Wake Up Refreshed: Tips for Improving Sleep Quality & Feeling Rested Every Morning
Did you know that getting a good night’s sleep is not only important for your overall health—but also for the tiny little energy powerhouses known as your mitochondria?
You probably notice a huge difference in how you show up in your life when you get a good night’s sleep—versus when you don’t. Plus, when you get quality sleep, your body is able to shift into optimal repair and restore mode.
I like to use the analogy of cleaning your house.
When your house is quiet, how easy is it to vacuum up the pet hair, mop the floors, wipe down the counters, and throw out the trash?
Pretty easy, right?
As a bit of a clean freak myself, it’s kind of my dream scenario.
Now consider what it would be like to tidy up with a house while simultaneously throwing a huge party.
You might make a little progress, but a major cleanup is pretty darn impossible.
That’s essentially what happens inside your body.
When you sleep, your body can go into deep clean mode. And when you’re awake, sure, your body is still processing information, but it can’t wait for you to hit the hay so it can get the real work done.
In case you’re curious, check out a few things that happen inside your body while you’re snoozin’ away:
Heal Mode Activation: During sleep, your body works hard to heal any injuries, repair damaged tissues, and grow muscles. To continue our cleaning analogy, while you’re sleeping, your body is sweeping out the dirt, fixing the nicks and dings it incurred during the day, and also cleaning out toxins to strengthen your immune system, which helps fight off illnesses.
Memory Consolidation: As you sleep, your brain kicks into Marie Kondo mode—sorting, organizing, and storing information you picked up during the day. Memory consolidation is kind of like creating a filing system for your memories, and it’s a critical function to help you remember things better and improve your learning abilities.
Energy Restoration: Ever notice how refreshed and energized you feel after a good night’s sleep? That’s because sleep restores your energy levels and lets your mitochondria go into repair mode. While you’re asleep, your body recharges its batteries by producing a molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which gives you the energy you need to function throughout the day. Think of your body as a machine—and ATP as the fuel. One of your cells’ primary roles is to store and transport energy. So, for example, when your body needs energy for activities like running, working, or even just thinking, your cells send out stored energy to power those processes. When you don’t get proper sleep, ATP production is impacted—and that’s why you feel more lethargic, unmotivated, and like you’re mentally moving in slow-mo.
Hormone Regulation: Getting adequate high-quality sleep is critical to hormone production and regulation. This is particularly critical for women. For example, when you don’t get enough sleep, estrogen and progesterone levels get thrown out of balance. Over time, this imbalance can contribute to irregularities in your reproductive health, including your menstrual cycle and libido. If you’re in perimenopause or menopause, poor sleep can increase symptoms, including night sweats, mood swings, irritability, vaginal dryness, and weight gain. Not getting enough sleep also throws off your natural sleep patterns—making it even harder to get the sleep you need when you do finally crawl under the covers.
Emotional Well-being: When you’re tired, you may feel more irritable or have difficulty managing your emotions. Studies show sleep and mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression, are directly linked. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body’s stress response system becomes more reactive, making it harder to cope with daily challenges and increasing overall stress levels. In turn, this often causes more sleep issues—often insomnia, racing thoughts, or inability to stay asleep—which creates a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break.
In looking at this list, you can see how energy is threaded throughout each of them, right?
When you don’t have enough energy for all the processes you need to keep up with your ambition, you actually have to work harder!
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m firmly in the camp of “work smarter, not harder.”
And one simple way to do that is by resetting your circadian rhythms.
Recent studies have shown that sleep and the circadian rhythm play an important role in maintaining mitochondrial health.
What Is Circadian Rhythm?
Circadian rhythm is like your body’s internal clock. It regulates all kinds of processes in your body, like your sleep-wake cycles, hormone production, and even your body temperature.
Your circadian rhythm follows a roughly 24-hour cycle, which means it repeats every day—and certain activities happen around the same time each day.
This invisible clock is controlled by your pineal gland—and is set by the natural light-dark cycle, with daylight triggering wakefulness and darkness triggering sleepiness.
For example, when you’re exposed to bright light, especially sunlight, it signals to your brain that it’s daytime and time to be awake. This is why being outside in the sunshine can make you feel more alert and energized. And it’s why you shouldn’t watch TV or look at other light sources of light (electronic devices, phones, laptops, etc) at bedtime. Your brain literally cannot tell the difference between blue light from devices and actual sunlight. It just receives the information as “light”, which means “wake up, buddy!”
