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Tired but Wired
Most adults have experienced trouble sleeping at some point in their lives. An estimated 30-50% of people suffer from sleep disorders. Insomnia can be a chronic issue or one that lasts just temporarily. In either case, it can be very frustrating. The good news is that you don’t have to suffer with insomnia and there are solutions beyond pharmaceutical medications.
Insomnia is a very common problem, particularly when there are feelings of anxiety during the day, problems regulating blood sugar, or hormonal imbalances, such as low progesterone. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your ND about the possible root causes of your sleep trouble. In the meantime, try incorporating just a few simple “sleep hygiene” changes into your routine. They can make a big difference.
Remember to give yourself plenty of time to wind down in the evening. The best thing to do is to turn off the TV, get away from stimulating activities involving computers, cell phones, and other electronics, grab a relaxing book, practice some gentle yoga, have a bath, have a cup of soothing tea, and prepare for sleep. Create a soothing rhythm for yourself in the evening and stick to it to help your body prepare for and to expect sleep.
Melatonin, the hormone required for sleep, is released only in the dark. So get away from flickering, bright, artificial lights in the evening while you prepare for sleep. Ensure your bedroom is pitch black. If necessary, buy some black-out curtains or shades for your window. Get rid of night lights (yes, this goes for kids too) as they will disrupt your melatonin release. It’s not necessary to supplement with melatonin if you are providing your body the proper building blocks to make it on your own. The first ingredient is darkness and it works wonders for your hormonal system.
Get a Move On
Exercise has been shown to greatly reduce the stress response, relieve anxiety, and to improve sleep. Since the hormones produced during exercise also help us to sleep, it’s important to get some exercise in DAILY. During the day (not evening), do some form of interval cardiovascular workout or weight-bearing exercise for 20 to 40 minutes. Exercise is wonderful for so many other reasons, but one benefit we can see quite quickly is its effect on sleep.
EMF (electro-magnetic frequency) can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and interrupt the regular hormones that regulate our sleep-wake cycles. My advice for all women, men, and children, is to unplug the bedroom. This includes getting cell phones and laptops out of the bedroom, but also removing TVs, plug-in lamps and clocks as well. A battery-powered clock is best as long as it doesn’t shine light in your room while you’re sleeping. If so, turn it around so it faces the wall instead.
Many people will wake in the night from a drop in blood sugar. When hunger strikes, you will likely wake up! Try eating a small snack at bedtime to get you through the night. Something with a bit of fat and protein in it is ideal so it stays in your gut for longer. You may consider an apple with almond butter, avocado/hummous/or cheese on a grainy cracker, a small protein shake, or handful of nuts and seeds.
Nutritional and Herbal Support for Sleep
A Calcium Magnesium supplement at bedtime can be helpful. Aim for a 1:1 or a 2:1 ratio of Calcium to Magnesium. About 400mg of Cal and 200mg to 400mg of Magnesium at bedtime can help you to relax and fall asleep.
Relaxing nervine herbs in a tea taken before bed can induce the relaxation response and cue sleep. Botanicals such as: lemon balm, catnip, valerian, skullcap, oat straw, chamomile, passion flower, lavender, and hops.
Herbs for Stress
If your sleep problems are due to stress, consuming adaptogenic herbs to modulate your response to stress can be incredibly helpful. Herbs such as ashwagandha, eleuthrococcus, schisandra can be taken in teas, tinctures, or tablets throughout the day.
An alternative to taking botanicals in the forms of teas and capsules is to make yourself a sleepy-time pillow. This is done by wrapping dried lavender and hops into a bandana or small, thin organic cotton cloth bag. Place the wrapped herbs under your pillow case and enjoy a restful sleep.
Incorporating some of these suggestions into the rhythm of your day will help you get to sleep and stay asleep. Please see your ND for sleep problems that are affecting your energy, mood, or productivity at work or home. Sleep is one of the most important pillars of overall health. Happy zzzs!