Want Better Sleep?


By Travis Wade

Sleep is so profoundly important. People seem to be willing to trade it for anything else. We avoid it like we owe it money and it’s the only thing that can heal us. We also seem to want to blame everything else for our health problems. People want to look at food and look for a pill to fix our health problems. Cut. It. Out.



If you’re having trouble falling asleep or you wake up for 30 minutes for 3 nights a week and it happens more than 3 weeks in a row for more than 3 months. This is called Insomnia. 1 in 3 people have insomnia at any given time. That’s about how many people are in bed at any given time??

There are 8-10 types of insomnia associated with all aspects of life. There will be a root cause; your job is to find the cause. Everyone has an individual amount of sleep need, usually 7-9 hours a night. Most people have 5 – 90-minute sleep cycles totaling 7.5 hours with a half hour of fall asleep time. Simple math can determine your bedtime.

Stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4, back to stage 2, and then into REM. That pattern is approximately 90 minutes and occurs 5 times a night. Your body is primed to sleep at certain times due to your circadian rhythm. Forget about sleeping in; you’ll lose your REM sleep on the back end. Mom was right again; everyone needs a bed time.

Most people don’t prepare for sleep. Most people don’t embrace sleep; they want to avoid it. There is no avoiding it. You need about 8 hours. If you want to over achieve you need to get that 8 hours or you’ll massively under achieve. Everyone needs a sleep preparation ritual. We need to do some form of meditation to activate the relaxation response.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. How you think about sleep affects the way you sleep. The continuous action between the feelings, the actions, and the thoughts keep spiraling. People hate sleep, but know they need it. The negative thoughts produce negative feelings which produce negative actions.

The last 20 minutes before you sleep directly affect your thoughts while you sleep. Use those last 20 minutes to write down 3 things you are grateful for that day and one story. Get the positive emotions in your mind.

Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep


A couple more points I want to touch on are things that are going on internally that make you tired. There are 2 distinct systems for sleep. There is sleep drive and circadian rhythm. First, adenosine is a byproduct of metabolism and as it builds during the day you get tired. That’s your sleep driver. Secondly, your cortisol is high in the morning and decreases through the day. When cortisol is high melatonin is low. Your circadian rhythm, or your internal clock, is primarily run by these 2 hormones.

These are some of the basics of how sleep works and it is a really complicated topic. I could write for days, but I have to get some sleep. I’ll leave you with only three main things to concentrate on for a better sleep. Number one, make sleep a priority. Number two, determine a bedtime depending on when you have to get up and how much sleep you need. Number three, do a nighttime ritual and be sure to include meditation and write down 3 things you are grateful for and one story. The story lets you relive the experience and you fall asleep with positive thoughts.

Set Your Circadian Rhythm


Blue light keeps you awake. Is that news to you?? Melatonin is called the vampire hormone because it’s only produced in the dark. Go to this web site and download the program to instantly help you sleep better. Also, one hour before bed you have to turn off all lights or use blue blockers or candle light. My preference is candle light when possible.

It’s all about setting your circadian rhythm and light has a lot to do with that. The blue light from your computer will turn off your melatonin production just like the sun. That’s why you’re supposed to get 15 minutes of sunlight first thing in the morning too. It sets your circadian rhythm.

A sleep mask can be handy for blocking out the sun for when you sleep. There are light sensitive cells on your skin called cryptochromes that will absorb light as well. Some people prefer black out curtains. They’d be the cat’s ass on a timer I think. 10-15 minutes before you have to get up they let the sun shine in. What a great way to wake up in the morning as opposed to the mofo alarm.



The first tip I give my clients for better sleep and quality of life is get the nutrients your body needs. If you have trouble with sleep or even if you don’t, you should be addressing nutrient deficiencies. Just doing this can help with so many issues people have. It’s like taking away water or food; you can’t think or perform very well. You also get hungry when you lack nutrients. You could be stuffing your cake hole with cake only because you’re lacking a nutrient your body is constantly telling your brain to eat.

We try to get the nutrients we need with food because the supplement will never be as effective as the actual food source. A supplement should be taken when needed and it’s really important to get a quality supplement or you could be doing more harm than good.

