Intro: Sleep Training For Night Owls
Step 1: Reset Circadian Rhythm
At a high level, circadian rhythm is our biological rhythm which is controlled by an internal biological clock. The primary function is regulation of day-night cycles based on photosensitive cues, like light. It affects, and is affected, by things like sleep timing, body temperature, hormone secretion, alertness, and appetite. (1)
Additionally, our biological rhythm can be disrupted or influenced by external or environmental cues like heavy metals, radiation, food, and stress. In my case, I believe my body’s rhythm has also been disrupted by mercury + wireless radiation, which dampens the pineal gland and melatonin / serotonin pathway and more.
So while I am chelating mercury out of my brain, I have adopted five natural lifestyle changes to reset my circadian rhythm and get to sleep earlier:
- Reduce Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR).
- Eliminate Light Pollution.
- Enhanced Nutrition.
- MindBody Wellness.
- Exercise During The Day.
1. Reduce Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) / Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF)
In a nutshell, EMR is anything electrical — wired & wireless. It causes stress to the body and interferes with sleep, including hormonal changes in melatonin.
Because most of us spend up to ten hours a night resting and sleeping in bed (on average, over 1/3 of our lives), I have tried to eliminate all forms of EMR in the bedroom to allow my body to rest better.
Four main types of EMR that I have been researching that may be impacting my sleep are:
1. Radio Frequency (RF) radiation: from cell towers, Wi-Fi, cell phones, wireless computers, tablets, DECT cordless phones, baby monitors, etc..
2. Magnetic Fields (MF): from electrical sources like high voltage power lines, transformers on the street, electric blankets, and appliances with transformers like clock radios, laptop plugs, or power cables often placed under the bed.
3. Electronic Fields (EF) like wiring in the wall and incorrect wiring, and
4. Dirty Electricity (EMI) from sources like dimmer switches, CFLs, and solar inverters.
I live in a city apartment, so there are a lot of things out of my control like PG&E digital smart meters, neighbor’s wi-fi, Comcast wi-fi hotspots, and cell towers,…(Put in your address on the latter two links and see what lights up.)
However, there are plenty of things that are in my control. Like removing all wireless devices from the bedroom and unplugging electronic gadgets and lights. (More in the next post.)
Circadian Rhythm (2)
• The biological “circadian clock” is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).
• The SCN is a pair of distinct groups of cells located in the hypothalamus.
• The SCN receives information about illumination through the eyes.
• The retina of the eye contains photoreceptors, which are used for conventional vision. But the retina also contains specialized ganglion cells that are directly photosensitive, and project directly to the SCN, where they help in the entrainment (synchronization) of this master circadian clock.
• These cells contain the photopigment melanopsin. Their signals follow the retinohypothalamic tract pathway, leading to the SCN.
• The SCN takes the info on the lengths of the day and night from the retina, interprets it, and passes it on to the pineal gland, located on the epithalamus.
• In response, the pineal secretes the hormone melatonin. Secretion peaks at night and is absent from the system or undetectably low during daytime.
2. Eliminate Light Pollution
Artificial light disrupts circadian rhythm and throws off sleep. A single pulse of artificial light at night disrupts the circadian mode of cell division. And compact fluorescent light bulbs have a high frequency flicker that cannot be observed by the human mind. (CFLs also contain mercury.) so I am using light and dark therapy to fall asleep earlier:
a. Light Therapy: promotes a normal sleep-wake schedule by aligning circadian rhythm with nature’s daily light-dark cycle.
To increase exposure to natural light during the daytime:
- Opening shades upon rising.
- Walking outside in the morning for sunlight exposure. Or,
- Using blue light phototherapy on dark cloudy days. Blue light lamps are sometimes used during the winter time to trick the mind into thinking it is experiencing more daylight and prevent depression from Seasonal Affect Disorder (S.A.D.).
b. Darkness Therapy: inversely, if blue light makes the mind think it is daytime and suppresses melatonin production, avoiding it at night-time logically follows. A dark bedroom helps the body produce melatonin and helps ensure production is not decreased or eliminated.