There are many other reasons your circadian rhythm gets thrown off, including:
- Inconsistent sleep patterns, such as frequently changing bedtime or wake-up times
- Working during the night or on rotating shifts
- Jet lag
- Environmental factors like noise, temperature, and discomfort in your sleep environment
- Hormonal changes such as those occurring during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause
- Certain medications and substances, such as certain antidepressants or medications for treating asthma or allergies, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
Disruptions in this rhythm can lead to all kinds of other health problems, including mitochondrial dysfunction, which can in turn lead to diseases caused by oxidative stress. For example, diabetes, heart problems, neurodegenerative diseases, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
If you go back to our cleaning analogy, sleep is when your body moves waste out of the cells and towards your bowels for excretion in the morning. Sleep deprivation—or irregular sleep patterns—can disrupt all these processes, leading to mitochondrial dysfunction, a high toxic load, and all kinds of inflammatory symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and even chronic diseases.
So, what can you do to ensure your mitochondria are happy and healthy? The answer is simple —prioritize your sleep!
Sleeping for Optimal Mitochondria Function
Getting adequate high-quality sleep seems like a relatively simple thing to do, but if you struggle with sleep disorders, you know it’s not as easy as it looks!
A healthy sleep schedule and regulation of your circadian rhythm is extremely important for maintaining mitochondrial function and preventing disease.
But there are other equally important methods to ensure the quality of your sleep is at optimum levels—and that you don’t inadvertently slide into sleep deprivation.
Create a Sleep Routine
One of the most effective ways to have better sleep quality is to establish a consistent sleep routine.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends— this regularity helps regulate your body’s internal clock and enhances the quality of your sleep.
Fun fact: There’s no such thing as “catching up” on sleep. Once it’s gone, it’s gone!
Design An Evening Wind Down Ritual
Creating a soothing bedtime ritual, such as reading a book or taking a warm bath, can also signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
There are many self-care practices to help you naturally create more energy during the day. Most of us don’t give our bodies enough time to relax before we head to bed, so it’s no wonder there are so many people suffering with sleep disorders.
Turn Off the Lights
Limiting exposure to electronic devices hours before you try to doze off is an essential—and often-missed element of improving the quality of your sleep.
The blue light emitted by electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops can interfere with your sleep by suppressing the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.
So, to promote better sleep, establish a “digital curfew” for yourself. Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed. This helps your body naturally shift into the evening part of your circadian rhythm. That means no watching TV while in bed and no staring at your phone.
Listen, I know that in today’s perma-stimulated world this feels impossible, so if that’s an absolute no-go for you, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night. If you have an iPhone, ensure your “Night Shift” setting is turned on.
Instead of scrolling on social media, engage in relaxing activities like reading a book, listening to soothing music, or practicing meditation to help your mind unwind.
Revamp Your Bedroom
Even something as simple as transforming your bedroom into a sleep-friendly environment can significantly enhance your sleep quality.
Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in comfortable bedding, supportive pillows, and a mattress that suits your sleeping style and preferences.
Consider using blackout curtains, earplugs, or a white noise machine to block out any disruptive noises or light that may interfere with your sleep.
Maybe try a weighted blanket or soothing essential oils to help you drift off to sleep faster.
And if you have night lights around your house, use dim red lights instead of white ones. Red light is less likely to shift your circadian rhythms and suppress melatonin.
Say No to Midnight Snacks & Nightcaps
It’s no surprise, but diet and hydration can play an important role in your quality of sleep.
Consuming large meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep patterns.
Food actually acts as an energy-booster—and it triggers your body to go to work processing that food. Remember how sleep-time is when your body wants to clean? It can’t do that if it’s actively digesting nutrients.
Speaking of food, there are actually some foods that promote sleep naturally, which include:
- Almonds – a natural source of melatonin
- Walnuts – another nut with melatonin, plus high in (good) fatty acids to help you sleep longer
- Chamomile tea – contains apigenin, an antioxidant good for preventing insomnia
- Kiwi fruits – rich in serotonin and antioxidants for natural relaxation
- Tart cherry juice – a small cup offers loads of melatonin that may help if you struggle with insomnia.
I normally don’t recommend fruit juices because they’re high in sugar, low in fiber, which spikes your blood sugar levels, which isn’t great for your metabolic health or your digestion (especially before bed). But a small cup of tart cherry juice is ok, assuming you don’t drink it and then immediately slide between the covers. Give yourself 30 minutes before going to bed to digest.
Alcohol is quite dehydrating, which makes it harder for your body to repair and restore—and it makes it more difficult for your mitochondria to perform, especially when an evening glass or wine (or two) is your normal pre-bedtime practice.
Regular physical exercise can work wonders for your sleep quality.
Engaging in moderate-intensity exercise during the day can promote deeper sleep at night.
