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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

5 Sleep Therapy Techniques for Better Overall Health And Wellness

5 Sleep Therapy Techniques for Better Overall Health And Wellness

While evidence continues to pile up that sleep is the very backbone of mental health, few of the many Americans who are having trouble getting proper shut-eye choose to try sleep therapy.

We’re sadly encouraged to boast about how busy we are or how little sleep we’re getting in a “do-more” culture. Combine busy schedules with caffeine, blue LEDs, ambient city noise, and a host of other maladaptive environmental factors and it’s no surprise that one in three adults is apparently failing to get even seven hours of sleep.[1]

Economically, one study estimates that inadequate sleep costs the U.S. $411 billion annually.[2] More importantly, under sleeping puts our health in jeopardy. Your immune system, memory, microbiome, emotional calibration, and rational-decision making all rely on good night’s sleep for proper functioning. In one shocking study, surgeons made 20% more errors when they’d under-slept when compared to their well-rested counterparts.[3]

Many people turn to sleeping pills to find some respite for their sleep ailments, but the problem with pills is that they simply sedate the cortex without providing natural biological rest. In other words, medications don’t necessarily improve the quality of sleep, just the amount of time you spend unconscious. Just as alcohol can make you drowsy while actually destroying your valuable REM periods of sleep, pills should not be your go-to either when it comes to finding more snooze time.

Why Is Sleep so Important?

“The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our life expectancy, our safety, our productivity, and the education of our children.” – Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep

The importance of sleep is often overlooked in our busy modern lives. Yet the very fact that evolution couldn’t design an organism without it (even bacteria follow a circadian rhythm of activity) should tell us how important sleep is for our wellbeing.

Sleep has been shown to make us more creative, happier, more attractive, slimmer, less anxious, and more resistant to disease. Furthermore, it lowers the risk of heart attacks, enhances memory, and allows us to live longer. (For a full analysis of the scientifically-proven health benefits, I recommend reading Why We Sleep, written recently by a top neuroscientist sleep researcher.)

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Given our increasing understanding of the importance of sleep, it’s no surprise that sports teams, like Manchester United, have started hiring “sleep coaches” specifically to ensure that their players get the best night’s sleep possible. These coaches travel around with the team and ensure that air quality, lighting, mattress firmness, and a variety of other factors are optimized to ensure the best night’s sleep possible.

Sleep can not only give professional athletes a big edge over their competitors, but it can also give you a whole lot more mental clarity throughout the day. So if you’re waking up feeling groggy, generally lethargic throughout the day, or just not receiving those crucial eight hours of shut-eye, here are a few therapeutic solutions you might consider.

The Antidote

Luckily, there are effective sleep therapy techniques that can help even the most restless sleepers get more shuteye.

1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI)

The most widely-used method of sleep therapy is CBT, which has been shown effective in many patients after 5 to 8 weeks of treatment.

CBT addresses negative thought and behavioral patterns. If you’re tossing and turning in the sheets, it’s often a mental pattern, such as excessive stress or anxiety that’s contributing to the sleep problem. In short, the CBT method involves identifying negative thoughts and beliefs, challenging them, and establishing a more helpful way of thinking.

For example, many people who have traditionally had problems getting to sleep begin worrying and catastrophizing about their inability to get to sleep, which compounds the problem in a snowball effect. CBT allows patients to break out of this harmful routine and create a better relationship with their own mind.

This method is often more specifically applied to insomnia in what’s called Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI). You can read more about this method, here.

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2. Sleep Restriction Therapy (SRT)

The goal of this therapy is to limit the overall amount of time that the patient spent in bed not sleeping, creating a stronger association between bedtime and actual sleep.

Developed by legendary psychologist Arthur Spielman, SRT follows a strict schedule for gradually increasing the amount of time you’re allowed in bed. You begin with the amount of time actually spent sleeping each night on average.

Let’s say you go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 7am but only sleep for five hours. You’d start with 6 hours of allowed rest, going to bed at 11pm and waking up at 5am, for example. You then gradually add sleep in 15 minute or half hour increments each week until you’re sleeping a healthy amount. There are several variations on this procedure and you might consult a sleep doctor or therapist for more detail.

SRT has been shown to be the most effective sleep hygiene technique.[4] The downside, of course, is that it’s not a quick fix. It does take weeks of diligence to recondition your sleep schedule and see results.

