For the last week I have been trying to get into a better sleep routine. I fell into an unhealthy pattern of going to bed past midnight and was definitely feeling the effects, such as daytime grogginess, brain fog, increased hunger and moodiness. Not to mention, I have been voiding more often because my stress levels are staying high due to the lack of sleep (as we sleep, stress hormones are detoxed).
Is sleep really that important?
Getting into a solid bedtime routine is definitely NOT easy. It takes commitment, discipline and will-power. With an ever-expanding to-do-list it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to shut down in the evening and prepare for sleep. However, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our health. It’s not a myth.
As we sleep our bodies are hard at work. Sleep is how our bodies repair and regenerate by ridding the body of toxins, free radicals and stress hormones.
With a chronic disease like interstitial cystitis, getting optimal sleep is even more of a challenge since most suffer with some degree of nighttime voiding. As you begin to heal and soothe your bladder via diet, herbs, supplements and stress reduction, sleep will be easier to come by. No matter where you are in your interstitial cystitis journey, you will benefit from following these suggestions.
Here are 7 ways to optimize your sleep with interstitial cystitis:
1. Avoid IC trigger foods all day long
Even a small amount of a trigger food in the morning can put you in a flare that will last until the evening and affect your sleep.
Be very mindful of what you are eating and watch for any negative bladder reactions. Avoid acidic foods, preservatives, spices, caffeine, artificial sweeteners and any other trigger foods.
If you have eaten a food that has put you in a flare, try taking a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water. You want to make sure this is done on an empty stomach so it does not disrupt your digestive process.
2. Avoid foods you are sensitive or allergic to and take a natural anti-histamine if necessary
At one point in time I was taking a prescription anti-histamine and this seemed to help the most with sleep. I don’t know why I didn’t clue in at the time that food allergies were playing a significant role in my IC.
If you are unsure of what foods you are reacting to, I recommend a food sensitivity test or elimination diet. In the meantime, you can try taking a natural anti-histamine.
Quercetin is a bioflavanoid that counteracts allergic reactions and reduces inflammation. In order for it to be effective, you need to take it at least two times a day and not just in the evening. Take one 500 mg capsule with breakfast and one with dinner. If you are not experiencing relief, it may not be an effective solution for you, or you might not be taking enough. You can experiment with taking an extra capsule with lunch to see if it provides relief.
3. Make dinner your lightest meal of the day
Past 8 pm, your body should be focused on one thing only and that is sleep. If you eat a heavy meal at dinner, your body is now torn between digestion and sleep preparation. Also, the digestive process is naturally not as effective in the evening as it is earlier in the day. If you do happen to eat a heavier meal in the evening, I recommend taking a digestive enzyme to help speed up the process.
4. Avoid or limit fluid consumption after 7pm
I don’t ever recommend restricting water intake, even with a lot of frequency. You need to support your kidneys and the removal of toxins on a daily basis. Drinking enough water also allows you to dilute acids and other irritants in the urine, making them less likely to harm your bladder.
Hydrate sufficiently during the day and stop or limit your fluid consumption around 7pm to decrease night time frequency.
5. Turn off the computer and TV by 9 pm
Working or playing on your computer or watching TV exposes you to light and therefore interrupts the production of melatonin, a hormone and antioxidant that is made by the pineal gland within two hours of sunset to help control your sleep and wake cycles and remove free radicals.
Darkness promotes the secretion of melatonin and bright light prevents it. When melatonin levels rise you begin to feel drowsy and your body is trying to signal to you that it is time for sleep. After midnight there is a gradual decline in melatonin levels, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
Using the computer or watching TV also stimulates the mind when the mind should be winding down in preparation for sleep.
Keep your electronics (including your smart phone) out of the bedroom if possible. The bedroom is for sleep, relaxation and sex.
6. Cultivate a relaxing bed time ritual
Do a meditation, guided visualization or deep breathing exercise prior to bed.
You can also try taking a warm bath with Epsom salts and relaxing essential oils, such as frankincense and lavender.
Try a cup of relaxing and bladder-friendly herbal tea after dinner. Chamomile, skullcap and lemon balm are safe options to consider. Add some marshmallow root tea for some added bladder soothing benefits!
7. Be in bed by 10 pm
The most restorative sleep happens between 10 pm – 2 am. Your body’s metabolism increases in order to go through a process of regeneration and repair. This is when free radicals are removed with the help of melatonin.
Once you get into the routine of sleeping by 10pm, you will find that it is easier to fall asleep because this is when your body is designed to be resting according to its natural sleep cycle. If you go to sleep much after 10pm, you have missed your “window” and might find yourself tossing and turning.