Create a Natural Sleep Rhythm When Fasting

Getting in the habit of training your body to sleep during its natural rhythm is key. You want to sleep during the darkness and awake when it's light. Staying up all night in artificial light confuses your system.

When you constantly trick your circadian rhythm (your body's natural sleep cycle during a 24-hour period) by staying up too long in artificial light, your body thinks it's a long summer day. What your body naturally expects to follow is the cold, short days of winter.

The concern, however, is that the expected dormant hibernation period after the long summer never comes, which makes your mind start to literally go crazy. Nature thinks you're up too long, that you've eaten more than your share of nature's goodness, and that you're likely infertile from being bathed in insulin. Your body creates a bipolar state of mind, and you become depressive and manic.

Also, when the light never dims, your cortisol never drops. Chronic high cortisol and chronic high insulin put your mind in a chronic state of panic. When insulin and cortisol are too high or too low, more than just moodiness occurs; you experience true manic depression and mental illness.

The National Institute of Mental Health agrees that one of the primary causes of depression and mental illness is simply being out of sync with the dark-light rhythm that your body expects. Most of the drugs for depression are aimed at putting your sleep cycles back in place.

Start looking at sleep as a nutrient. As much as you look at evolutionary eating, moving, and living as your blueprint, staying in tune with your natural sleep design is just as essential.

Sleep works together with all other areas in your life to provide you the best health. Here are a few tips for getting the right amount and quality of sleep you need:

  • Go to bed at the same time every night. If you don't give yourself a scheduled bedtime, you get distracted. Before long, your awake time will be squeezing its way into your much-needed sleep time.

  • Go to bed by no later than 10 p.m. and wake up by no later than 7 a.m. Set your phone, watch, or an alarm clock to remind you to close down shop for the night. Most of your body's repairing goes on before 1 a.m., and you get more growth hormone. Your circadian rhythm will also be in sync with your sleep-awake cycle.

  • Rise with the sun. The sunlight will regulate your hormones for the day.

  • Unplug. Make sure you're not doing anything but relaxing, journaling, or reading one to two hours before bed. This quiet time releases the hormone melatonin to get you to sleep. That means no TV, no computer, or anything stimulating. Dim the lights if you can. Doing so allows your body to start producing even more melatonin. Move all alarm clocks or electrical devices at least 3 feet away from your bed.

  • Black out your bedroom room completely. Your body produces melatonin in darkness. Cover the windows to prevent any light from coming in. Use blackout shades if you need to. You shouldn't be able to see even your hand in front of your face. If your room is too light when you try to sleep, hormone production slows down.

  • Keep your room cool and well ventilated. Keep your room at a temperature that's comfortable for you, but make sure it's on the cooler side — about 68 degrees works for most people. Some people also like an air purifier. Using one can improve the way you breathe and, ultimately, the way you sleep.

  • Limit caffeine. Drinking caffeine prolongs the time it takes you to go to sleep and decreases the amount of deep sleep you get. The time it takes for about half of the caffeine you've had to clear out of your system is three to five hours, so plan accordingly. Caffeine limitations vary greatly from person to person, so see what works for you.

  • Limit alcohol: Alcohol may make you fall asleep quicker, but your quality of sleep is diminished. Deep sleep and REM sleep, which stands for Rapid Eye Movement, are both greatly reduced, so even if you fall asleep more quickly, you'll probably wake up feeling tired.

    (During REM sleep, most of your muscles become paralyzed, and your brain's activity becomes quite intense, similar to the activity during wakefulness. Most people are able to have vivid dreams during REM sleep.)

Make sleep as essential as fasting, eating healthy foods, exercising, or anything else you do that you consider important to your health (and waistline).

Sleep-inducing foods include turkey and almonds as well as seasonings like nutmeg, turmeric, and garlic. (Try herbal tea with nutmeg, or turkey broth with garlic as a before-bed snack to prep for a restful night.)

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