This quarantine has proven a stressful time for everyone. A record number of people have filed for unemployment, parents are now forced to homeschool their kids (God bless…), and the number of those diagnosed with the Corona Virus is steadily increasing along with the number of deaths. Needless to say, many people are losing sleep despite the proximity to their beds. So I thought this would be an opportune time to reiterate the importance of sleep and share some tips to Go The Fuck To Sleep.
I remember cramming for exams in school feeling secure in the notion that our brains retain information better after “sleeping on it.” Whether that is true or not, the restorative properties of sleep are endless; improved mood, memory, learning, cognitive function, weight management, etc. etc. So let’s try to catch up on some sleep now that we are forced to spend this time at home because I know that I have definitely been tossing and turning like a motherfucker.
Everyone knows it’s best not to fall asleep on a full stomach because it leaves us feeling fat and sluggish, yet starving in the morning! Falling asleep on a full or even partially full stomach can majorly disturb sleep and especially our metabolism. According to Kristen Eckel-Mahan, PhD, “The enzymes involved in fatty acid oxidation, they’re highly circadian. They know when they’re supposed to be metabolizing glucose.” In other words, when we eat late, our metabolic organs process sugars differently, causing our body to store fat more easily.
Eating late also seems to result in more nightmares, especially late consumption of carbs. But according to Harvard Medical School, “eating a large meal, especially a high-carbohydrate meal, could trigger night sweats because the body generates heat as it metabolizes the food. Also, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), caused by lying down with a full stomach, may trigger symptoms that wake you up.” So while it seems like a causal relationship, eating late actually only disturbs our sleep so much that we wake up more frequently from our dream state, which only causes better recollection of our dreams (good or bad).
If you’re like me, not eating late is somewhat of an impossibility because of my work schedule (or lack thereof, lately). So if you find yourself unable to give yourself at least two hours before bedtime to stop shoving food in your mouth, at least try and sit upright for 20 minutes and then sleep on your left side. Our colons work in a clockwise fashion, so laying on our left side allows gravity to pull gastric juices and undigested food through the colon toward the rectum (this is why colonics begin and end on the left side). Laying on the right side is counterintuitive for digestion and can lead to heartburn because stomach juices can splash back up into the esophagus. Additionally, laying on your left side can help drain your brain of cerebral waste called interstitial waste. According to Healthline, “This brain cleanse may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological diseases.”
Something else that is scientifically proven to delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimers is meditation. I will speak more to my experience with meditation at a later date, but I wanted to share a useful meditation app I discovered last year. Insight Timer is a free meditation app that has an entire section dedicated to sleep. The sleep section contains Soundscapes, Bedtime Tales, Sleep Meditations, Sleep for Kids, and Sleep Music. I love listening to rain and thunder or some of the bedtime tales when I am unable to drift away.
For those who need supplemental assistance, my favorite supplement brand (Metagenics) has a supplement designed for occasional sleeplessness called Benesom. It contains magnesium, valerian root, melatonin and other herbs proven to assist in sleep. (Receive 20% off here).
In the end, nothing really puts me to sleep like a boring ass book or some super dense material I’m forcing myself to learn. I suggest always having that book on your nightstand. It may take you a few years to get through, but it will at least earn you some quality ZZZs while making you smarter.