Without having a full panel done all I can do is tell you the top nutrient deficiencies in North America. Number one is vitamin D, number 2 is omega 3’s, number 3 is vit. K2, and the 4th is magnesium, sometimes called the sleep drug because it knocks people out. You need 2-1 or 3-1 calcium to magnesium. I’ll get back to the magnesium in a bit. Number 5 is vitamin B12, number 6 is vitamin E, number 7 is vitamin A, number 8 is iodine, number 9 is calcium, and number 10 is iron.

Let’s recap a few tips because they are the most important. First, make sleep a priority. You can’t have the attitude that it is just something that hopefully happens when you go to bed. Second, determine a bedtime based on your wake up time and how long you need to sleep. Third, make a bedtime ritual consisting of activating your relaxation mode.



Ok, back to the magnesium. We lack magnesium because it’s just not in the soil anymore. If you’re taking a supplement avoid oxides. You only absorb 3-4% of it. Citrates destroy toilets. Here’s a great tip. There is three times as much magnesium in a banana peel as there is in the fruit itself. Get organic bananas. Wash one off and cut the ends off. Put it in 4 cups of water and boil it for a few minutes then let it steep for 10-15 minutes. Add a little cinnamon, honey, and coconut milk. It’s delicious and for a lot of you it will knock you out.

Magnesium is the 1 mineral deficiency in North America. It’s responsible for over 300 biochemical processes. That’s 300 things your body can’t do without magnesium. One study used people with sleep issues and low magnesium. 30-40% had better sleep when their magnesium was increased.  Epsom salts is a form of topical magnesium, magnesium sulfate. The sulphate is very important to get as well.



We talked a little about hormone imbalances. Melatonin and cortisol are hormones and when one is high the other is low. A couple other hormones in this whole scheme of things is thyroid hormone and testosterone. When melatonin is high testosterone is low.

You will produce less melatonin as you age. People around 50-55 or older might consider hormone replacement therapy. 0.1-1 mg of melatonin does nothing to how much melatonin your body will produce and I use it for better sleep. It works at these small doses. When I took the amount recommended on the bottle it was a higher dose and didn’t work.

The brand recommended by “The Sleep Doctor” is Usana. Melatonin isn’t regulated and you might be getting some Jägermeister instead of hormone. The test for melatonin levels is a saliva test. Remember melatonin isn’t a sleep initiator it’s a regulator. Take it about 90 minutes before bed and the dosage is a half to one milligram.

Thyroid problems can cause anxiety at any time or cause insomnia with Grave’s disease. Grave’s disease is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks the control mechanism of the thyroid and there is no stop. You just keep pumping thyroid hormone and become hyperthyroid. That’ll ruin your sleep. Magnolia bark helps reduce levels of anxiety.

There can be various things that cause hormone imbalances, but the place in Edmonton to get tested is called True Balance.  They will do a full panel and you can see nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, blood cell counts, and even antigens causing autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.



We need to talk about caffeine. You need to avoid caffeine after noon. Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist. Caffeine is very similar in molecular structure as adenosine and binds to receptor sites in the brain blocking adenosine. That’s why you get the caffeine crash when caffeine wears off. Most people don’t realize caffeine has a half-life of about 8-10 hours. “Ween the bean”, doctors will say. Dandy Blend is a non-caffeinated herbal drink that tastes like coffee. Maybe give that a day in court.

Around 35% of people don’t need a supplement to help them sleep better. If you get up at 6 and only sleep 5.5 hours a night, go to bed at midnight. It sounds crazy, but it works. You’ll fall asleep faster and then you’ll get 6 hours of sleep a night. Then go to bed at 11:30. It’s an evidence based technique called sleep restriction. Sleep doctors are taught this technique in their training. Phshshsh,I’m not a sleep doctor. I’ve used this technique. It works.

Serotonin is the precursor to melatonin. People with depression either can’t sleep or they use sleep as an escape. 5HTP or L-tryptophan can increase serotonin levels. You need to have a health practitioner to help with that. You don’t want to create too much serotonin.

People deficient in potassium have trouble falling asleep. Just another reason to do banana tea. Low Vit. C levels cause people to wake up at night. Glycine for some will one a magic sleeping pill. Take about 5 grams before bed. For others magnesium will be a sleeping pill. Use magnesium-threonate because it’s the only magnesium supplement that crosses the blood brain barrier.

