Sleep – Natural Solutions to improve the quality of your sleep pattern

Everyone feels better for a good nights sleep. We all know that we should be aiming for 8 hours of sleep per night, but in a busy world where time is a commodity many of us find ourselves cutting corners on our down time.  Any number of excuses can rob us of a quality sleep pattern and often when we finally do hit the pillow we can just lie there analysing the days events and worrying about what tomorrow may bring.  Olivia Kennedy ~Wellpark Graduate, Naturopath, Nutritionist & Herbalist shares with us her Top 10 Tips to improve the quality of your sleep.

SLEEP

When it comes to sleep, quality rivals quantity.  Natural sleep solutions…

Top 10 Tips to Improve Sleep

  1. Technology

Historically, humans were exposed to blue light (from the sun) in the morning & yellow light (from the moon) in the evening.  The changing of light colour impacts our circadian rhythm.  Blue light boosts serotonin, while melatonin plummets.  Yellow light builds melatonin & diminishes serotonin.  Electronics emit blue light, tricking our bodies into thinking it is the morning, keeping us awake.  Ideally, we would not use technology for at least an hour before bed.  Aim for a minimum of 30 mins and build up when you are able

 

  1. Routine

Sleep hygiene describes the habits & practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis.  A nightly ritual before bed may significantly improve sleep.  This may include fictional reading, stretching, yoga, meditating, or a relaxing bath with 2-3 cups of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) & 10-15 drops of calming essential oils e.g. Lavender.  Establish a routine by sleeping & waking at a regular time daily.  Routine is calming, nurturing & familiar to humans

 

  1. Environment

Quiet, dark & cool are the perfect sleeping conditions.  The ideal temperature for sleep is 18-21˚C.  A fan in summer & a heater in winter may be required to achieve this.  Comfortable mattress & pillows are essential – mattresses wear out after about 10 yrs.  To reduce bright lighting, dim lights or light candles

 

  1. Meal timing

Aim to finish eating at least 2 hrs before sleep, 3 hrs ideally.  Eat a lighter meal in the evening to avoid feeling overfull while sleeping.  However, it is also difficult to sleep if you’re hungry or have low blood sugar (common in diabetics).  Stress, dieting, fasting & over-exercising can inhibit sleep due to calorie deprivation, which is a starvation response.  In this situation, our bodies want us to eat to survive the famine because it thinks we are in danger – this is our biological response that has been drilled into us for survival of the human race

 

  1. Melatonin

Melatonin (sleep hormone) & serotonin (happy hormone) balance like a seesaw.  The higher serotonin is in the morning, the higher melatonin is going to be that evening, & vice versa.  Sunlight exposure in our eyes in the morning (without sunglasses) boosts serotonin & diminishes melatonin, promising a better sleep that evening

 

  1. Tryptophan

An essential amino acid (building block of protein) required for the conversion of serotonin into melatonin.  Many foods contain tryptophan (especially protein-rich foods because it is an amino acid).  Turkey is one of the highest sources

 

  1. Magnesium

A vital mineral for sleep because it relaxes your muscles & relieves muscle cramps.  Magnesium is found in leafy greens, nuts & seeds.  For many people it is difficult to obtain sufficient magnesium through diet, therefore, supplementation may be inevitable.  The most easily absorbed forms of magnesium are glycinate, taurate, citrate & aspartate.  Avoid magnesium oxide, carbonate, sulfate & gluconate, because they are poor quality & only have a relaxing effect on the bowel muscle (resulting in diarrhoea) as opposed to skeletal muscles.  Magnesium is depleted by stress, caffeine, alcohol, processed foods & some medications e.g. hypertension drugs & diuretics

 

  1. Stimulants

Caffeine in coffee, black tea & energy drinks should not be consumed after lunch, if at all.  Theobromine in dark chocolate, cocoa & cacao is best to be avoided after dinner.  Stimulants inhibit deep sleep.  Even if you get to sleep after consuming stimulants, it’s not likely to be high quality sleep, which is vital for rest & repair

 

  1. Hydration

Dehydration compromises sleep quality.  Sleeping in hot temperatures results in fluid loss.  Drink plenty of water during the day, but less in the evening to avoid a trip to the bathroom during the night

 

  1. Herbal Medicine & teas

Hypnotic herbs induce drowsiness & sleep.  These include California poppy, Hops, Kava, Passionflower, Zizyphus & Valerian.  These potent Herbal Medicines are dispensed by qualified Herbalists.  The herb & dose is selected on an individual basis.  Chamomile, Valerian, Lavender, Lemon balm, St. John’s wort, Peppermint, Kava & Passion flower tea, or other sleep tea blends can be purchased by anyone wishing to improve their sleep.  The guidelines for herbal teas is generally 3 cups of strongly brewed tea per day

Olivia Kennedy ~ Naturopath, Nutritionist & Herbalist