Sleep and Insomnia

Sleep and insomnia are common concerns I get in the office. I think sleep is one of, if not the most important factor to living well. It is when our body is able to restore and do its housekeeping of getting rid of damaged, possibly even cancerous cells. I have gone through my own journey of obtaining quality sleep. I say journey because it continues to be something I work on every single day. I think the first step in getting a good night’s rest actually starts first thing in the morning. Here are a few of my tips.

First thing in the morning (or when the sun comes up) try to get direct sunlight in your eyes for a minute or two. This sets off your internal circadian rhythm for the day.

At 8 pm, my phone turns to night shift. The blue lights from screens such as cell phones, TVs and even light bulbs these days send a signal to our brain that it is not night time and actually prevents the natural release of melatonin. If you have an iPhone, you can go to “Display and Brightness” and set a “Night Shift” time where your phone changes to the warmer yellow wavelengths after a set designated time. I highly recommend this for everyone.

Also, at night, just like how I have a routine for my kids to get to bed, I put my phone to bed. In fact, I actually put my phone on airplane mode at 9pm every night so it is shut down and not even an option to look at. So many of us can admit to staring into our phones until bedtime, and then expecting to fall asleep right away. Our brains are not meant to work this way!

I rarely watch TV or work on a computer at night, but if I do, I wear blue blocker glasses. These glasses do just that, they block the blue wavelength light. They can be worn every evening, whether you are watching screens or not since most lights these days are blue light emitting. There are many choices on Amazon, I personally have the Prive brand, they are about $40 on Amazon and I love them.

I try to eat dinner at least three hours before bedtime. I want my gut doing it’s housekeeping and repairing at night, this cannot be done if it is working on digesting instead.

I take magnesium glycinate religiously, this significantly helps me get better sleep. On those occasions where my mind is racing and I am getting frustrated that I cannot get to sleep, I take holy basil (tulsi is another name for it) I think of this supplement as nature’s Xanax minus the negative side effects, and it often helps me during the day as well. There are also many guided sleep meditations that you can listen to before bed. These are extremely useful for people dealing with stress and anxiety contributing to insomnia. I had to do this every night for the summer of 2018 in order to fall sleep, and still use these on occasion.

I also sleep with a weighted blanket. I can’t really explain this one, it’s just a bean bag filled heavy blanket. I keep the AC pretty cool at night and the combo of a cool, dark room and a weighted blanket allows me to immediately relax.

For me personally, I know I have to get some form of physical activity and keep up with my daily meditation practice during the day. Even after just missing a couple days (such as when on vacation), my sleep is off, so I make exercise and stillness a part of my daily living.

Of course, there are medications, these have a purpose and bring relief to many. However, as true with all medications, I strongly believe lifestyle changes should be tried first or in conjunction with medication. I hope some of these tips help, please make an appointment if you would like to discuss improving your sleep journey.

Dr. Kirsten Kim

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