sister and I down for nap. My sister’s head would hit the pillow and before my mother and father could even give her a kiss, she was fast asleep, in Lala land. I would wait my turn, chit-chat with my mother and father, get their kisses and think up excuses to keep them in the room talking with me because I didn’t like what came next.
Wide awake I would stare at the ceiling, look over at my sister… she always looked so calm in her dreams. We were sisters, from the same seed, yet so different. I started planning ahead, leaving Marvel and Archie comics and Choose Your Own Adventure books under my bed, with a flashlight.
So many factors can affect the natural flow of our bodies, and because we are all individuals, sleep is individual to each of us.
Your Natural Rhythms
We each have naturally engrained rhythms. Ever hear someone say, “I’m such a night owl”? There are very clear sleep types. Dr. Micheal Breus, A.K.A. the Sleep Doctor, discusses in his book, The Power of When, four very clear-cut chronotypes: lions, dolphins, wolves and bears.
Your probably familiar with the popular social references of being a ‘night owl’ or ‘morning glory’. What’s your story? Think of it like this. Some people naturally go to bed early and wake up before the sun rises with the sounds of the birds chirping. Others stay up late, longer into the twilight… perhaps our genetic line descended from the vampires of Transylvania?
Natural Rhythms of Nature
Mother Nature also consistently shows us her rhythms. You are all too familiar with the day and night cycle, that has in part been dictating your sleep cycle since you were born, and is very important to respect. Light and darkness affect our melatonin and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. When these are off, distressed and disordered sleep predominates.
The day and night cycle is something called a biological response modifier.
But guess what, it’s not the only one… there are many of them. These biological response modifiers affect our sleep cycle. So there could be things that you are taking, eating, drinking, or watching that are affecting why you’re so disappointed in your nightly practice that feels more like an insane asylum instead of a sanctuary.
Common Biological Response Modifiers
Also known as zeitgebers! Love that name! It’s German – one of the amazing languages I can speak, albeit not as good as before but I’ve still got it! Das ist zehr gut!
Zeitgebers entrain our bodies to do certain actions. They have a biological effect to change how we react. They are incredibly powerful, you may not even realize it. Some, like the caffeine in coffee, you typically do notice. But many sheepishly slide into your lifestyle, affecting how your body regulates hormones, happiness and your health without you even knowing.
So many things that we do on a regular basis are zeitgebers and a major way to ‘fix’ your health practice, and in turn, sleep soundly. The key is to watch when and how you are exposed to these in order to better reset the balance in your body.
It’s not that you have to avoid them completely, it’s just that you want to make sure to do them at the appropriate times of the day. These messengers for your body to do certain things work based on the autonomic nervous system.
They will either stimulate your nervous system into the stressed “sympathetic” state via cortisol and adrenaline, or will ease you into the rest and digest state, the peaceful “parasympathetic” state.
Common zeitgebers (love writing and saying this out loud!) are:
All it takes is understanding and you have the magic mix. Are you ready to become the maestro of magnificent sleep time?
Manifest your sleep sanctuary, maestro!
So here is what to do:
- Learn the zeitgebers – sleep sirens, wake up wired!
- Use them at the right time of the day, and stop when you need to.
- Practice health everyday and feel better – sleep hygiene and health practices.
Back to Basics For Your Sleep Biology
So what to do with all of these zeitgebers? Sleep hygiene is imperative, but it’s not the only thing. We must also look at what goes on during the day to really set ourselves up for success. Some of the ‘sympathetic’ zeitgebers are great, like cardio and certain herbs, but should be avoided after 4pm and switched to ‘parasympathetic’ zeitgebers so the body knows it’s time to wind down. We’ll talk more on this later in this article.
Create Your Sleep Sanctuary
Here are some tips for creating an environment in your bedroom that will help to ease you into Dreamland, where you can fly like Peter Pan, relax on a yacht in a sea full of tulips, or sing karaoke with a kangaroo. There’s no limit to the possibilities your beautiful brain might concoct when it’s getting the sleep it needs!
- Dark room
Darkness is a super important zeitgeber for sleep. Darkness mimics nighttime, it’s very simple really. Scientific studies done on rats and human subjects have shown that darkness promotes deeper, more rejuvenating and restful sleep. Sleeping in an environment exposed to light may actually have negative effects on breathing and heart rate.
- Only sex & sleep in the bedroom
Keep your bedroom as a sacred space for rest, sleep and love making. No Netflix and chill here – save that for your living room!
- Turn off your wifi
Electromagnetic pollution such as wifi, cell phone towers and signals have been shown to disrupt our day night rhythms. Many wifi routers have a timer setting that you can program to automatically turn off at a certain time in the evening and turn on again in the morning. Put your phone on airplane mode and charge it in a separate room.
