Improve Sleep with Functional Medicine

In 2017 the National Sleep Foundation did a study that shows the vast majority of Americans don’t get enough sleep each night. The NSF recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night for individuals 24-64 years old. And that’s sleep. Not just lying in bed. After tracking my sleep for years I know that on average I lie in bed for 1.5-2 hours more than I sleep on any given night. That number is split between time spent falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, and hitting the snooze button. That means if I want to get seven hours of sleep I should prepare to go to bed nine hours before I wake up. And some studies suggest that every hour you work out per day you should add another hour onto the recommended sleep.


What’s even more crazy is that lack of sleep can be connected to weight gain. A study from the journal Sleep showed that depriving yourself of good quality sleep can lead to an average weight gain of 2 lbs. in only five days. If you deprive your body of sleep over a longer period of time, just imagine how much weight you could be tacking onto the scale without realizing. 


With some of my patients who have been struggling with losing weight our first goal is to focus on improving their sleep hygiene. One of the best ways to do that is by introducing the idea of a night time routine. Most of us have a typical routine that we go through every single morning after we wake up. If we do that in the AM wouldn’t it make sense to do something similar in the PM? Instead of preparing yourself to go about your normal day to day, a night time routine helps prepare your body and your mind for winding down and getting ready to catch some Z’s.


According to Dr. Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep there are some surefire tips to promote proper sleep hygiene and ensure a better night’s sleep. Here are some highlights:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule. This can include setting a “go-go-sleep” alarm but the overarching goal is to set up a routine for sleep, much like most of us do for the daytime.
  2. Try not to exercise 2-3 hours before sleeping
  3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine for 8 hours before sleep.
  4. Avoid alcohol at night. The effects of alcohol limit your body’s ability from entering REM sleep.
  5. Avoid large meals or drinking too many fluids prior to bedtime.
  6. Avoid medicines, over-the-counter drugs, or supplements that could disrupt your sleep patterns.
  7. No naps after 3.00pm.
  8. Incorporate relaxing activities prior to bed to help down-regulate your nervous system.
  9. Take a hot bath or wet your face before bed. This will trigger a temperature change in your body that promotes sleep.
  10. Dark, cold, device-free bedroom. This tip helps eliminate light and/or other electrical frequencies that can disrupt brain waves.
  11. Have the right sunlight/ artificial light exposure. Make sure you’re getting at least one hour of sunlight in the day (preferably within the first few hours of being awake) and limit overhead lights at nighttime.
  12. Don’t stay in bed if you can’t fall asleep. Staying in bed for too long without sleeping can trigger sleep anxiety. It’s best to get out of bed and do an activity that will further down-regulate your nervous system.


National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Time. Accessed July 19, 2017.

CDC. Insufficient sleep is a public health problem. Accessed July 19, 2017.

Spaeth AM et al. Effects of experimental sleep restriction on weight gain, caloric intake, and meal timing in healthy adults. Sleep. 2013;36(7):981-990.

Patel SR et al. Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. Am J Epidemiol. 2006;164(10):947-954.

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