A Good Night’s Sleep

sleepA good night’s sleep is something we all need for a healthy body and mind. Sleep primarily rejuvenates our bodies and provides much needed physical and mental rest from our busy lifestyles. So it follows that poor sleep can lead to many health issues. Insomnia can affect immune function, mood, perception of stress, energy levels and even shorten your life expectancy. Sleep disturbance can also be one of the first signs that something is out of balance with physical or emotional health.

Causes of insomnia are many and varied. Insomnia is often linked to mental overstimulation where people can’t switch off.  This is a very common problem in today’s 24/7 lifestyle with computers, TV, phones and other devices being used around the clock. Anxiety and depression can contribute to abnormal sleep patterns. Not getting enough sleep or oversleeping can be a symptom of poor moods, depression and lack of motivation for life. Hormonal problems in women can affect sleep with menopausal hot flushes a common cause of insomnia. Thyroid or liver problems, chronic pain and illness can also effect sleep and trigger bouts of insomnia. A disruption in your circadian rhythm (such as shift work or jetlag) can affect your production of the hormones, melatonin and serotonin – which in turn can affect your sleep patterns as well as mood.  So given all the possible interrelated causes, it makes sense to get to the bottom of it, rather than just treat the symptoms with sedatives.

sleep_deprivationAlso, it is important to understand that the quality of your diet and lifestyle will often affect your sleep. Substances such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, recreational drugs and some medications can have an impact on sleep quality. Following a healthy diet that is rich in minerals such as magnesium and calcium will help to promote nerve and muscle function and help to promote sleep. Green tea is also a useful remedy as it contains the substance theanine which can be used for stress, anxiety and tension that may contribute to poor sleep. It is essential to take regular time out from busy lifestyles and have down time. Balancing work with regular periods of relaxation is essential to promote sleep, while engaging in exercise will regulate circadian rhythms and help to decrease stress.

While pharmaceutical medications can assist with insomnia they can have unwanted side effects and should be a last resort. Luckily, there are effective and safe natural sleep remedies to promote chamomilea good night’s sleep. Herbal medicine has long been used for sleep issues and modern research shows certain sedative herbs can promote sleep and relieve anxiety and tension. Using a good quality chamomile tea can help in mild cases, but for more entrenched insomnia a visit to a naturopath is recommended. I often prescribe daytime tonics to help restore worn out nerves and adrenals or balance hormones alongside sedative herbs before bed. Just taking sleep herbs before bed may not be effective if there are other underlying health or emotional issues that need addressing professionally.

 

There are many other general tips to ensuring a good night’s sleep. Sleeping in total darkness can be helpful as even a tiny bit of light in the bedroom can effect melatonin production.  Turn off the Woman Resting in BathTV and computer at least half an hour before bed and avoid having your phone on the bedside table – or at least put it in flight mode overnight, if you need to use it as an alarm. The flickering blue light of media screens is very stimulating and will decrease melatonin output and keep your adrenals switched on. (See my webinar on wifi/phones for more info on media and health.) Establishing a regular and simple night time routine is also a good idea. By doing something restful such as taking a bath, journaling or listening to music can help unwind and will make it clear to your body and mind, that it is rest time!