But it’s important to avoid vigorous workouts close to bedtime, as they may leave you feeling too energized to fall asleep.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, but be sure to complete your workout a few hours before bed to give your body time to wind down.
Exercise also helps manage stress and anxiety, which can have a detrimental effect on your sleep quality.
Eat According to Your Circadian Rhythms
This is known as chrononutrition.
At a high level, chrononutrition focuses on the relationship among eating patterns (when you eat), circadian rhythm (your body’s natural physical, emotional, and behavioral cycles in a 24-hour period), and metabolic health (how well your body processes food and nutrients in a positive way).
If you practice intermittent fasting, you’re likely practicing a facet of chrononutrition already—as you are using your overnight hours to fast and allow your body to shift into deep clean mode.
As a little side note, if you’re traveling across time zones, here are a few ways to reduce (or even eliminate) jet lag that throws your sleep all out of whack..
Jet Lag Strategies for Better Energy
Get on the new time zone immediately: As soon as you arrive at your destination, adjust your activities and meals to match the local time. That means try to stay awake until the evening if you arrive during the day, or go to bed if you arrive at night. This helps your body adapt to the new time zone faster.
Adjust your circadian rhythm: Before your trip, gradually shift your sleep schedule to match the time zone of your destination. This can help your body adjust to the new time zone more easily. Also, spend time outdoors in natural light as much as possible, especially during the daylight hours of your destination. This helps reset your circadian rhythm.
Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your flight. Dehydration can worsen the symptoms of jet lag, so it’s important to stay hydrated throughout your journey.
Avoid overdoing caffeine and alcohol: It can be tempting to want to “trick” your body into staying awake or falling asleep faster, but both caffeine and alcohol can disrupt your sleep patterns and dehydrate your body, making jet lag symptoms worse.
Take short naps strategically: If you’re feeling excessively tired during the day, taking short power naps (around 20-30 minutes) can provide a quick energy boost. However, avoid long naps, especially in the late afternoon or evening, as they can disrupt your nighttime sleep.
Stay active: Use exercise and physical activity (such as going for a walk, stretching, or light yoga) to boost your energy levels and help regulate your circadian clock naturally.
How to Start Optimizing Your Sleep & Mitochondrial Function
Working with a functional medicine practitioner is the fastest, most permanent solution to mitochondrial dysfunction, sleep deprivation, and poor circadian rhythm alignment.. When you get all three operating in lockstep, you can have more energy, and get the best sleep of your life!
Unlike conventional medicine, which often focuses on treating symptoms, functional medicine takes a holistic approach.
Our goal is to identify and resolve the true root cause(s). Working with a functional medicine practitioner means we’ll delve into your unique health history, lifestyle, genetics, and environment to understand the underlying imbalances contributing to your health concerns—including sleep disorders, poor metabolism, digestive disorders, and general poor quality of life. By identifying the root causes, we can develop tailored treatment plans that address the specific needs of your body.
One of the key advantages of working with a functional medicine practitioner is the personalized attention you receive. I take the time to listen to your concerns, thoroughly analyze your health data, and conduct comprehensive assessments. By gaining a deep understanding of your individual biochemistry, I can even help devise a treatment strategy that is specific to your needs.
This personalized approach has significantly enhanced the effectiveness and efficiency of the healing process for hundreds of my patients.
We get to utilize a wide range of tools and therapies to optimize your health including highly specialized lab tests, such as organic acids, toxin evaluation, and gut microbiome analysis, to gain deeper insights into your body’s intricacies.
Once we have this information, I can recommend targeted interventions, including nutritional guidance, lifestyle modifications, supplementation, stress reduction techniques, and personalized exercise plans.
The comprehensive approach of functional medicine means you get to become an active participant in your own healing journey. If you’ve ever felt overlooked and undertreated—maybe even not understood or heard by medical practitioners—a functional health approach is the solution you’ve been looking for.
With this approach, you become empowered with knowledge and guidance to make informed decisions about your health all while receiving the support and guidance needed to implement sustainable changes and achieve lasting results.
While functional medicine acknowledges the importance of conventional medical interventions when necessary, its primary focus is on prevention and addressing the underlying causes of illness.
By embracing this integrative approach, you can experience swifter and more personalized results, ultimately leading to improved overall health and well-being.
When it comes to optimizing your health, working with a functional medicine practitioner like me offers a transformative and personalized experience.
Let’s delve into the root causes of your health concerns, and start tailoring treatment plans—while employing a comprehensive range of therapies so you can achieve the fastest and most personalized results possible.
Don’t let poor sleep become a way of life—there is a solution. And I’ll help you create a custom one just for you.
Take your first step here—and let’s see if we’re a good match.
Take Good Care,