Advanced strategies to turbo charge your sleep
Hopefully you’ve already read Get great sleep – the basic top 10, if not do that first. None of these advanced strategies are magic bullets but they may be worth layering in to an already great sleep routine to make it that bit closer to perfect (whatever that is). You may find that one or two of these helps you overcome a particular personal issue within your sleep or indeed health in general.
Omega 3 Intake
This is perhaps one that should have made it into my basic top 10 given the effect it seems to have. Omega-3 helps me drop off to sleep more quickly and also seems to be correlated with longer bouts of deep sleep.
Omega-3 is a potent inflammation modulator – helping quash inflammation once inflammation has done its job meaning less inflammation raging around the body during the night. Omega 3 is also correlated with melatonin (sleep hormone) production. Studies consistently show that omega-3 leads to improved sleep. Get plenty through eating sustainably sourced oily fish or take an omega-3 supplement (just be sure to buy high purity oil that isn’t filled out with other not so good oils).
Adequate animal protein (from more adventurous sources)
I choose to eat ‘nose to tail’, getting through every part of the the butchered animal. This cuts down on waste, provides some wonderfully varied flavours and provides very mineral dense meals. This mineral density could be the reason for the improved sleep. These, less salable animal parts come loaded with thiamine and taurine which are both involved in getting good sleep. Of course a good mineral profile going into your body is always going to lead to better health outcomes so it’s no surprise that these meats come up trumps when it comes to sleep within the broader health-scape.
Lavender (and other essential oils)
Lavender has impressive consistent observable results that as a sleep aid. Reduced anxiety for those ruminating on unhelpful thoughts as they try to drift off, a general calming effect and a potential stimulator of sleep hormone production.
I and many clients have found this to be helpful, especially alongside other, properly diluted, essential oils such as vetiver, rose, chamomile, ylang ylang, frankincense and the list goes on.
Another great mood stabiliser. I’m sure you’ve known the relaxing effect of massage. I, for one, have fallen asleep on countless massage tables… and it wasn’t even bedtime! This is a great way to connect with loved ones, a mutual foot massage is a frequent go to in our house. My grandmother would often massage me before I hit the hay and this is commonplace in many cultures. Try giving massage a go with your kids… teach them how to give you a good shoulder rub – win!
Share the bed with an animal
Now this is a strange one. I’m used to sharing the bed with another human but wasn’t sold on the idea of the dog being on the bed; partly due to him potentially disturbing me but also because he’s a dog, and dogs don’t live on beds right?
The dog, confusingly called Bear, actually sleeps really well whilst on the bed with me and disturbs me way less that when he’s on the floor – he gets better sleep and I get better sleep. This isn’t just me though – research shows that a pet being on – not in – the bed does correlate with better sleep. It’s also not going to cause the dog to become territorial or bed-possessive. When asked to leave the bed he does so. If your pet doesn’t then there is a wider behavioural issue, not a bed specific issue. FYI, when my wife is not on a night shift the dog comes for a cuddle but then heads down to the floor again for his own bed. Pets should not come between you and your partner!
Failing that, a foam roller will do the job – just without the benefit of human touch and generally its a slightly more painful experience!
White noise / pink noise
I go for as quiet as possible in my bedroom but many people find white or pink noise be be helpful. Our daughter seems to sleep better with white noise being played as she sleeps and some clients also prefer this. Again there is a good body of science to back this up. As ever, if it works for you – go for it! This could be an electric fan (also useful for cooling the room) or a specific white noise machine or something played through a music making device (but keep your phone out of the bedroom!). You could also switch this up for some binaural beats specially designed for sleep, with the waveforms of the music being matched to brainwaves that are of similar form.
Meditation / mindfulness
Learning to let go of the past and anxiety around the future is a great skill to have and is often best cultivated through meditation and mindfulness. It is not a huge leap of the imagination to see how these practices can lead to better sleep. My times of Wim Hof breathing, meditation and prayer definitely lead to a better night’s sleep even when practiced much earlier in the day.
Zinc & magnesium
Magnesium is an essential mineral for many bodily processes including rebuilding and regulating. Magnesium deficiency leads to poor sleep and magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve sleep for those struggling. The mechanisms aren’t fully understood and they are almost certainly various but one thing that is known is magnesiums ability to relax muscle tissue. So if you’re suffering from tension, cramps or restless leg syndrome then this could be a bit of a game changer for you! Get leafy greens and nuts into your diet or if deficient you could consider supplementing with magnesium.
Adequate zinc in the diet seems to promote more regulated sleep. People with adequate zinc fall asleep more quickly and are better regulated throughout the night with less waking. So if you struggle to get off or find staying asleep difficult then zinc may be a good shout. Make sure you’re getting adequate meat and shellfish or, again, you could supplement.
Whole foods are always best but I do occasionally take a zinc and magnesium supplement as using high quality meat and fish, that are regenerative, as my sole source of zinc and magnesium would probably get too expensive.
Yoga / stretching / mobility
De-stressing for body and mind. There’s a big cross over with mindfulness and meditation but with the added benefit of relaxed and soothed muscles and joints. I’m a big fan of using MovNat Mobility and Asana rebel as part of my daily routines.
An extract of the cannabis plant, that is not psychoactive, so will not send you to sleep with pink elephants ranging the ceiling. Early research shows that taking CBD may be helpful in treating sleep disorders and promoting better sleep. My experience is that taking CBD every so often seems to give me extra REM sleep, leading to me getting my recommended amount most nights. If my REM drops for a couple of nights, taking CBD seems to get me back on track.
Changing the Habits of a Lifetime
Sleep habits are often deeply ingrained, together with many other health habits. Making a change in these areas can seem like an uphill struggle, but this does not mean that your goals are unachievable.
Jake Mahal is a Primal Health Coach & Habit Change Expert here to guide you toward great sleep and Whole Life Health. Book a free call today to see if Whole Life Health is right for your and start your journey towards habitual happiness.