One of the most common complaints that I hear from patients and clients is that they are not sleeping well. Insomnia is the most common sleeping disorder in the United States and about 30% of the adult population experiences chronic insomnia. In my practice, that rate is much higher. I've seen it more in my patients over 40 - usually due to stress, hormonal changes, or both. Persistent insomnia usually results in a decrease in productivity and quality of life. Poor sleep also contributes to brain fog, accelerated aging, weight gain, low libido, and lowered immunity.
I know my sleep-wake cycle has certainly changed over the years, but last night was especially challenging. I just returned from a medical conference and flying can tend to interfere (though I didn't change time zones) with our circadian rhythm. I couldn't find my bottle of melatonin before I went to bed so I brushed it off and went on with my normal pre-sleep routine. I cut down on my fluid intake after dinner. I meditated for a little while. I took in a little bit of reading, put on my blue light blocking glasses to decrease my exposure to the light from my IPad. And with the windows open moving crisp air into the room, the cool temperature was conducive for a great night's rest. So what happened?
I'm blaming the moon, and it turns out science confirms that we don’t sleep as well during full moons compared to other moon phases. Our brains respond to these rhythms and phases and when the moon is full, our circadian rhythm is slightly off. Around the full moon (up to four days before and after), brain activity related to sleep declines by around 30%. It takes an average of 5 minutes longer to fall asleep and the overall quantity of sleep drops by about 20 minutes.
The research shows that participants in the study not only had reduced levels of melatonin, but they reported poorer sleep when the moon was full. Again, this was demonstrated up to four days around the full moon phase.
So what can we do to help the situation? After all, we are now talking about roughly eight days every month where our sleep pattern is more likely to be interrupted. Here are six suggestions:
1. Consider supplementing melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced in secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain. Natural levels rise as the sun begins to set and darkness falls. It signals to the body that it is time for rest. Melatonin is generally considered safe and of course, you should talk to your health care provider before supplementing, especially if you are on any other medications. The recommended initial dose is 1 to 3 milligrams about thirty minutes prior to sleep.
2. Block as much outside light as possible from coming into the room (we failed to do this last night and the lovely moon was shining brightly upon my face.)
3. Consider wearing an eye mask to further block out external light.
4. Other natural supplements and herbs that have a relaxing or sedentary effect:
- Magnesium (400 milligrams Mag glycinate for starters)
- L-Theanine (150 milligrams -300 milligrams before bed)
- Chamomile Tea - small cup about thirty minutes before bed
- GABA (50 - 100 milligrams)
- Passionflower herb - Tea or tincture form (1 cup tea thirty minutes before bed or 1-milliliter tincture)
- Vitamin B6 (500 milligrams)
5. Meditation - A mindfulness meditation before bed is a perfect way to get the brain into a relaxed state. Set aside at least ten undisturbed minutes of quiet sitting before your head hits the pillow.
6. Yoga - There are several good yoga poses that help the body relax. The classic savasana or corpse pose (laying down on back) is a gold standard, but there are many others. Check out this informative article by Yoga Journal.
Until later, rest well my friends.
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