How To Go To Sleep Earlier And Stay Asleep

Intro: Night Owl Roll Call

Quality sleep, nutrition, and reducing stress are the most important factors I can control in supporting my immune system while healing from mercury poisoning.

So I have tried to shift and extend my sleep hours by learning as much as I could about mercury’s impact on sleep.


Mercury & Sleep

“The biological clock is disturbed. Waking up late and staying up late is more common than being an ‘early bird’. Try as they might, the mercury poisoned person simply cannot control their circadian rhythm.” – Andy Cutler

Mercury is among the most toxic elements known to man. No one can avoid mercury from manufacturing pollution in the air we breath and the food we eat. And many in my generation and above have “silver” amalgam fillings put in our mouths by dentists which are made of over 50% mercury which constantly off-gasses into the body.

Mercury (and fluoride) can accumulate in the pineal gland, which can make the gland sluggish and reduce melatonin production.

To limit mercury exposure, I had the “silver” mercury fillings in my mouth holistically removed. I also continue to detox & chelate heavy metals and avoid high mercury seafood like tuna (see the EWG 2016 report).

To limit aluminum exposure, I avoid drinking fluoridated aluminum tap water and using dental products like toothpaste, floss, or mouth rinse that are “fortified” with the thyroid disruptor and marketed to us as “healthy”. Unfortunately, I still get the industrial by-product fluoride when I take shower and baths since I live in an apartment and cannot set up a whole house water filtration system.

I would like to think that my “night owl” tendencies are caused by environmental toxins — like mercury, aluminum, Electro Magnetic Radiation, and light pollution — disrupting my neurotransmitters & hormones, and not DSPD (see below).

So until I am able to finish chelating the mercury out of my brain, I am focusing primarily on addressing circadian rhythm disruptors. If you want to skip the science below, feel free to skip to ahead to my four sleep steps:

Step 1: Reset Circadian Rhythm
Step 2: Create A Sleep Sanctuary
Step 3: Set A Regular Sleep Schedule & Night Time Routine
Step 4: Stay Asleep

Otherwise, continue reading here:

  • Why Sleep Is Important For Healing.
  • Delayed Sleep-Phase Disorder (DSPD).
  • Sleep Stages.
  • Neurotransmitters, Melatonin, & Cortisol.

Importance of Sleep

Sleep is essential for basic maintenance and repair of the neurological, endocrine, immune, musculoskeletal, and digestive systems. However, until more recently, I believe sleep is one of the most overlooked and undervalued nutrients in healing and staying healthy:

  • During deep sleep, the body produces human growth hormones necessary for healing, tissue repair, and cellular regeneration.
  • The hormone melatonin naturally increases at night, which increases immune cytokine function and helps protect against infection.
  • Sleep enhances cognitive performance (including concentration, focus, learning, and memory), boosts mood & overall energy (prevents irritability, depression, and lack of motivation), and reduces cravings (especially sugar, simple carbs, and chocolate or caffeine.)
  • And, our brain shrinks and wrings out toxins during REM sleep.

Delayed Sleep-Phase Disorder (DSPD)?

In my teens and twenties, I could pull all-nighters and get by on less than six hours of sleep a night. After chronic mercury poisoning, I need eight to nine hours of sleep to function at my best. The problem is that I often find myself procrastinating going to bed.

As a proverbial night owl, my second wind still kicks in around 10 p.m. and I am extra productive. So I am conflicted hearing that I should be asleep by 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. For example, thyroid repair is said to happen between 10 p.m. – 12 a.m. & 1 – 3 a.m. But what if I go to bed later on a regular basis? Wouldn’t that just shift the healing time? Or is the adage true: “An hour before midnight is worth two”?!?

I honestly could not find answers on the science of early sleep. (If you know the original source that is quoted so factually, please let me know). I did learn that mercury is a leading cause for circadian rhythm disruption, Wi-Fi and cell tower radiation can cause insomnia, and there is actually a sleep disorder called Delayed-Sleep-Phase Disorder (DSPD) that describes the night-owling phenomenon:

Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (1)

1. People with DSPD have a sleep / wake cycle that is delayed with respect to the external day / night cycle. Their circadian rhythm, is dysregulated compared to the general population.

2. Generally, they do fall asleep around the same time every night, some hours after midnight, and can sleep well. However, they find it difficult to wake up in time for a typical school or workday. If allowed to follow their own schedules, e.g. sleeping from 3:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, their sleep is improved and they may not experience excessive daytime sleepiness.

3. Attempting to force oneself onto daytime society’s schedule has been compared to constantly living with jet lag; referred to as “social jet lag“.

4. Sleep deprivation does not reset the circadian clock, as it does with non-DSPD people. They have difficulty falling asleep before their usual sleep time, even if sleep-deprived.

5. Tends to run in families. May be associated with human period 3 (hPer3) gene.

6. May be overly sensitive to evening light.

7. Supplemental melatonin reduces sleep onset latency more with DSPD than with insomnia.


Sleep Stages

As most of us have learned, there are 5 stages of sleep. The important take away imo: repeating the different sleep stages throughout the night is optimal for healing as is waking naturally during a light sleep stage and not during deeper slow-wave stages or a REM cycle:

“Sleep starts out sequentially, but then it cycles through the stages in an out-of-sequence progression. It begins in stage 1 and progresses into stages 2, 3, and 4. After stage 4 sleep, stages 3 and then 2 are repeated before REM (stage 5) sleep begins. The body usually returns to stage 2 sleep after REM sleep is over. The first cycle of REM sleep is about 90 minutes after falling asleep and can last only a very short amount of time. With each cycle, REM sleep lasts longer.” (Natural Medicine Journal)

Here’s a bit more detail on each stage:

Normal Sleep Physiology (1)

1. Light sleep includes stages 1 and stages 2 in the sleep cycle.

Stage 1 sleep is a transition period between wakefulness and sleep and lasts only 5-10 minutes. It is characterized by mixed frequency theta waves (very slow brain waves); slow, rolling eye movements; and slightly reduced eye movement and chin electromyography (EMG).

