Advantages of Sleep on the Brain
Getting good sleep is important for your mood and health. Supporting a healthy sleep pattern should be a priority.
- Promotes new brain cell production
- Repairs neurons
- Forms brain cell connections
- Replenishes the supply of mood-boosting chemicals
It is important to develop Good Sleep Hygiene.
These 10 steps are advocated by sleep neurologists and are essential for good sleep.
10 Steps of Good Sleep Hygiene
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep.
Caffeinated products decrease the quality of sleep. Avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, and some pain relievers) after 12pm.
Turn your bedroom into a sleep-inducing environment.
A quiet, dark, and cool environment can help promote sound slumber. Tips to help include using a "white noise" machine, light-blocking curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask. Keep the room temperature between 60 and 75°F. Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.
Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine.
Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time with a period of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed. Take a bath (the rise then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness), read a book, watch television with blue light blocking glasses, or practice relaxation exercises.
Go to sleep when you’re truly tired.
Struggling to fall asleep just leads to frustration. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room, and do something relaxing.
Don’t watch the clock at night.
Staring at a clock can increase stress, making it harder to fall asleep. Turn your clock’s face away from you.
Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day sets the body’s "internal clock" to expect sleep at a certain time night after night. Try to stick as closely as possible to your routine on weekends.
Nap before 5 pm – or don’t nap at all.
For those who find falling asleep or staying asleep through the night hard, afternoon napping may be one of the culprits. Late-day naps decrease sleep drive. If you must nap, keep it short and before 5 p.m.
Eat a light dinner.
Finish dinner several hours before bedtime and avoid foods that cause indigestion. If you get hungry at night, a light snack that will not keep you up is best.
Balance fluid intake.
Drink enough fluid at night to keep from waking up thirsty, but not so close to bedtime that you will be awakened by the need for a trip to the bathroom.
Exercise stimulates the body to secrete cortisol, which helps the brain keep alert. That’s great - unless you're trying to fall asleep. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bed.
If you still have problems sleeping, then taking an herbal sleep aid may be beneficial. Studies have shown that natural ingredients like valerian root, melatonin, chamomile, and magnesium help support a good night’s rest.
How Herbs Aid Sleep
Herbs that aid sleep have been used for centuries. There are four main ways in which herbs and other ingredients help you fall asleep:
GABA is the body's natural "off" switch. It can promote deep states of
relaxation and enhanced mental clarity. St. John's Wort, L-taurine, and L-theanine increase the production of GABA.
- Serotonin is the "feel good" neurochemical in your brain. L-tryptophan and 5-HTP are precursors to serotonin. P5P (Vitamin B6) helps convert 5-HTP to serotonin.
- Valerian root, chamomile, skullcap (American), passionflower, ashwagandha, hops flower, inositol, lemon balm, and goji berry can improve the quality of sleep by reducing fatigue.
- Melatonin helps break the cycle of insomnia and helps you fall asleep. These potent non-habit forming ingredients allow these sleeping pills to be taken safely every night.
Madhavi Gupta, M.D. is the founder and CEO of Best Nest Wellness. Dr. Gupta is board-certified neurologist and has won The People’s Choice Award as a favorite doctor three years in a row. She holds a degree in biochemistry and humanities from MIT, completed her neurology residency in New York City, and completed her fellowship in headache medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.