Monday, January 17, 2011

Sleep Tips

1) Eat fresh greens or drink fresh green juice before bed.

Raw greens such as celery, cucumber, green pepper and spinach are rich in chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants. "Chlorophyll is said to contain an opium-related substance, a natural sleep aid, along with traces of the anti-cramping agent hyoscyarnin" (link). In addition to being rich in chlorophyll, raw green vegetables contain potassium, magnesium and calcium - all of which are very beneficial in helping a person relax (link). 

Also, studies are proving that good digestion is linked with better sleep (Link). One way to improve digestion is by eating raw greens before bed. Cooking fruits and vegetables destroys digestive enzymes. So by eating your vegetables raw, the enzymes remain intact to improve your digestion, and your sleep.

If you have trouble digesting raw greens, consider juicing your greens:

"Because juicing can also enhance the overall health of the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone production and regulation, regularly drinking juices can help alleviate hormonal imbalances, which may contribute to insomnia" ("Juice Alive" by Steven Bailey and Larry trivieri, p. 202).

Fresh juice contains more enzymes than pasteurized, store bought juice - which is why I recommend buying a juicer instead of purchasing pre-processed and packaged juices. Juicers are for sale for as little as $50 at your local Walmart or even online at Amazon. Here's a quick juice recipe for insomnia:

- 3 medium carrots
- 1-2 celery stalks
- 1 medium cucumber or 1/2 head of lettuce
- Consume 1 hour before bed.

If you can't eat raw greens for any other reason, steamed greens are your 2nd best bet.

2) If You Can't Sleep, Quit All Coffee  

Quitting all coffee, including your morning cup, may seem extreme. However, as the old saying goes, "Desperate times call for desperate measures." For some people, even one morning cup of coffee may trigger daily anxiety and evening insomnia.

According to Web MD, "After eight to 10 hours [of drinking coffee], 75% of the caffeine is gone [from your body]. For most people, a cup of coffee or two in the morning won't interfere with sleep at night." However, they also warn that, "People who are more sensitive may not only experience insomnia but also have caffeine side effects of nervousness and gastrointestinal upset" (Link).  

A study published in 2007 found that 52 per cent of panic-disorder patients suffered a panic attack after drinking caffeinated coffee. Conversely, the panic-disorder patients drinking decaf did not suffer panic attacks (Link).

Water, juice and smoothies are great alternatives to coffee. For those who can't seem to quit caffeine altogether, green tea may be a good alternative. Green tea has less caffeine than coffee and contains theanine, which helps promote sleep (Link). This study proves the incredible relaxing effects of theanine.

3) Avoid Insomnia Inducing Foods, especially before bed.

These foods can increase insomnia: 

Refined/Processed sugars
Caffeine (Coffee, tea, chocolate) (Link)
Alcohol (Link)
Stimulant drugs
Processed foods

- One study points out that eating plenty of raw fruits and vegetables can also reduce amount of sleep that a person might need (link). For help on incorporating more raw foods into your diet, check out my other post, Here.

- Staying away from big meals at night is also wise. "Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Fatty foods take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and may keep you up. Also be cautious when it comes to spicy or acidic foods in the evening, as they can cause stomach trouble and heartburn" (link).

4) Margin!
Ironically, it is those of us with the busiest schedules who often suffer from insomnia. In fact, an overactive mind (which can lead to insomnia) is often directly associated with an overactive schedule. Yet as a book needs margin on its pages, we all need margin in our lives.  This means taking off of work and resting for at least one day every week. In many religions, this is called a "Sabbath".  

While a weekly Sabbath is essential, so is a daily Sabbath. Allowing yourself a couple of commitment-free hours every day will likely make you more productive at work, knowing that you will have time later to catch up on some much needed rest (or sleep). Some ways to spend this time might include taking a walk outside, taking a nap, meditating, or simply relaxing in a peaceful environment. "If you practice every day, [meditation] will become easier, and you're likely to find that you look forward to these respites from your busy life. You're also likely to discover that sleep comes much more easily to a quiet, relaxed mind." Link 

Taking time to unwind before bed is also helpful. Imagine a train or a car slamming on the breaks every time it tries to stop, rather than slowing down gradually. This would cause damage after a short time. Similarly, if we transition from work to sleep without any relaxation or "margin", this makes falling asleep more difficult.

5If you can't sleep, at least rest 

"Rest does not mean simply plonking yourself on the sofa in front of the TV...Although this downtime does allow for a degree of cellular renewal, the brain will still be buzzing...What we need is 'active' rest - this can make you more alert and effective, reduce stress levels and give you a better chance of a healthier and longer life." Link

6) On evenings that you can't drink green juice or eat raw greens before bed, take a vegan Digestive Enzyme 

Vegan digestive enzymes are extremely affordable and very effective. But what do they do? Basically, when we cook our food, we destroy most of the naturally occurring enzymes that help us digest our food. Without these enzymes, the body struggles to digest food, making sleep more difficult. I recommend finding vegan digestive enzymes, because non-vegan enzymes contain animal bile, which can cause an upset stomach in some people. 

"Enzymes help us sleep. Enzymes enhance our endocrine glands. The under nourished endocrine system may create a malfunction in our hormonal system which can upset our nervous system and sleep patterns. When we are unable to digest our food or deliver the nutrients to keep our endocrine and nervous system in balance, we cannot rebuild our body or it's energy level" (Link).

7)  Go to Bed as early as possible
 "Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and which nature intended for humans as well." Link

8) Nap to make up for lost sleep 
If you find it impossible to "squeeze in" a nap after a night of little sleep, you may need to look at your schedule and see where you can add more margin. Again, it is often those who most need to take naps have the least time for it. Even if you can't fall asleep during a nap, setting aside this time of rest helps your body recharge. "Falling into a light sleep during the daytime can feel meditative...In order to fully enjoy the benefits of napping, you may need to give yourself permission to nap."  Link

9) Daily Exercise (but not before bed)
"People who regularly exercise report having fewer episodes of sleeplessness than people who don't exercise" (Link). However, "Exercising vigorously right before bed or within about three hours of your bedtime can actually make it harder to fall asleep" (link).

10) Redirecting negative thoughts by Talking through them or Journaling  
"If you have a nightmare or stress-inducing thoughts, focus on a different ending. Write down your nightmare, or tell someone else about it to stop the continual thoughts." Link

11) Regular Sleep and Wake Times 
"A regular waking time in the morning strengthens the circadian function and can help with sleep onset at night." Link 

12) Herbal Supplements:  

Many have found that different herbal supplements or homeopathic remedies can help in the process of falling asleep. Below are a few of the more popular ones.
  1. Rescue Sleep Remedy
  2. Hyland's Calm Forte
  3. Chamomile
  4. Melatonin
  5. 5-HTP
  6. Kava Kava
"Dan the Man" Talks about Sleep...

For some natural stress reducing tips, click HERE
Check out my related article, "Foods for Sleep" HERE!


  1. Replies
    1. I agree! I've used Hyland's Nerve Tonic. Great stuff!

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