Much of the most complex signs, symptoms and diagnosis can be helped, or even reversed, when we restore our ability to sleep. Imagine yourself as a baby, blissfully sleeping with both arms thrown over the head. Think about when this changed? Did it change perhaps in teen years, with your rebellion and wanting to stay out beyond any hours of curfew your parents imposed on you? Did it perhaps change when you got a job, and wanted to prove yourself in a tough world? Did it change when you went through a difficult phase of life? Is it now difficult to sleep because you rely on medication, and it just does not work anymore? Are your adrenals so stressed, that you find it challenging to fall asleep, no matter how tired you are? No matter why this changed, if you’ve understood from Part 1 of this article how crucial it is to restore sleep as lack of sleep can impact multiple areas of your body, to restore your sleep, imagine in your mind’s eye, the image of you sleeping like a baby.
Imagine yourself as a baby, sleeping on a calm blue sheet, with your arms thrown over your head in a deeply relaxing pose, and your little belly rising up and falling down gently, like a wave, as you breathe. Zen Masters speak about the importance of slowing down your breath if you want to sleep. So close your eyes, and imagine your belly rising up and falling down, and slowing down with every breath you take. Listen to the gentle sound of your breath, which sounds like you are sitting by the ocean, and listening to the sound of the waves. Let your breath lull you into the deepest and more restorative sleep, one that can heal you at the deepest level.
Now let’s dive deep into Functional ways to bring back your sleep rhythm. I promise you, that by the end of this 2 part series on sleep, you will be equipped with some simple takeaways that can help you restore deep sleep. You will have the tools you need to understand the deep physiology of sleep, and it’s connection to not just one, but multiple systems in your body.
How can you restore your Sleep and your Circadian Rhythm?
Sleep and Natural Light –Exposing our eyes to the natural blue light of dawn, keeping our exposure to artificial light and LED screens to the day, turning off artificial lights after sunset, and exposing ourselves to more natural forms of light like candles after dark, the way we were before the invention of artifical light can all hugely help. Wearing a dark eye mask to shut out all light at night, can be very supportive if you have insomnia due to upset circadian rhythm or dysfunctional adrenals.
- Sleep and Circadian Rhythm – It has been found that when UVA from the sun hits our skin, it triggers our brain to produce ACTH, which then produces Cortisol and other Adrenal hormones, which then sets a nature’s cycle to Cortisol, where it is high on waking and slows down for us to sleep. If we avoid using sunscreens, our skin actually helps us to set our own Circadian balance in many body functions.
Sleep and Early morning Exercise– We know that waking up early and doing some form of exercise every day has a positive impact on our Circadian rhythm balance. While it does not always need to be intensive, even waking up with the dawn and doing even mild stretching or yoga can have a positive impact on overall Circadian rhythm and in turn restore our innate ability to have deep and healing sleep.
- Sleep and Fairness creams – Nature made people living in certain cultures fair and those in certain cultures darker in skin, based on proxomity to the sun and what they required. By blocking Melanine production with the use of fairness creams, we actually confuse our entire biorhythm, and how our unique Circadian cycle has been set up by nature . Allowing ourselves to be exposed to the sun and to tanning naturally, to some extent, has a pivotal role to play in our biorhythm.
- Worship the Sun – This doesn’t mean that you need to pray, but get outside and do some sun salutations, swim when the sun is coming up, walk in the forest exposing yourself to the sun, and play outside in the sun.
Sleep and Eating Rhythm – Our bodies are meant to eat well through the day, and a lighter dinner not too much past sunset, as digestion is weaker then. If you are eating heavier in darkness and lighter through the day, you body can go out of sync with Circadian alignment. To support, get back to eating nature’s way.
- Sleep, Blood sugar and Cortisol – By just focusing on how we balance our blood sugar with the food we eat and the times we eat, we can restore Cortisol balance to nature. Rather than eating sugar loaded meals which swing blood sugar, we can focus on eating fat, fiber and protein at every meal, that stabilizes blood sugar and keeps Cortisol calm.
- Sleep and Brain – Having an Ayurvedic head massage, soaking some oil to cool the head, getting some movement going to clear glympahtic fluid can all help support sleep and Circadian balance.
- Sleep and Processed foods – Processed foods and trans fats create oxidative stress and free radical damage which put a lot of internal stress on our bodies. The more oxidative stress we create, the more difficult it becomes to create energy. This again upsets our adrenals. Stay away from processed and fast foods and get back to eating whole foods.
So everything in your body is impacted by sleep. In the world of Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition, sleep is a non negotiable on the path to healing. Everything in our body is wired to go with our Circadian rhythm, even Electolyte balance. We should be sleeping at night and awake during the day. Understanding and exploring the ways in which we can restore our natural ability to sleep, can help us on the journey back to the blissful land of good sleep. Use the takeaways from Part 2, one step at a time. Print the chart to remind you of simple things. Make an affirmation to yourself to take the steps and sleep like a baby again! And do keep writing in with your questions, comments and takeaways from every article!