Before heading into the bedroom at night, I avoid blue light in the hours before bedtime by:
- Turning off the television, computer, and lights with blue when the sun sets.
- Wearing my super-non-sexy amber-colored blue-blocking glasses that filter out blue light if I need to make an exception. These were the least expensive option and I got what I paid for — they rest on my cheeks and look silly, but they work. In hindsight, I would pay a little more for these glasses since I don’t have a big nose bridge.
- I have not tried them but have heard programs like Redshift or f.lux adjust colors on computers & screens in the evening. Note: they do not claim to eliminate blue light.
3. Sleep Related Nutrition
What we ingests and when we ingest it affects hormones and sleep. (I share much more about the gut & nutrition here.) As for specifics around food and sleeping early:
a. Insulin levels: stabilizing blood sugar levels is key to improving cortisol levels. As mentioned in the intro post, cortisol, the primary stress-response hormone, is produced by the adrenal glands and plays an important role in maintaining blood sugar (glucose) levels around the clock. High cortisol levels at night, may keep one up too late with a “second wind” so what we eat and when is important for sleep.
I already incorporated plenty of healthy fats and eliminated gluten, processed sugar, and most dairy when I switched to a WAPF / Paleo diet. In addition, I took several salivary one-day (4-sample) home saliva tests and the results were within normal ranges so not focusing on this now.
b. Timing: since digestion requires energy and raises cortisol levels, avoiding large meals before bedtime can be helpful. I have always liked the adage, “eat like a queen for breakfast, a princess for lunch and a pauper for dinner”. It does not always work out, but my ideal set-up is:
- Eat protein and healthy fat within 45 minutes of waking.
- Lunch and snack when I am hungry.
- Finish a smaller portioned dinner by 6 p.m.
- Limit fluid intake in the evening to prevent sleep interruptions, which means front-loading water in the morning and afternoon.
c. Caffeine: avoiding stimulants before bedtime is a no-brainer. I am not a coffee consumer, but the few times I have had caffeine in this form, it took hours to fall asleep. Chocolate, however, was my weakness. Supplemental magnesium can help minimize chocolate cravings especially around that time of the month for gals.
4. MindBody Wellness
A ruminating mind that stresses about things like work & relationships can make it difficult to fall asleep. In my case, I believe toxins like mercury disrupted my GABA pathway and made it difficult to shut off my thoughts.
Before I knew tablets and wi-fi had EMR & light pollution, I would listen to music or watch a bedtime story on an iPad before going to bed to try and distract my brain.
Then I switched to the following strategies, in lieu of an iPad:
- Limit thinking, worrying, or emotionally upsetting thoughts before bed, and in general. I like what Dr. Amen says: Stomp out the ANTs! (Automatic Negative Thoughts). Or when possible, proactively decide not to stress.
- Ask others to share stimulating conversations earlier in the day.
- No blogging, praying, or reading that stimulate my mind before bed.
- Weened myself off social media.
- Fill my thoughts with laughter & comedies, and calm my mind with yoga & meditation.
- Also tried talk therapy a few times — did not work for me.
- Researched neurotransmitter support aka amino acid supplementation — decided not to supplement as it seemed more like a band-aid, not a root-cause fix in my case.
The good news is now that I no longer have mercury flooding in or extremely high amounts of Wi-Fi radiation in my bedroom I fall asleep with minimal effort.
Here are a few things I have learned about exercise, mercury, and sleep:
- Exercise is known to improve sleep quality. For example, exercise can help build up adenosine in the brain (an end-product of breaking down ATP/energy source) which creates “sleep pressure”.
- Mercury sits on the same cell receptor site as oxygen, so exercise may bring more oxygen into the body and brain and improve sleep.
- Over-exercising can raise cortisol and stress the body so individualized quality exercise is key.
- Exercise can be stimulating at night so it may be better to do it in the morning or daytime.