All of the following sleep-enhancing tips promote the production of energy and a reduction in substances that increase stress and inefficient energy production.
1. Eat something salty before bed.
Sodium lowers several stress mediators that can rise during sleep including serotonin, adrenaline, cortisol, and aldosterone. Salt optimizes the blood volume and circulation essential for the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, helps stabilize blood sugar, increases or maintains the body temperature, and raises the production of carbon dioxide (see #8 in this list). A canning and pickling salt added to food, a sugary beverage, or in bone broth eaten before bed is a good way lower inflammatory nocturnal substances.
2. Eat something sugary before bed.
Like sodium, sugar is anti-stress and raises the body temperature. Ripe fruits, fresh orange juice, or milk are good sources of sugar before bed. These carbohydrate choices also contain anti-stress minerals (magnesium, potassium, and calcium) that benefit energy production and sleep quality. Fresh juice with some salt and gelatin added is a good combo, and to make it more potent coconut oil eaten off a spoon can help produce energy efficiently and balance the bloods sugar. Starchy carbohydrates should be avoided because they make blood sugar balance difficult.
Milk with a little sugar and a pinch or more of pickling salt added is a pre-sleep cocktail that has proven successful with my clients and myself. The casein in milk is anti-stress, and the calcium in milk is pro-metabolism and can regulate blood pressure while lowering parathyroid hormone (PTH), which plays a role in some cases of insomnia when elevated. Tips #1 and #2 can assist you with going back to sleep if you happen to awaken one or more times during the night.
3. Eat less meat later in the day.
Meats are rich in tryptophan, which is the precursor to the stress substances serotonin and melatonin. Although generally seen as substances to increase to improve sleep by mainstream standards, these stress substances lower metabolism and disrupt restful, regenerative sleep. This means do not supplement with melatonin or 5-HTP supplements.
By consuming foods deficient in tryptophan later in the day, you can minimize the the nocturnal production of serotonin and melatonin. Foods high in tryptophan are meats, whey protein, and egg whites. Cheese lacks tryptophan because the whey has been removed. Milk does contain tryptophan, but its other nutritional properties seems to offset its tryptophan content. Food, supplement, or food additives (carrageenan for instance) that inflame the intestines increase serotonin. High cortisol from stress, exercise, or blood sugar imbalances can increases serotonin as well.
High meat consumption relative to calcium intake from dairy or eggshell powder can disrupt calcium metabolism and cause a rise in parathyroid hormone, which is associated with sleep problems. This is another reason to be careful with over consumption of meat if you’re having sleep difficulties.
A gelatin supplement and broth contain no tryptophan and are high in glycine making them an is an excellent choice. Add a little butter and salt to broth for a sleep-inducing combo. Having broth or gelatin at meals containing meat during the day and night can help safeguard against poor sleep by providing a more balanced, anti-stress amino acid profile.
4. Use light therapy right up until bed time.
Light is essential for a high rate of metabolism. Our best defense against the stress from the onset of darkness is youthful, restorative sleep. As soon as the sun goes down, metabolism falls and stress substances that harm can sleep quality begin to rise. Darkness damages the energy producing structures (mitochondria) of the cell and (red) light from the sun or bright light supplementation restores them. Red light also activates a key enzyme, cytochrome oxidase, needed for energy production. Shine one to three bright incandescent lights (250 watt BR40 bulb with 10” metal surround) on your skin continuously or intermittently from sunset until bed time to keep the metabolism revved up and stress hormones at bay. Light therapy can also be used during the day if you unable to get outside or if daylight hours are short like during the fall and winter.
5. Balance your blood sugar from the first to your last meal.
Eating imbalanced meals or eating too infrequently degrades sleep quality because of the stress response that results and if chronic enough, the metabolic suppression that occurs. Eating frequently and consuming digestible meals that contain both a protein source (something from an animal) and something from a plant (a carbohydrate) promote balanced blood sugar.
A balanced meal will generally allow you go 3 to 5 hours comfortably without feeling hungry. Anything shorter than that may be a sign that your meal balance or food choices need adjustment. Sipping fresh orange juice, milk, or a homemade shake during the day is a simple way to balance the blood sugar and keep stress substances from interfering with energy production.
