I obsess over sleep hacking.
The last time I settled for consistently poor sleep, I was in highschool. I stayed up late watching T.V., playing video games, or on the rare occasion, working on homework. Only if I happened to be on the end of a procrastination binge.
When I finally laid down to bed, sleep never came quick. More often, I found myself waiting and waiting to somehow fall asleep. I was unaware; there are much much better ways to send myself off to slumber besides brushing my teeth and responding to some final text messages.
I would wake up almost too tired to speak. I needed to make moves however, as my departure from home was only 30 minutes or so out. Plain and simple, I was a zombie for more than half of every day back then.
When I showed up to school, I still hadn’t really “shown up” at all. I was exhausted, my brain had yet to kick into gear, and before I knew it, my first few classes swept by as I yawned and dreamed of my pillow back home.
I became fully conscious around noon, but not for long. 2 or 3 o’clock comes and there again, I am forced to welcome my friend fatigue back into my life. I thought about sleep all day but I didn’t take the care to get the quality sleep I needed.
We All Can Relate:
Think about your own sleep experience...
How do you feel in the early afternoon, 1 to 3 o’clock? Are you drowsy, lacking focus, wishing for one thing…a nap?
Do you loathe waking up in the morning feeling just as exhausted as you felt when you went to bed the night before?
When you are plagued with fatigue, it’s as if you go through your day like a zombie. You nearly forget all about your current day. All that sits in the forefront of your thoughts, is picturing that beautiful moment when you get to close your eyes and try again at capturing some beneficial sleep (but often times, the cycle repeats itself the following day).
Does any of that resonate with you? Are you a struggling sleeper?
Okay, Here are the 2 Things to Help You Sleep...
Let’s start with the “Sunshine Vitamin”... Vitamin D:
People really aren't getting enough vitamin D.
Turns out, more than half the population is vitamin D deficient. Are you part of the half getting their vitamin D fill or not?
When you don't receive adequate vitamin D, the amount of sleep you get, the quality of sleep, and your mood when waking, are all affected. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked as one of the root causes for the global sleep problems we suffer from.
Surprised that your vitamin D intake has such a great influence on your sleep habits? It’s true, and studies have been done that show in adequate amounts, vitamin D can improve our sleep.
Are you convinced? Do you have an interested in supplementation?
A low dose supplementation of 1,000-2,000 IU daily seems to be suitable for 50-95% of the population. Not precise enough for you? A guideline I follow, the guideline as stated by the Vitamin D Council, is 1,000 IU for every 25 lbs. each day.
Are you concerned with taking too much? 10,000 IU has been stated the upper limit for an individual supplementing vitamin D per day. If you find yourself with headaches or inflammation of the body, those have been two signifiers of too much vitamin D. If you are careful and start with small doses, there should be nothing to worry about, vitamins are truly quite safe.
If possible, the best way to pinpoint your current vitamin levels is to take a blood test.
Vitamin D acts inversely with your sleep hormone, Melatonin. With that in mind, it is best for you to supplement your vitamin D early on in the day, preferably in the morning. Taking vitamin D too late in the day may cause restless sleep.
One final note on vitamin D, make sure to take vitamin D in the D-3 form, its used much more effectively in the body. As well, vitamin D is most effective when taken after a meal.
The Second Thing...Niacin (Vitamin B-3)
A little background on sleep... rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, may be the most important stage(s) of your nightly sleep cycling. REM sleep is heavily responsible for energizing your body and keeping you focused and active during waking hours.
To connect back to niacin, The “Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine” experimented with supplemental niacin in 2005. They administered escalating doses of the vitamin for 21 days to non-sleep disturbed subjects and insomniacs. Both groups of test subjects experienced increased REM sleep.
Anywhere from 50 mg to 1,000mg of niacin has been seen to be effective in helping people get to sleep faster and have overall better sleep. The dosage that becomes effective depends on the individual. I can't recommend enough, begin with low dosage experimentation. Try the low end of the scale, 50 mg one night, and if that proves ineffective, up the dosage the next.
It is suggested that taking your dosage of niacin 20 minutes before “bedtime” will work the best. Expect to experience a brief niacin “flush”. The flush should feel like a hot flash or blushing sensation, but no worry, it should pass quickly.
Important note: Take niacin after a meal or your pre-bedtime snack as niacin taken on an empty stomach may irritate the stomach lining.
What about Melatonin?
Melatonin is great for OCCASIONAL instances.
Melatonin has been found to be perfect in situations of jet lag, sleep cycle transitions, or aiding children who have trouble sleeping. These vitamins I have suggested, vitamin D-3 and niacin can be used each and every day, if you are responsible with your dosage.
With excess use of Melatonin, individuals have reported instances of fatigue and depression. Highly escalated levels of Melatonin in the body have been seen to cause almost hangover like symptoms. Commercial products often use doses that cause the hormone level to rise much higher than what is naturally produced in the body.
It has been said to be safe to use Melatonin within the range of 3 to 6 mg.
However, supplementation may not be the most effective way for your body to produce the hormone. Melatonin is rather easy to onset yourself.
How can you produce more Melatonin? Get into bed early and have your room blacked out. Having a darker sleeping environment is a sure recipe for producing Melatonin to the levels that you need.
Okay, But I NEED My Sleeping Pills!
We are a society that uses enough medication.
We need to limit our intake of drugs whenever we can.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, 8.5 million Americans take prescription sleeping pills at least once a year. 2 million Americans take them EVERY NIGHT for at least two months at a time.
Being once the most widely prescribed sleeping drug in America, Valium causes weight gains, nausea, constipation, fetal dependency and birth defects if women take it during pregnancy .
Just to list a few problems with sleep medications besides the side effects; drug tolerance, drug dependence, withdrawal symptoms, dangerous drug interactions, or rebound insomnia .
Oh as well, those who take sleeping pills have a greater chance at dying sooner.
Plenty of medications have the side effect of causing restless sleep. It would not be a bad idea for you to look for more natural alternatives to the health issues you deal with in your life.
We want as many natural aids for the health problems we face in our lives as possible. Sleeping pills aren’t natural. Natural sleep aids are SAFE and NON-HABIT FORMING. Natural aids keep your body at optimal health. When your body is at optimal health, greater sleep is a result.
Maybe supplementation with vitamin D and niacin are for you. In comparison to prescription medication, they are surely cheaper, SAFER, and what your body truly wants.
Sweet Dreams -
Share your sleep stories in a comment below!