Do you have trouble falling asleep, tossing and turning for what seems like hours?
What about waking in the wee hours of the morning and having a hard time getting back to sleep?
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders each year and an additional 20 million people experience occasional sleep problems.
So you're definitely not alone if you're not catching your zzz's.
Though it can feel isolating when your significant other or everyone else in your household or immediate vicinity is passed out for the night and you're the one who's awake.
Then there's the inevitable fatigue that smacks you in the face in the morning and throughout the rest of the day.
In 2014, the National Sleep Foundation discovered that 20%of Americans reported that they did not wake up feeling refreshed on any of the past seven days.
It's time to stop this nonsense and get. more. sleep.
Start feeling refreshed and ready for your days with this super simple tip that will help your sleep.
BONUS: My cat Max makes an awesome cameo.
check out my video to learn:
- Why sleep dysregulation is so common and its root cause
- My #1 recommendation for sleep and how easy it is to integrate into your life
- How salts and minerals positively affect our nervous system and sleep and how many of us are deficient in them
- How chronic stress negatively impacts your sleep
- The importance of creating a ritual for yourself around and before bedtime
Full Video Transcript
Hi there. I'm Dr. Liz Carter, and this week I wanted to share with you my number one recommendation for helping you get better sleep. I hear a lot about sleep issues in my office, and I wanted to share with you the number one thing that I tell my patients. It can help with any type of sleep issue, whether you have trouble shutting off your brain and falling asleep or if you're waking up in the middle of the night and maybe not being able to get back to sleep.
Sleep always comes back to the basic thing of nervous system dysregulation. Usually, our nervous systems are really, really overstimulated. I think we can all relate to being overly busy, maybe not being able to quite turn off and transition into that more relaxing time. We tend to be pretty bad about blocking this time out for ourselves because there's so much demand for us nowadays with family and job and extracurricular activities, all kinds of things.
With nervous system dysregulation, usually we're all really geared towards the sympathetic nervous system, so sympathetic we hear a lot about. It's fight or flight. It's, oh, my gosh, I'm running from a bear. This really intense kind of adrenaline rush nervous system tends to take over our daily lives because we're under so many chronic stress situations that this nervous system, even though it's great in acute stress, right, like you are actually running from a bear, not super relevant today, but it does get activated in these chronic long-term stress issues that we have. When we're living in this sympathetic nervous system, we're always up. We've always got that adrenaline going, and we just can't disconnect to go to sleep.
The other side of that nervous system is the parasympathetic nervous system. This one is your rest and digest nervous system. It's where we need to be to heal, and it's also where we need to be to sleep. A big goal of mine for my patients is to really figure how to active that parasympathetic nervous system more regularly, so you can make that shift between those two nervous systems and maybe live a little bit more in the parasympathetic.
That's a little more relaxed. It's just kind of a nicer pace of life and not always being triggered into this sympathetic adrenaline rush. The main way I like to talk to people about getting that parasympathetic nervous system activated, your rest and digest system, is through salt baths. Epsom salt is my favorite. You can see I have my lovely salts on display here for you guys today.
These are actually mine. These are the sizes that I actually order. I think my UPS man might hate me a little bit because I order 25-pound bags of salt at a time, sometimes 50. I do use them, and I use them regularly, and they're just wonderful for your health. I wanted to go through a little bit of the benefits of a salt bath for you today.
A salt bath, not only is it great with the salts, which we'll get to in a minute, it's a fabulous ritual for you. When we talk about that interface between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic, it does take some transition time to burn out that adrenaline and then start to activate these more relaxing neurotransmitters and hormones. I think a lot of times we expect to be able to just go, go, go, go, go, and then, okay, our nervous system will switch over.
That does happen when we're really, really exhausted, but most of the time, we're not quite in that state. We're kind of in this chronic alert state from the overstimulation of the sympathetic. A bath is a great ritual. It's a great end cap on your day, to add in. It's a half hour or less, just to add this transition time from the go, go, go pace of the day to, "Okay, I'm going to relax now, and I'm really going to wind down and sleep."