3. Meditation/Yoga Nidra

Meditation can also be used as a form of sleep therapy. Mindfulness, a state of mind achieved through meditation, has been defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist who created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), as,[5]

“the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally.”

By learning to experience one’s thoughts, emotions, and sensations closely without judging them, meditators can calm down and prepare their minds for sleep.

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Mindfulness meditation allows individuals to shine a light into their inner mental programs in what’s called introspective metacognitive awareness. In doing so, you’re able to form a better relationship with your thoughts, ease anxiety and alleviate a host of other mental turmoil that may be preventing sleep.

There’s a specific method of Vedic meditation called Yoga Nidra that is an excellent way to slip into sleep.[6] The practice involves breathing deeply, setting an intention, rotating one’s awareness around the body (which tires out the somatomotor regions of the brain, which process sensory information, and then often counting backward.

The practice may also include visualizations, depending on the particular set of instructions. Yoga Nidra has been practiced for thousands of years and is effective at shutting off the “narrating mind,” the voice in your head that won’t keep quiet when you’re trying to get to sleep. Especially in the early stages of doing Yoga Nidra, it’s helpful to listen to a teacher or guided audio recording.

Here’s an example of Yoga Nidra:

4. Hypnosis

Hypnotic techniques put patients into a relaxed and suggestible state wherein their thoughts and beliefs can readily become “reprogrammed.” For those unable to change their harmful negative thought loops using CBT, they may find hypnosis a suitable alternative.

The hypnotherapist employs subtle suggestions to “relax,” “let go,” and other trigger words. While your brain’s rational CEO in the neocortex is largely responsible for rumination and other thought patterns that might be keeping you awake, hypnosis allows the hypnotherapist to permeate your subconscious mind and plant code there that will help you fall asleep quicker.

5. Breathing Exercises

Breathing directly affects your autonomic nervous system, which in turn influences your mental activity. Sometimes, trouble getting to sleep is associated with an over-active “fight or flight” sympathy nervous system, and breathing is a quick way to put the breaks on this mechanism.

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There are several aspects of the breath that influence your mind-body system. Here are 3 important aspects of a calming breath that can immediately influence how your mental state:

  • Breathe smoothly: The opposite of this would be a jerky, staccato breath. Rather, you’d like there to be a constant flow of air entering and leaving your lungs between pauses.
  • Breathe rhythmically: What’s important here is that your breath has a consistent ratio of inhale to exhale. To further calm yourself, you might try exhaling for longer than the inhale in a fixed ratio of say 4:6. Four seconds of inhalation, followed by 6 seconds of exhalation. When practicing, it can help to use a metronome to find a rhythm at first (free phone apps are available).
  • Breathe into your belly: So-called “belly breathing” uses your full diaphragm and ensures that you’re using your lungs as they are designed. If you’d like to see proper diaphragmatic breathing just watch how a baby breathes naturally.

All three aspects of breath work to activate the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system, calming down your body and mind.

Bonus Sleep Tips

You also might consider these sleep hygiene strategies to improve your sleep, which include:

  • Going to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Making your room as dark as possible and relatively cool in temperature
  • Avoiding your bed unless you’re sleeping
  • Not eating or exercising right before bed
  • Taking a hot shower before bed
  • Getting sun exposure in the morning
  • Journaling your thoughts before bed or reading fiction
  • Avoiding naps after 3pm
  • Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and other drugs
  • Dimming house lights and shutting off electronic screens two hours before bedtime, or at the least use a blue light filter like f.lux
  • Bonus: using a white noise machine if you live in a noisy neighborhood

If problems persist after implementing these changes, it might be worth contacting a professional sleep physician or specialist to improve your sleep.

The Bottom Line

Sleep is not just a “hack,” it’s a necessity. While people spend billions on supplements, exercise machines, and diet books, there’s a free area of great improvement that would benefit many.

In my opinion, if there’s one aspect of our lives we don’t pay enough attention to, it’s the whole third of our lives (if you’re getting enough of it!) spent slumbering on the pillow.

After reading this article, you have all the tools you need to optimize your sleep and, in doing so, potentially transform the quality of your waking hours.