Your Gut


Your gut integrity impacts your sleep. The pineal gland was believed to produce your melatonin, but research shows there is 400x more melatonin produced in your gut. The precursor hormone serotonin is also produced in the gut, over 90%. Researchers at Caltech found there are specific bacteria in the gut that communicate with the cells that produce these hormones. Build a proper microbiome by preventing overgrowth of bad bacteria.

Dysbiosis of the gut is created by processed foods and sugar. Also the use of antibiotics destroys your microbiome. Chlorine is a strong antibiotic. Using a reverse osmosis system to filter your water is preferred, but a bottled spring water is fine.

Up to 80% of the antibiotics we ingest are from meat. You need antibiotic free and hormone free meat. Check out my article on meat to see options for grass fed, grass finished meat.

Improving the microbiome is complicated, but please read some of my previous articles on it.



It’s time to talk about my favourite subject now; exercise. In a study, they had people exercise at three different times. Phase 1 was at 7am, phase 2 was 1pm, phase 3 was 7pm. The morning exercisers spent more time in the deepest most anabolic stages of sleep. Up to 75% of them had more efficient sleep cycles and slept longer. They had a 25% decrease in blood pressure in the evening. Their relaxation mode was more active in the evening.

Sleep Apnea

sleep apnea

I don’t want to get into sleep apnea too much because it accounts for about 30% of sleep disorders and 95% of the clinics deal with it. These are the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. Waking up with a very sore or dry throat. Occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation. Sleepiness or lack of energy during the day. Sleepiness while driving. Morning headaches. Restless sleep. Forgetfulness, mood changes, and a decreased interest in sex. Loud snoring, which is usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea, episodes of breathing cessation during sleep witnessed by another person, abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, which more likely indicates central sleep apnea, attention problems, and irritability. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, go to one of the many clinics that deal with it and get tested.

Stress Insomnia


The main thing I want to talk about is stress type insomnia. 75-80% of sleep problems are stress related.  If you have trouble falling asleep or wake up for more than 30 minutes in the night, then this might be where you are. Obviously the stress is what needs to be dealt with and most people don’t realize their stress is high. Things like what you eat and toxins in your environment affect your stress as well.

Seeing a sleep psychologist may be your best line of action. I heard a doctor talking on a sleep summit and she said if you have any one of these seven childhood traumas you will have sleep issues. The seven traumas are things I’m sure almost all of us experienced at one time or another. Deal with it.

Sometimes a doctor may initially give you GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric acid). It inhibits nerve transmission in the brain, calming nervous activity.  Or a doctor may prescribe tryptophan to help you sleep. Tryptophan increases your serotonin levels. Serotonin is the precursor to melatonin. Both of these will calm you down for a better night’s sleep. You have to be careful with this stuff because they are addictive for one thing and another is you don’t want too much serotonin. There are safer methods to deal with the night time anxiety.

Natural sources of tryptophan are very safe. Try seeds (pumpkin, squash, or chia), spirulina, or game meat before bed. A study published in Sports Medicine found that consuming carbohydrates like honey and a form of protein high in tryptophan before bed helped with better sleep.

More Supplements


Clinical trials show that passion flower is as effective as a benzodiazepine to eliminate anxiety. The benzo worked faster, but the passion flower didn’t have the side effects such as drowsiness the next day. Another great anti-anxiety supplement is Valerian root. It increases GABA naturally. Magnolia bark is another anxiolytic. No matter what supplement you choose make sure you are getting a high quality supplement or you will be getting ripped off and causing more harm than good.

A few more tips to finish off this topic. Electromagnetic waves. Ground yourself and get rid of the cell phone near where you sleep and avoid the electrical stuff in the wall. Take your socks and shoes off on the earth to ground yourself as well. Grounding mats do exist for the winter months.

A place that’s too quiet can be a factor. Binaural beats can slow down your mind and help you sleep, but if the room is too quiet any little noise could wake you up. White noise can help. Sounds of the ocean. Last tip – Lavender essential oils are great in a diffuser to calm your mind.

I wish you lots of health, love and happiness!

Travis Wade

The only holistic personal trainer in Edmonton

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