It also kind of separates you from screen time, which is great because our screens do give off this blue light that is very activating to the brain, so it can be, again, a nice kind of break from that, and then maybe there's just no screen time after a bath. You might be really tired after a bath and go to sleep right away, or you might just want to read and decompress that way.
If you already have an evening ritual, a bath is a really lovely thing to add. Then if you don't at all, if you don't have that transition time, a bath is a really, really nice way to start that. It is kind of a full stop, "Okay, I'm doing this. I'm really relaxing." I understand, it's hard to integrate into your schedule immediately sometimes or every night, but even if you can do it three or five times a week, it can start to make a really big difference.
You're essentially training your nervous system around the same time every night to say, "Hey, it's time to chill out. It's time to unplug. It's time to let go." Your body really does thrive on ritual and routine, so the more often you can do that and the more regularly, you'll start to get this response even on nights that you're not able to fit a bath in, unless you're super stressed out. Hopefully, that doesn't happen.
That ritual does go a really long way in terms of improving sleep quality. That's the ritual part of the bath, so let me get into the actual super fun salt part of the bath. We know that the bath, we have warm water and salt, are our main ingredients. The warm water is fabulously relaxing. It's really lovely just to sink into and forget about whatever else is going on.
The Epsom salts are super medicinal. The Epsom salts, they don't have any sodium or chloride, what you would find in table salt, at all. They are magnesium and sulfate. My favorite component of the Epsom salts is the magnesium. Magnesium is this super crucial mineral. All minerals are really important, but magnesium we tend to be depleted in a lot.
There was a study by the Epsom Salt Council, which I love that there is a council devoted to these fabulous salts. It's wonderful. I think they're at epsomsaltcouncil.org if anybody else wants to check it out and nerd out on Epsom salts. If it's just me, that's fine. I will translate that for you to hear. Those guys did a study, and they found out that 68% of adults are not meeting the RDA for magnesium daily. The RDA is recommended daily allowance.
I think what's interesting about that is most people have the misconception that an RDA is the maximum you should be consuming per day. It's actually the minimum you need to maintain kind of a nutritional balance in your body, so 68% of people are not getting the minimum amount of magnesium they need per day, which is crazy.
Then you add this chronic stress on top of it. Stress burns through minerals and magnesium like crazy. If we're working out, and we need muscle recovery, that also eats up minerals. If we've got any issues with blood sugar or adrenal problems, that eats up magnesium, too. Oftentimes, magnesium deficiency can actually show up as these issues, with extra muscle cramps, constipation, adrenal issues, blood sugar issues, difficulty sleeping, all of these things.
If you're experiencing any of that stuff, you might just need a little bit of magnesium. Epsom salts are my favorite way to get it into the body. You can certainly take a powdered magnesium supplement, which is relevant for some people, definitely, if you need a little bit more.
I really like the combination that you're getting with the salt and the magnesium absorbing through your skin and the ritual of bath time. That's fantastic. You're getting kind of double for your money that way. Another thing about magnesium is that it's really ... or I'm sorry, about the other component, the sulfate.
The sulfate is kind of this bonus mineral in here, where it's great for joint health and detoxification reactions in the liver. Those are the main couple of things that it's great for. You're getting the magnesium and the sulfate together, which is really, really nice. You can see my little bonus guy over here. This is the Dead Sea salts that I do really like to add to the bath as well.
The Dead Sea salts are really, really mineral rich, so they kind of fill in whatever these salts leave out because we're really just looking at magnesium and a little bit of sulfur in the form of sulfate. The Dead Sea salts are very mineral dense, and they rebuild all of your other mineral stores, again, really helpful for adrenal fatigue, blood sugar regulation, muscle cramping and spasm, all kinds of great stuff.
I know that I did Epsom salt baths by itself for a very long time, and when I started adding the Dead Sea salts, it was this extra layer of relaxation that really kicked in there, so it's really worthwhile. It's great to add in the Dead Sea salts, too.
Oh, I forgot one thing I wanted to tell you about the magnesium. The magnesium helps with that nervous system dysregulation we were talking about. It helps to decrease the potency of adrenaline, is kind of a simple way to put it. Adrenaline is that main fight or flight stress hormone that we've got kind of coursing through our veins all the time when we're in sympathetic.