Featured photo credit: Zohre Nemati via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] CDC: 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep
[2] Rand: Sleep Report
[3] The Lancet: Sleep Deprived Versus Rested Surgeons
[4] Kaiser Permanente: Sleep Restriction Therapy
[5] Front Behav Neurosci.: Into the Moment
[6] Yoga International: 5 Benefits of Yoga Nidra

More by this author

Liam McClintock

Founder of FitMind, Corporate Mental Wellness

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1 9 Best Energy Supplements To Fight Fatigue And Tiredness 2 23 Foods That Give You An Energy Boost Instantly 3 What Is Brain Fog: Why It Happens And How To Get Over It 4 How to Avoid Burnout and Improve Your Well-Being 5 Vitamins And Supplements For Energy (The Complete Guide)

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Published on April 5, 2021

9 Best Energy Supplements To Fight Fatigue And Tiredness

9 Best Energy Supplements To Fight Fatigue And Tiredness

When it comes to energy levels, the solution is relatively simple. Make sure you get ample sleep, exercise regularly, and have a well-balanced diet. But as much as those things are simple, performing them on a regular basis can be difficult.

Worse, you could be doing these and still find energy levels draining quickly.

Fortunately, there are several options out there to help you with pushing back fatigue and tiredness. Most of these solutions stem from supplements. These little pills pack all kinds of helpful nutrients to get you through the day. Below we’ve selected some of the best energy supplements available.

Before getting to the list, here are some of the criteria that we used to determine what are the best options to offer you:

  • No fillers – One of the big issues with supplements is that they contain needless fillers in them that provide you with no benefit. We’ve checked many of these products to ensure they are from natural and pure sources and that these companies don’t put in fillers.
  • Improve mental functions – Fatigue isn’t just a physical thing, it’s mental too. The supplements we recommend help you in overcoming both sides of fatigue.
  • Metabolic benefits – These supplements are known to help burn energy stored in fat while preserving energy in your muscles.
  • Energized without the side effects – When people think of energy, they also keep in mind the downsides like crashing, jittering, irritability. These are known side effects for energy boosters, but they’re not part of these supplements.

Now let’s dive into the 9 best energy supplements for fatigue.

1. Fish Oil

One of the best energy supplements on the market is fish oil. Fish oil supplements are able to provide a wide variety of benefits to individuals. It’s essentially the supplement to be using if you’re looking to improve brain or heart function or both.

We recommend Infuel Fish Oil as they make a perfect blend of fish oil and Omega 3 healthy fats which directly support development of our brains, eyes, nervous system and maintaining a healthy heart. All of these feeds into our energy levels because these supplements provide us with essential fats that our body can use. Furthermore, stronger brain development is an invaluable tool to fighting off fatigue.

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2. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is one of the most important medicinal herbs in the Indian Ayurveda and it’s one of the world’s oldest medicinal systems. Over the years of its study, researchers have been able to uncover that Ashwagandha is able to increase our body’s resilience to both physical and mental stress.[1]

Because stress is one of those aspects that drains our energy levels physically and mentally, it stands to reason that having supplements of this nature can provide us with more energy. Beyond that, there is also research that suggests we can alleviate fatigue associated to exercise with this too.

NaturaLife Labs supplement of Ashwagandha comes to mind as a reliable source. It’s organic, vegan, and gluten free. Each capsule provides 2,100 mg with nothing but ashwagandha root powder and extract, making it highly potent compared to other brands.

3. Rhodiola Rosea

Another notable herb grounded into supplement form is rhodiola rosea. It grows in cold, mountainous regions and is used as a natural substance to enhance our coping abilities with stress.

From that research, there have also been a small collection of studies that looked into the physical and mental fatigue aspect too. Out of the vast majority of those studies, there was evidence of rhodiola rosea enhancing both physical performance and easing mental fatigue.[2]

Out of the various brands that provide this supplement, Bronson’s Rhodiola Rosea is a great fit. It’s gluten and soy-free and provides 1000 mg of 100% natural rhodiola rosea. These are also safe for vegans and vegetarians alike.

4. CoQ10

CoQ10 stands for coenzyme Q10 and is something that our body makes naturally. They are found in all of our cells though our heart, kidneys, and liver have the highest levels of this. What CoQ10 does though is produce energy for us and also protects themselves from oxidative damage.

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So why bother with having specific supplements of these? Well as we get older, things start to decline and our cells may not be able to produce as much energy as before. If we want our body cells to stay in shape, providing these supplements can help.

