For a good night’s sleep, create your own private oasis
A few months ago at a family dinner, my cousin Henry’s wife, Judy, told us all that she’d been having a hard time sleeping. The problem? Henry snored.
According to Judy, his snoring sometimes sounded like the classic “sawing logs” — a gentle back and forth pattern. Other times, it was more like a lumber mill buzz saw. And then, in the ultimate irony, sometimes she would be jolted awake by the sudden absence of snoring. It was a catch-22 for Judy.
Shortly after that family dinner, Henry was diagnosed with sleep apnea. He started using a CPAP machine to help him breathe properly and sleep better. And voila — Henry’s (and Judy’s) snoring problem was solved.
Plus, they got an unexpected benefit. Not only was the snoring gone, but the CPAP machine created a quiet white noise that helped Judy doze off faster and stay asleep through the night.
So what’s the moral of this story? Believe it or not, my intention isn’t to warn you about sleep apnea — although that is a serious health issue which I’ll touch on later down the line.
Today, I want to focus on something else: getting a good night’s sleep. Of course, getting quality sleep is critical for a number of reasons, not the least of which is reducing your risk of all cancer types.
And one major way to help promote quality sleep is to create an ideal sleep space.
Judy was lucky enough to stumble upon white noise that improved her sleep space. But you shouldn’t wait around just hoping you’ll have a similar “surprise.” It’s better to be proactive in transforming your bedroom into a sanctuary for snoozing.
And it’s important to note that white noise doesn’t work for everyone. Some people get better results with “pink” noise, which is white noise minus the higher sound frequencies. Other repetitive sounds such as rain, surf, or a crackling fire can work too.
If sound doesn’t help lull you to sleep, maybe the absence of sound will work some magic.
In Dr. Fred Pescatore’s Perfect Sleep Protocol, he makes this simple but effective suggestion: “Wear earplugs.”
He notes that sound pollution can often keep people awake. He says “Even if you live in a rural area, the wind, the creaking of the house, the heating/air conditioning, the appliances… all of these things make noise that can keep your adrenal glands in fight-or-flight mode. And that’s exactly what you’re trying to avoid.”
Leave screen time behind
Once you’ve got noise levels under control, the next critical detail is light — and not just during sleep hours.
Dr. Pescatore advises that it’s best to begin dimming the lights well before bedtime: “We have evolved to expect darkness at night and light during the day. So when we stare at the bright lights of screens right up until the time we try to go to sleep, it should be no surprise that our bodies are confused.
“And let’s not forget the stress that’s caused by working on your computer or checking emails right up until bedtime. To give your mind a chance to power down before bed, make sure to leave work behind for at least the hour leading up to bedtime.”
Back in June, I mentioned how important it is to avoid use of any device with a lit screen right before bedtime, including computers, tablets, smartphones, and of course, televisions. According to a Harvard study, even nightly e-book use just before bed caused several sleep disturbances including…
• Longer time falling asleep
• Reduced REM sleep
• Reduced alertness the next day
• Suppression of melatonin
And while all these are important, the last sleep disturbance is arguably the most significant.
Melatonin is the key hormonal driver of your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle. When darkness falls, it triggers a light-sensitive protein in your eyes that sends a message to your brain, telling it to increase melatonin production. And when melatonin runs high, you start to feel sleepy.
Of course, you can see how the opposite scenario works against you. If you watch TV up until bedtime, then give your email a quick check, and maybe send a last minute text or two, your brain isn’t getting the signal to begin melatonin production.
Dr. Pescatore spells out why that’s a disaster in the making if it goes on night after night: “Research has revealed melatonin as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powerhouse. It soaks up health-robbing free radicals. And it mobilizes key immune cells in your body, including T lymphocytes, monocytes, and your first line of defense, natural killer cells.
“So melatonin’s other surprising benefit really isn’t so surprising at all: It may also help prevent cancer. Research shows that low levels of melatonin are linked to breast cancer. Lab studies confirm this connection, showing increased cancer cell growth in low melatonin conditions and slowed cell growth with higher levels.”
From dark to darkest
While reducing screen time before bed is important, Dr. Pescatore stresses that it’s also critical to make your bedroom a “light-free zone.”
Even better, make it inviting: “Your bedroom should be a haven that whispers, ‘Relax,’ the moment you walk in. When you turn off your bedroom lights, it should be completely dark. That means moving all electronics — including digital clocks and surge protectors that have lights on them — out of your bedroom.
“Use room-darkening shades to block light from street lamps. And if this still isn’t enough, sleep with an eye mask. It may feel strange at first, but you’ll get used to it.”
And getting used to it will be well worth it, not just for improving your sleep, but also for long-term cancer prevention.
For more drug-free strategies to cure your insomnia and enjoy more restful sleep, check out Dr. Pescatore’s Perfect Sleep Protocol. Learn more or enroll today by clicking here.
Ebooks at night won’t help you sleep tight, US study finds
December 23, 2014