The magnesium will literally help to flip that switch for you and down-regulate the sympathetic, and then the relaxation of the magnesium and the hot water and the circulation and all that will bring up that parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest. It's a perfect mineral for really helping that nervous system to switch and help you get better sleep and less stress overall.
Oftentimes, people, when they first start these baths, will be really tired. It's really good not to plan anything after you take a bath. Even doing it about an hour before bed is really a nice time period, so you have a little time to cool off, and a little time to decompress, and then go to sleep. Then you'll notice as your magnesium gets a little bit more built up in the system or you start recovering a little bit, the baths don't knock you out quite as much.
You're able to kind of be a little bit more alert afterwards. Magnesium is a mineral, so it's transient. The Epsom Salt Council also found in their study that the magnesium levels would go back down after about a day. Even when people took a bath once a day for week, the magnesium levels in the blood and urine would come back down about a day after that week was over.
The minerals, really, they're water soluble. They're going to move right on through, which is why it's important to really make this a ritual and keep the bathing up, if you can, three to five times a week or so. How do you actually take an Epsom salt bath? That seems probably simple. It's water and salt, not a big deal.
I usually recommend kind of a mild temperature to start with, especially if you haven't taken a bath in a while. You really want to see what your circulation can handle. If you're someone that runs hot, definitely start with a little bit cooler temperature. You don't want to overheat yourself. Yeah, so that's a nice way to start, with a mild temp, and then really kind of dial it in for what's comfortable.
Ideally, you'd be soaking for about 15 to 20 minutes, so a milder temp makes that easier. If it's a hotter temp, you'd probably want to stay in less time. The 15 to 20 minutes gives the salts plenty of time to relax, gives your parasympathetic nervous system time to activate and the sympathetic to come back down a couple notches.
Then in terms of the quantity of salt, I really like to use about four cups of salt total per bath. Some people say that two cups of salt is okay per bath, and I think that's just fine, especially if you're on a budget, but I think ideally, if you could do about four cups per bath, that would be better. I usually do three cups of Epsom and one cup of Dead Sea salt. Sorry, you can hear my cat, Max, meowing in the background there.
Yeah, I found this to be a really nice concentration, and it's a good starting point for people. I usually weight it a little more towards the Epsom salt just because the Dead Sea salt is a little more expensive. If you want to go a little bit crazier with the Dead Sea salt, by all means, go for it. It's fantastic stuff. A little bonus tip, the Dead Sea salt is really fantastic for eczema and psoriasis.
You usually need a very potent amount of it in the bath to really make a difference, but just a little will even get you started down the right track with that. Yeah, so those are the main components of the bath there. I think I covered, yeah, the time and the amount of salt you want to use. If you sweat at all in the bath, just cool off and then rinse down after you're done because whatever ... and Max makes his debut.
Whatever you've sweated out through the bath, you do want to get off of your skin because that is a detoxification bit. Yeah, so I think that's about it for today with the baths, and maybe it needs to be with Max here. He's saying we're done. Yeah, I hope this was really helpful. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope that made sense about kind of really getting that ritual in for relaxing your nervous system and activating that parasympathetic nervous system.
Hey, buddy. There are plenty ... I'm going to put him down for a sec. Hi, bud. It's okay. Okay. There are plenty more ways to activate that parasympathetic nervous system to help with sleep. This just happens to be my favorite way. Again, you get kind of like a two or three for one combination here when you can really start to get the time carved out in your schedule for a bath.
Yeah, please let me know what you thought, if you'd like. Oh, one last thing, where I get these salts for you. Yeah, so I get them at seasalt.com. They are a fabulous company. They have really great prices, really affordable, and any kind of salt you could possibly want, they have on that website.
They're just a fantastic resource for all of this, and they do free shipping, which is great because salt is really heavy. Yeah, please let me know what you think. If you'd like to hear about anything else, you can certainly leave that in the comments. Yeah, this was a fun one, and I'm glad you guys got a Max cat cameo. Okay, thanks so much. Take care. Bye.