6. Use raw carrot (salad) or bamboo shoots daily to reduce endotoxin.
Endotoxin made by bacteria in the intestines are responsible for systemic inflammatory responses in the body. During any type of stress, like darkness or low blood sugar for instance, endotoxin enter the blood stream and promote the stress reaction (rises in histamine, estrogen, tumor necrosis factor, serotonin, and cortisol). Bamboo shoots, raw carrot (salad), aged cascara sagrada, a digestible diet, cholesterol, at least one daily bowel movement, fructose, aspirin, and saturated fats are protective against endotoxin. The raw carrot and bamboo shoot therapies also help support the removal of estrogen, a stress hormone that decreases efficient energy production. Estrogen is in birth control and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Using these classes of drugs can distort sleep quality, energy production, and hormone balance.
Raw Carrot Salad
C = 8g P = 1g F = 9g
117 calories per serving
½ to 1 medium carrot
1 t olive oil
1 t refined coconut oil (or additional 1 t olive oil)
½ t favorite vinegar
Pinch of canning and pickling salt
1. Wash carrot thoroughly.
2. Shred carrot vertically and put in bowl.
3. Mix in remaining ingredients. If coconut oil is hard, melt slightly.
4. Pour dressing on carrot salad.
7. Avoid exercise later in the day.
Workouts raise a multitude of stress substances. Exercise depletes glycogen used to balance blood sugar while sleeping and promotes hyperventilation (excess loss of carbon dioxide). If exercise is chronically excessive, it can decrease reproductive hormones that promote sleep quality and suppress thyroid hormone synthesis.
Exercise is least stressful when the body is most resilient and resting temperature and pulse is at its highest (during the afternoon from 11 to 3 pm usually). Regardless of the time of your session, having baking soda and aspirin with vitamin k prior to a session and sugar before, during, and after can reduce the stress from exercise.
8. Use carbon dioxide therapies.
Carbon dioxide is an often forgotten anti-stress substance. Many poor sleepers lack carbon dioxide, which is essential to energy metabolism and oxygenating the cells of the body (Bohr Effect). Carbon dioxide inhibits the release of serotonin (see #3) and directly opposes stress-promoting lactic acid.
The hypothyroid tend to be deficient in CO2. Using carbon dioxide therapies during the day and at night such as bag breathing, drinking carbonated water, a baking soda bath, or consuming baking soda off the spoon on in a beverage can be useful. Buteyko breathing techniques like mouth taping or improving the control pause are other therapies to research.
9. Limit PUFA.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) are promoted as the “healthy fats” and “essential fats” yet they are universally toxic to human physiology and poison our energy production at multiple points, suppress immune function, lower the body temperature, harm the brain and heart, inhibit protein digestion, promote estrogen and cancer, shorten lifespan, and negatively affect our detoxification systems. PUFA also serve as the basis by which toxic and inflammatory breakdown products are made such as prostaglandins, isoprostanes, and lipid peroxides. Excess consumption of PUFA will not only degrade sleep quality, but they are silently a figure head in the rise in obesity and chronic disease in the western world.
Examples of PUFA:
- Soy oil
- Corn oil
- Safflower oil
- Canola Oil (used in cooking at Whole Foods Market)
- Fish oil (DHA/EPA) supplements
- Fatty fish
- Flax Oil/Linseed Oil
- Walnut Oil
- Almond Oil
- Above ground vegetables
- Any nut, seed, bean, or vegetable oil
- Industrially fed chickens and pigs
PUFA are found in all natural foods so avoiding them completely is impossible. However, consuming foods rich in saturated fats offer protection against the toxicity of the PUFA you eat and the PUFA stored in your tissues. Saturated fats are best for humans since these fats are stable at temperature and when exposed to oxygen.
Examples of saturated fats:
- Chocolate fats
- Refined coconut oil
- Ruminant fat (buffalo, cow, goat, lamb, deer)
- Grass fed eggs
- Pastured or wild animal fats
10. Be careful with fermented foods.
Lactic acid is produced by cells during stress and also by bacteria in fermented foods. In either case, the liver is responsible for converting lactic acid into glucose. This process requires the use of fuel stored in the liver (glycogen). When available, glycogen is used during sleep to maintain the blood sugar so depleting it with fermented foods affects sleep quality and duration. To avoid this energy burden on the liver, reduction or elimination of fermented foods like kombucha, alcohol, yogurt, sauerkraut, and homemade fermented anything is a good idea. If you find yourself waking during the night, kick some of the fermented foods in your diet to curb for a while to see if your sleep improves.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive. When health issues are considered a deficiency of energy, many useful and simple therapies are available. The tips listed here extend to correction of more health problems than just sleep issues.