- Same routine every night
Regulation of the sleep cycle is benefitted by creating a “bedtime” routine within the ideal environment that you have created for your super sleep. You want to create a pattern over time and with repetition and practice, your body will recognize the signals to shut things down and begin to drift off into sweet sleep. This can be your beauty care and bathroom routine like washing your face and taking off your makeup (castor oil works amazing for this!), putting on your castor oil pack, reading a book. Make it feel great for YOU.
- Cool your room
A cooler temperature in your bedroom mimics the natural cooler temperature of the evening as the sun goes down. A room that is too hot will leave you restless and unable to fall into a deep sleep. Keep it cool as a cucumber baby!
Successful Sleep Starts In The Daytime
Now when it comes to learning to balance your bedroom routine, this doesn’t happen only at bedtime. It’s a whole day and night routine that builds up to the sleeping beauty sonata that you are looking for every night.
Here are some quick tips for easy daytime sleep prep.
1. Zip up the zeitgebers so you can zen out!
Stop any major biological response modifiers by 4 pm at the latest. Some of my patients need to cut them out at noon, because the effects are felt by their bodies longer than others.
Special note on how our body processes these zeitgebers: It is very individual. Some of us are very slow to detoxify, which is basically the process of clearing out molecules. Some can have caffeine after 4 pm, and others must cut it off before 12pm or they won’t sleep. The key is body connection, always be listening and conscious of how different stimulus affects you.
2. Balance your hormones for sleep
Wear an eye mask to bed – This is a simple way to stimulate production of melatonin from the pituitary gland. Some people think it’s the blocking of light that orchestrates this, but the other part of it has to do with compression around the eyes, which actually triggers the release via the nervous system. The key is to use an eye mask with very soft, tactile and nurturing material, like the one included in the Beauty Sleep Eye Kit.
Blue light blocking glasses – If you have excessive exposure to artificial light (such as computer or cell phone screens), blue light blocking glasses are a great tool to wear after sundown to protect the brain and begin the pump of melatonin. These ones are great.
3. Stress reduction with stimulation of oxytocin
Castor oil packs – At night, or anytime of the day you feel overstimulated, throw on your castor oil pack, trust me. The biggest reason I love castor oil packs so much is their effect on practicing the peaceful, parasympathetic state. When worn before bed they are an incredible preparation for a deep and recharging sleep.
The packs stimulate oxytocin, the love and connection molecule. It is the most powerful and mighty hormone that actually reduces the stressed state. That’s right. Your castor oil pack feels like a hug, just like the hug machine created by Temple Grandin. This is the smaller version that you can access in the comfort of your own home.
If you consistently feel very stressed during the day, have you had your hormones tested? They can be tested via the Dutch Hormone Test, here. When daytime cortisol is very high, it can be helpful to start your castor oil pack practice earlier in the day. I’ve had patients do it in the morning, that’s actually where I started because my daytime cortisol was so high.
Typically you want to do your pack before bed to wind down, and those sheep you’re always counting will carry you away on a fluffy white cloud into Never-Neverland.
Unwire your wifi – With exposure to wifi, we begin to see changes in plant’s biology. In a study done on rats, hormonal issues with the adrenal glands were observed as well as stress mediators in the brain, the producer of melatonin, oxytocin and all other sleep aids. Best to turn your wifi off at night and leave your cellphone/computer in another room.
4. Build your Progesterone and GABA to maintain sleep
Grateful Practice – Grateful practices are an incredible way to calm your nervous system and augment your natural progesterone and GABA. When you are grateful, it’s impossible to be in a negative mood. The more you practice gratefulness during the day, the better you will feel and sleep. Use the Grateful Dung™ Bracelet as a daily reminder.
Aromatherapy – I love using Eau de Throne™ for the organic essential oils of lavender, clove, rosemary and lemon. These essential oils, when sprayed after you poo, have a calming effect on your nervous system and gut. They balance you out and help you feel good. You can also spray it in your room at night, or use an essential oils diffuser.
All of the awesome health tools discussed in this article are included in the Queen Kit which you can find here.
Life Is a Stage, Set It
Not sure if you’re noticing here, but we are using, smell, touch, thought, sound and all of the senses to engage the relaxed state. The more senses that you can engage during the day and night, the better your sleep will be.
Life is a stage and the more you ensure to set the stage properly, the result is you will be able to serenade yourself into the sleep of a lifetime.
These are all non-supplemental practices that engage your behaviour, mindset and senses to serendipitously fall into a deep sleep.
Surrender to the fact that you have to be in charge and design your destiny when it comes to your sleep. If not you will fall to your fate, and sleep should not be fated. It is undeniable and the most important part of your day. Respect it and do your duty to be the best you can be. Time to drift off into your deep recharge!
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