Having trouble sleeping?

Did you know that people who get less than seven hours of sleep a night are three times more likely to catch a cold than people who sleep for eight hours or more? And people who slept for less than six hours are four times more likely to get sick?

To keep your immune system strong this winter, make sure that you are giving yourself enough time to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. This can be challenging, especially if you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night.

Here are five ways you can improve your sleep:

1. Acupuncture: In Chinese medicine, we look at what is going on when you can’t sleep to treat the cause of sleep problems. For example If you start thinking about all of the things you need to do tomorrow and all the things that possibly could go wrong, it’s the spleen that gets “damaged” from overthinking. Acupuncture treatments that support the spleen can help quiet down all those thoughts and worries. If you are lying in bed with your eyes wide open and just can’t fall asleep, that may be the liver acting up. Acupuncture treatments to “calm” the liver can help you avoid getting stuck awake like that.

2. Melatonin: A small dose of sublingual (under the tongue) melatonin can be very helpful for getting you to sleep – especially if you’ve been traveling or when Daylight Savings time changes.

3. Calcium-Magnesium: These essential minerals are both muscle relaxants. When taken at bedtime, they help you to relax and sleep more deeply.

4. Blood sugar balancing: Many people wake suddenly at 3 to 5 a.m. This can be caused by a drop in your blood sugar. Eating a small bite of easy-to-digest protein right before bed can help prevent waking up. Try a small handful of nuts (cashews also contain tryptophan, which can help make you sleepy), a tablespoon of plain yogurt (if you’re OK with dairy), or a small bite of leftover protein from dinner.

5. Corisol: If you are tired all day but as soon as you get into bed you feel wide awake, you may have a cortisol spike in the evening instead of in the morning. Cortisol is a stress hormone that revs you up and may be elevated at night, when it is supposed to be low. Avoiding exercise in the evening, not watching TV before bed, and giving yourself time to wind down before bed all help to keep cortisol in check. If that is not enough, there are labs to test for cortisol levels throughout the day and natural supplements that help to reset so that cortisol is high in the morning and low at bedtime.

If you feel that your sleep is not optimal, check in with your doctor. We can help you to figure out why you are not getting the rest you need, and work with you on improving your sleep duration and quality.

By Melissa Minoff, ND, LAc