Want to get a great night’s sleep and wake up refreshed? The Healthy Brain Book has a 30-page section we call our sleep-well program. Here are the highpoints of our sleep-well tips and how your body gets refreshed during a good night’s sleep.
Consider good sleep as opening your own personal sleep-well pharmacy inside. Like food, sleep is medicine. Here are the main “medicines” you make during sleep.
- Growth hormone
- Diabetes control
- Preloading your immune system army
- Heart medicines
- Skin medicines
- Stronger bones
- Appetite control
- Mood mellowers
- More melatonin
Sleep: Your Personal Nighttime Pharmacy
|Nighttime Sleep Solutions|
Stress dials down
Brain unloads “garbage”
Don’t worry, just sleep!
Problems are solved
How Your Brain Changes During a Good Night’s Sleep
Because of all the “stuff” going on in recent years, a good night’s sleep is even more important now. Consider sleep as your body’s dishwasher. You put a messy dish into the dishwasher before you go to bed and you wake up and the dish is clean. A similar night cleanse occurs during sleep, and here is Dr. Bill’s riveting and informative trip through your brain during sleep.
When you drift off to sleep your body rests but a house-cleaning nightshift reports for duty inside your brain. There are two sets of “night workers. First, your glia cells report for night duty. Glia cells are like garbage trucks, and they increase in number and garbage-collecting ability during sleep. They collect all the metabolic byproducts from your hardworking day brain.
Next, there needs to be a place for the garbage trucks to dump their stuff. So, a second nightshift crew reports for duty: the fluid rivers of your brain, called the lymphatic system, widen during sleep, providing more rivers for the garbage trucks to dump the stuff in and flush it away. Medically speaking, this is called “metabolic waste clearance.”
Dr. Bill’s “Sleepy Seven” Rules for Formulating Your Personal Sleep Recipe
- Eat snooze foods. These are foods high in tryptophan, calcium, magnesium, and slow-release carbs.
- Move more, sit less during the day. Consider Dr. Mom’s advice: “Go outside and play!” Sleep scientists have noted that persons who spend more time in outdoor exercise during the day tend to sleep better at night.
- Dim down your lights. Put dimmer switches on as many lights around your home as you can. Gradually dim down the intensity of your lights one or two hours before bedtime. We call these the “golden hours” before bedtime – think candlelight.Our longtime friend, Tracee Zeni, shared this suggestion for dialing down at night: “Our family turns off bright lights and turns on soft ‘twinkle lights’ throughout the house when the sun goes down. Not only are they pretty and fun to look at, but they’re a subtle reminder to our family that it’s time to settle down and enjoy quiet activities before bedtime. This sets the tone for a calm and restful night’s sleep.”
- Listen to your sleep nags. In The Healthy Brain Book you will learn how to listen to your inner biochemical prompts, or what we call “mind your melatonin.”
- Design your drifting-off-to-sleep routine. Don’t stew on the day’s toxic thoughts. Remember:“If you stew, you stir.”
Here’s my (Dr. Bill’s) sleep-well recipe as part of designing our sleep sanctuary: As you shut your eyes, shut your mind to any toxic thoughts. Recite a prayer or your favorite poem. I love replaying happy scenes from that day or the past. My nightly go-to-sleep thought is from one of my favorite movies, White Christmas, as Bing Crosby sings:
When I’m worried and I can’t sleep,
I count my blessings instead of sheep.
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.
- Design your “cool” sleep sanctuary. The cooler your sleep sanctuary, the sounder your sleep. For most sleepers, a temperature between 60°F and 68°F is the most sleep-inducing. A Sears-family favorite is to take a hot bath or shower and end with a cooler shower. The warm-cool transition helps ready the body to fall asleep.Other sleep-well tips to design your sleep sanctuary is to turn off electronics in your bedroom or put a piece of black tape over any monitor lights. When possible, position the head of your bed near an open window to enjoy fresh air.
Another “cool it” tip is to never go to bed angry. Don’t ruminate. If you’ve had a difficult day, distract yourself first with a peaceful scene, song you love, or a romantic moment.
- Position yourself to sleep. Experiment with what position you sleep best. For most persons it’s what is called the lateral decubitus where you sleep on one side then the other with a pillow under your head and neck and a pillow between your knees, and sometimes a pillow between your elbows while you’re on your side. Say you’re sleeping on your right side. The best back-friendly position is drawing a straight line from your foot through the middle of your body and up through the middle of your head. In this position your neck and back are well-aligned.
A few additional tips to help you and your family get a good night’s sleep:
Try the “I am…” technique for drifting off to sleep. This technique was shared with me by one of the wisest mothers in my medical practice. Lie down with your little one, and ask him/her to list a bunch of things he/she likes about herself, such as: “I am pretty,” “I am smart,” “I am funny,” and “I am a good soccer player…” as he/she drifts off to sleep.
For teens, Dr. Bill has them post “five things I like about me” on their bathroom mirror or on the wallpaper of their cellphone and ruminate on those right before getting into bed.
Rise and Shine Tips
While on the subject of nurturing good sleep habits, let’s also touch base on the other side of the sleep cycle. Waking up the right way is important to help your body and mind continue this healthy day/night cycle. Here are a few of Dr. Bill’s favorite quick tips for starting your day.
- Don’t get “alarmed.” When possible, wake up to natural light and not an alarm.
- As soon as you wake up, look outside and say: “Hi to the sky.”
- Start with an attitude-of-gratitude: “Five things I’m thankful for.”
- Drink up when you get up. Because we often wake up dehydrated, down eight to twelve ounces of room-temperature water as soon as you wake up.
Dr. Bill’s rise-and-shine routine. I try to start each day with my attitude-of-gratitude. I call this preloading my brain to have a wiser day. No matter how much life sucks, we all have a few things to be thankful for. Here is how I jumpstart my attitude-of-gratitude:
Thank you for my wife – 56 years.
Thank you for my health – cancer survivor.
Thank you for my wealth – eight kids.
Thank you for my M.D. – please make it my ministry.
After this I feel my brain is preloaded and I feel ready to “Bring on the day!”
All of these tips, and a whole lot more, are discussed in-depth in The Healthy Brain Book.