It’s late. But you can’t shut your mind off like you do your laptop. Instead, your thoughts move in unison with the whir of the ceiling fan. Covers on. Covers off. Pillow fluffed then flattened. Something disrupts your circadian rhythm: Lyme disease, chronic disease, hormonal imbalances, stress (all possibly connected). Sleep is an often overlooked yet essential component of health and wellness. As you combat and manage your chronic illness, foster a sleep routine as part of your health-wellness protocol.
When Lyme invaded my body and threw my hormones out of whack, insomnia showed up as an uninvited guest. It lingered for months and months, sucking every ounce of energy from my exhausted, frail frame.
Relentlessly hitting the snooze button spiraled my sleep rhythm further out of control. But once I discovered a plan that fostered sleep health, my sleep improved.
The sleep plan:
Habitual sleeplessness indicates an underlying health issue. For example, chronic diseases cause sleep dysfunction. However, you can devise a sleep protocol that will restore your sleep health.
Eat your way to better sleep.
It shouldn’t surprise you that I start the plan with food. Your eating habits and routines affect every part of your health and wellness, even sleep. You can eat for sleep health by paying attention to the types of foods you consume throughout the day.
An eating plan that balances adrenals, liver, and thyroid supports your sleep. Being mindful of incorporating specific foods at certain times of the day can promote sleep.
Avoid skipping meals. Breakfast recipes should include clean, high-quality protein, high-quality fats (avocado, coconut oil, olive, ghee/butter), and no sugar.
It isn’t necessary to go against all grain; make sure you eat grain the right way. Home-milled grain offers essential nutrients.
Forgo the typical 12-inch dinner plate and switch to a 6-inch or 8-inch plate. By doing this, you are less likely to eat too much late in the day. If you suffer from meal planning fatigue, I offer a 21-day Healthy Eating Meal Plan.
My Women’s Hormone Balancing Meal plan provides recipes including the adaptogens maca and Schisandra and supports liver and gut health. Focus is on indole-3-carbinol, omega-3s, iodine, probiotics, and fiber, as well as regular meals and plenty of protein for balanced blood sugar.
In the evening, eat foods higher in tryptophan like bananas (NOT when we typically eat them), dates, figs, nut butter, and tuna.
It’s best to avoid caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol before bedtime.
Create a sleep-worthy environment
We often spend our decorating budgets on the kitchen and living room. But, with our transient lifestyles, how many hours do we actually spend in those rooms? Apply some of your decorating make-overs to creating a bedroom sanctuary.
Cozy Minimalist Myquillen Smith (The Nester) reminds us, “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” So don’t worry about Magnolia-worthy. You are going for cozy and relaxing.
You can add inexpensive yet adorable black-out curtains or shades. Another sleep sanctuary tip: add lower wattage to your bedside lamps. Add a white noise machine or a diffuser filled with essential oils that induce sleep.
Essential oils or blends of oils like lavender, damascene rose, sweet orange, chamomile, and bergamot improve sleep quality.
Regulate the temperature of your bedroom—not too hot, not too cool. And I encourage you to invest in comfortable cotton sleepwear.
Banish electronics from the bedroom
I struggle with this one. After the hum of activity quiets at night, I like to scroll through my social media feed or catch up on the news. However, there are many health-related reasons not to bring electronic devices into your bedroom. So, for now, let’s focus on the adverse effect electronics have on sleep.
Research shows that “electronic device use in bed was found to reduce sleep duration and
sleep quality in adults.”
If your chronic illness causes sleep dysfunction, then using electronic devices before bed compounds that problem.
Exercise for sleep
Dr. Aviva Romm, MD, recommends “regular physical activity and time in nature help keep our circadian rhythms cyclic” to improve and maintain sleep quality.
If you’ve been around here long enough, you know my affinity for British culture. For example, the Brits enjoy rambling walks regularly. “Taking a walk in the countryside is favored by many Brits for its health benefits — and it has now been confirmed as one of the top activities to help escape the stresses of everyday life.” Most definitely, a brisk evening walk helps slow down the frenetic pace of the day.
Add a supplements protocol
Supplements: Melatonin, calcium and magnesium, Vitamin B6 and B12, and Zinc.
Herbs: California poppy, chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower, and skullcap.
Adaptogens: Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, and Holy Basil reduce stress which, in turn, relaxes your body for rest.
Ready, Get Set, Foster a Simple Sleep Routine
When you establish a sleep and bedtime protocol and get a restful sleep, you will notice your health improve. All of the suggested practices are ones that you can start right away. Of course, if you face an obstacle in a particular area, you can always reach out for a little health coaching.
Following the suggested protocol will not only offer a good night’s sleep but will also improve your gut health, strengthen your immune system, eliminate brain fog, and reduce inflammation.