Stage 2 lasts for approximately 20 minutes and involves mixed-frequency brain waves with rapid bursts of rhythmic brain wave activity known as sleep spindles. Body temperature starts to decrease and heart rate begins to slow.

2. Deeper slow-wave sleep includes stages 3 and 4.

Stage 3 sleep is characterized by 20%-50% slow brain waves known as delta waves. It is a transitional period between light sleep and very deep sleep.

Stage 4 has greater than 50% delta waves and is sometimes referred to as delta sleep because of the slow brain waves that occur during this time. Lasts approximately 30 minutes.

3. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the 5th stage, is when most dreaming occurs.

Stage 5 is characterized by increased respiration rate and brain activity. REM sleep has mixed frequency EEGs with theta waves in combination with rapid eye movements and nearly absent chin EMG. REM sleep occurs approximately every 90 minutes in adults, with a predominance of slow-wave sleep in the first half of the night and a predominance of REM sleep in the second half.


Neurotransmitters, Melatonin, & Cortisol

Neurotransmitters: are chemical messengers used in the body to transmit signals. They are made from precursors like amino acids made from the food we eat. There are over 100 identified neurotransmitters. Here are a few examples: dopamine (controls pain, well-being), serotonin (relaxation, sleep, well-being), adrenaline (energy and stamina) & noradrenaline, and melatonin (sleep cycles).

a. Tryptophan a precursor to serotonin and hence melatonin, tested low on my Genova NutrEval blood test. So I am working with my holistic doctor to support this neurotransmitter pathway. I’ve shared this before, but I am not a big fan of amino acid therapy with tryptophan, 5HTP, or GABA… from a brief trial and from what I have read so am trying to do this with nutrition and herbs. I am also not interested in taking melatonin or other supplemental sleep aids.

b. Serotonin is produced by and found mostly in the gut and in smaller amounts in the brain. It helps regulate appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature, mood, behavior, and more.

c. Noradrenaline & SAMe: SAMe is a chemical in the body that reduces the level of noradrenaline at night. Mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium and other chemicals can bind to SAMe and make it less affective at reducing the night-time noradrenaline. To complicate this further, melatonin and serotonin come from SAMe function. ~Does my body needs supplemental SAMe?

Melatonin is considered a potent anti-oxidant that works within the central nervous system to protect against methyl mercury toxicity. As mentioned above, when the body is working well, the hormone melatonin naturally increases at night and is absent or low during the day. When melatonin increases, immune cytokine function increases. Immune cytokines help protect against infection and mercury toxicity.

For those who like to geek out like me, here is the science on how melatonin is made using tryptophan and the serotonin pathway:

Melatonin  (2)

Melatonin, chemically N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamin, is a hormone that anticipates the daily onset of darkness. It is synthesized from the essential amino acid tryptophan in four enzymatic steps and follows the serotonin pathway:

L-tryptophan is converted to 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan (5-HTP).
5-HTP is then decarboxylated (CO2 removal) by the enzyme 5-hydroxytryptophan decarboxylase to produce serotonin.
• In darkness, the key enzyme, aralkylamine N-acetyltransferase (AANAT) is activated and converts serotonin to N-acetyl serotonin.
N-acetyl serotonin is ultimately converted to melatonin by the enzyme acetylserotonin O-methyltransferase.

Cortisol: is the primary stress-response hormone. It is needed for true fight or flight situations. And also at low levels for improving memory. But at chronic levels, high cortisol can lead to a cascade of problems such as insulin resistance, melatonin deficiencies, and sex hormone depletion.

Cortisol should be higher in the morning and lower in the evening, when melatonin is higher for sleep. Too much cortisol may prevent the right amount of melatonin from being made. Which is why high cortisol levels at night, instead of very low, may keep one up too late with a “second wind.”

Cortisol plays an important role in maintaining blood sugar (glucose) levels around the clock. Stress and sugar consumption raise blood sugar and cortisol, which can then affect melatonin and sleep. So not stressing and stabilizing blood sugar levels are key to improving cortisol and melatonin levels. (Unfortunately, mercury contributes to yeast overgrowth which causes sugar cravings so I have had to work extra on controlling blood sugar levels.)

I took Sanesco / NeuroLab’s Adrenal Hormones Profile test which measured salivary cortisol 4x/day and DHEA 2x/day. The results were within normal ranges.


Next

Once I understood the basic science of sleep, I took these action steps to get to sleep earlier and stay asleep:

  1. Step 1: Reset Circadian Rhythm
  2. Step 2: Create A Sleep Sanctuary
  3. Step 3: Set A Regular Sleep Schedule & Night Time Routine
  4. Step 4: Stay Asleep

How To Go To Sleep Earlier And Stay Asleep | Reset Circadian Rhythm

Previous
Intro: Sleep Training For Night Owls

Do not reproduce without written permission.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.


5. Exercise

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.

Next
Step 2: Create A Sleep Sanctuary
Step 3: Set A Regular Sleep Schedule & Night Time Routine
Step 4: Stay Asleep