One of the best ones out there to look at is Nature Made’s CoQ10 vitamins. These supplements are gluten free and only contain soybean oil, gelatin, glycerin, water, and soy lecithin, making them ideal for most individuals. They also provide great benefits to those who take Statin as statin drugs are known for reducing CoQ10 levels. This replenishes them and doesn’t conflict with the use of those drugs either.

5. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B is a typically good vitamin to have. But if you’re looking for the best energy supplements in this category, B12 is the best. B12 is all about helping your body transform food into energy that you cells can then use.

Beyond that, studies have found the vitamin helps with the body’s nerves and blood cells. It also prevents a type of anemia that can render you weak and tired.

A lot of people are deficient in this area which is to be expected since not everyone is eating a lot of animal proteins like meat, fish and dairy products. It’s particularly bad amongst vegans and vegetarians.

Fortunately, there is a good option for everyone to get their vitamin B12 they need — Naturelo’s Vegan B12 vitamin. Their protein is solely plant-based and provides a high among of B12 – 1000 mg per capsule. The main source of their B12 vitamin comes from Spirulina which is a rich, plant-based source of natural B vitamins, protein, and various minerals, giving you a clean supplement to boost your energy levels.

6. Iron

Our body also needs iron in order to function too. With a lack of iron we develop anemia which can then lead to sensations of weakness and fatigue. Iron is essential because it fights off that by providing red blood cells carrying oxygen to the body’s tissues.

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Overall, iron is able to help you with fighting back fatigue because of this essential function. The only issue is that a lot of iron in food sources stem from meats and seafood.

When looking for a pure and helpful supplement to look for, Naturelo Iron is the one. This particular supplement is appealing because it also provides you with vitamin C. Vitamin C is able to prevent iron deficiency so it pairs nicely with the iron supplement. Along with purse ingredients made from iron-rich whole foods and great absorption, you’re able to combat fatigue easier with these supplements.

7. Melatonin

Melatonin is a natural hormone that our brain produces that puts us to sleep. When we wake up, there are very low levels and it goes up over the day. But if you’re trying to stop feeling tired why would a supplement that produces this sleepy drug be helpful?

Well, melatonin also serves as a way to fight off insomnia. Many people have sleeping issues because of high amounts of screen time (which disrupt the cycle of releasing melatonin). This insomnia leads to people feeling more exhausted physically and mentally.

So by increasing your melatonin through a supplement, you’ll be able to get sleep when your body actually needs it. This process alone will be able to recharge you and energize you.

And it’s not like you need a lot of melatonin in your body for it to work. Take Nature’s Bounty Melatonin. They provide 3mg of it per capsule and it’s more than enough for individuals to fall asleep to. Best of all, these supplements are suitable for vegetarians as well.

8. Tyrosine

Tyrosine is an amino acid that our body naturally produces as well. They are essentially the drugs behind making the chemicals that send messages from our body to the brain. Those chemicals are believed to decrease when we are in mentally or physically demanding activities. This leads to us being unable to concentrate and eventually feeling tired physically and/or mentally.

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As such, being able to supplement our tyrosine levels will be able to help us fight off feeling tired and mentally exhausted. And one particular brand that can assure this is Swanson Tyrosine. Their Tyrosine supplement is Non-GMO and each capsule provides 500 mg, a healthy amount to keep you focused and mentally energized.

9. L-Theanine

The last on our list is L-Theanine. It’s an amino acid that is actually commonly found in tea and mushrooms. Considering the fact that tea – and coffee – are able to keep us energized, it makes sense that L-theanine provides similar perks.[3]

What’s also nice about this particular supplement is that it also works well with coffee. Coffee has caffeine which naturally boosts our energy levels as well. The problem is coffee also provides side effects like nervousness, irritability, restlessness and a crash after a power boost. L-theanine with coffee though seems to prevent those side effects.

One particular supplement of L-theanine we found beneficial was Nature’s Trove L-Theanine. They use natural ingredients and are made in the US, GMP NSF Certified and Kosher Certified. They’re also suitable for vegetarians as well.

Final Thoughts

Life does have a way of taking a toll on our bodies and there will be days where we are completely drained. There are several ways for you to combat this with working on a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting a proper amount of sleep.

But for those looking to maintain higher energy, these supplements will provide a good opportunity for you to maintain higher energy levels and give you the natural boost that you need.

More on Energy Boosting

Featured photo credit: Aditya Saxena via unsplash.com

Reference

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