Today is the final blog in the series of Daily Primal Actions. This series was not meant to be a finalized source of information on living a primal life, nor are these the only options available to you. It is imperative to explore, experiment and grow your own sense of well being. Another topic that was not widely discussed is primal actions for relationships, and that will be left for another blog. Today, the focus will be on your bedtime routine.
One of the largest problems facing people in our society today is getting enough sleep. Sleep is important for proper cognitive functioning, mental well-being, and keeping the physical body healthy. It allows you to set yourself up for success by waking up well rested, lets your body heal and provides a time for dreams to be experienced.
When this blog series first began, you were introduced to a morning routine with the caveat that it was chosen as a starting point simply because it is easiest to begin a series on daily primal actions at the time when you wake up. It was pointed out that to get the best morning routine, having a proper sleep was essential. As the series progressed, you were reminded that all future actions have a better chance of being successful by preparing yourself previously in the day. But, at any point in time you can start developing your primal lifestyle. It may be more challenging at times when you fall off the primal horse, but it is possible to always start again. So, even if you had a less than optimal day, even into the evening, you can still take this time to reset yourself and fall into that well deserved sleep.
To get a proper sleep is one of the more tricky things to do. Our society is so tied into tech, so diverse in its behaviour patterns, has the ability to keep the streets and homes lit well into the night, many places have an active nightlife, late night access to food can be tempting, sugar is stimulating, fibre is filling and can keep the digestive system awake (but heavy meals can also make you sleepy), saturated fat can disrupt low wave sleep, overindulgence in caffeine is stimulating and general anxiety can all lead to insomnia. This may seem like a large and scary (and confusing) list, but you have the ability to set yourself up throughout the day and into the evening to combat many of these factors to allow for you to achieve the well rested sleep you deserve.
What are some behaviours you can do to get a proper sleep?1 Turn off the electronics at least one hour before bed. Have a warm bath. Stop eating around four hours before bedtime. However, if you find that you start to feel hungry and going to bed on an empty stomach can stimulate insomnia, or if you find yourself waking up in the middle fo the night to eat, try some kefir. You want to be careful about this, as the liquid content may make you wake up to urinate. The casein protein from the dairy will slowly digest and may help subside hunger cravings throughout the night2. But having too heavy of a meal or a bedtime snack can be and for digestion. Adding some light carbs, such as berries may also help. But be careful how much you use, as sugar can stimulate hunger3. The trick is to relax yourself.
Sleep is regulated by hormones4. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is required to make serotonin. Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin. And melatonin regulates your sleep cycle. Perhaps you have heard that turkey has a lot of tryptophan. But kefir does as well5. You will have to experiment and know your body. Having too many amino acids can cause competition for absorption in the bloodstream, so the small amount of carbs from the fruit can trigger insulin and remove the other amino acids (along with the sugars). This allows for tryptophan to be absorbed through the blood brain barrier6.
Considering a primal based diet has a lot of saturated fat, and there is some suggestion that saturated fat disrupts low level sleep. This can suggests that saturated fat is blocking melatonin. There is a lot of literature on this subject and it shows conflicting results. But considering the density of saturated fat, and the heaviness of that type of food, it would be best avoided before bed time7.
Do you wake up in the middle of the night? There is evidence that in the past humans would do a two sleep stage of night8. This is because there were no street light so that allowed people to stay awake and out longer. The night was more dangerous. Waking up in the middle of the might made senses s the body became hungry and perhaps the need to use the toilet became present. Either way, humans may have taken this awake time to eat, have sex or perhaps read and write, until going back to sleep for a second time.
Stop caffeine and caffeine like substances (which includes, coffee, green and black tea, and chocolate). Use some calming music, or even download a specific sleep induing sound app. Have a dense book to read, or perhaps a sudoko type puzzle, avoid anything too stimulating. Go for a walk an hour before bed for the fresh air and light exercise movement (this also helps with digestion). Meditate. Journal. Create your bedroom space for sleeping. That means no tv, electronics, bright lights or food. Instead, use soft light or candles, clean sheets (they don’t have to be cleaned every day, but weekly is preferable). Black out the windows or use a sleeping mask. And if insomnia ensues, instead of struggling with yourself to sleep, stay awake and read or journal. Allow yourself to lose some sleep because the battle you may have with yourself trying to get to sleep can be more detrimental than the loss of sleep itself.