1) Trouble Falling Asleep?
Your sleep/wake cycle is probably off. This can be due to jet lag, shift work, stress, aging, or other factors. Consider taking melatonin, the most popular natural sleep aid! Melatonin is the body’s natural sleep hormone and is manufactured from serotonin. It is produced in the brain (in the pineal gland) in darkness and prepares the body for sleep. It is part of our internal “biological clock” that controls our circadian rhythm. Studies show that taking melatonin 30-90 minutes before bed time resets the biological clock, reduces the time it takes to fall asleep as well as daytime fatigue while improving sleep quality and even total sleep time for some.
2) Restless Legs/Twitching/Cramping?
You may be magnesium deficient. Cramping of the muscles is often caused by a build-up of calcium in the muscle and soft tissues of the body. Magnesium is a relaxer, it pushes excess calcium out of cells and can lessen the tension in your muscles. Magnesium is also used to activate melatonin (our sleep hormone) at a cellular level. It can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep! In addition to dietary sources (quinoa, black beans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, spinach), consider a supplement in bisgylicinate or ionic form for superior absorption.
3) Waking Up In The Middle of The Night?
If you constantly wake up at 3am and can’t fall back asleep, you may be struggling with overtaxed adrenals, a consequence of chronic stress (whether it be physical, mental or emotional). Stress affects sleep as it disrupts the circadian pattern of cortisol secreted by the adrenal glands. Learning to manage stress with lifestyle tips is highly important. Also, adaptogens are herbs that assist the body in adapting to stress by supporting the adrenal glands. They have a normalizing effect and help the body maintain a constant internal state. Examples include Siberian Ginseng, Rhodiola and Ashwagandha, to name a few. Remember, lack of sleep itself can also contribute to adrenal fatigue.
4) Imbalanced Blood Sugar?
Low blood sugar is another possible source of nighttime disruption. This can be caused by improper dietary choices throughout the day. A high sugar/refined diet can cause blood sugar levels to spike and then drop suddenly. Low glucose (blood sugar) signals an internal alarm that disrupts sleep so the person can wake up and take in food in order to elevate them again. Choosing balanced meals and snacks that contain protein, adequate fibre from complex carbohydrates and high quality fats is key! Tip: If you are hungry at night, consider taking a protein shake to stabilize your blood sugar levels while you rest.
Women in peri-menopause and menopause often need progesterone to stabilize their sleep patterns. Women may experience insomnia or lack of sleep because their progesterone levels are imbalanced, as the ovaries gradually decrease production during this life stage. Hot flashes & night sweats experienced during this life stage may also disrupt sleep. Talk to a health care practitioner when considering hormonal support/therapy. Also, consider natural treatment options for menopausal symptoms.
6) Brain Won’t Turn Off?
If the reason you can’t sleep is due to the fact that you have racing, distracting thoughts, you may want to consider the amino acid, L-Theanine. Naturally found in tea leaves (particularly green tea), it works in two important ways to calm the mind and reduce feelings of stress/anxiety. First, it generates alpha brain waves which put us in an awake and alert, yet relaxed state. Second, it also plays a role in increasing the formation of GABA, a neurotransmitter that is key to relaxation and memory!
7) Unable to Relax?
Consider sleep-inducing, sedative herbs that help quiet the nerves and calm anxious states. Valerian is an ingredient well-known for its calming, sedative effects, which may help people fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly without grogginess the next day. Passionflower is used as a non-addicting sedative to relax the nervous system. Hops has a tranquil effect for nervous disorders, anxiety, restlessness and insomnia. Skullcap is known as a nervine tonic, relaxing states of nervous tension. Chamomile is used as a calming agent and sleep aid. Lemon balm helps to find serenity, increase the availability of GABA in the brain and reduce stress-related symptoms.
Other tips for a successful sleep include: Do not take stimulants after 3pm. Exercise in the morning. Do not eat big meals after 7pm. Ensure that your room is free of light and that electronics are powered down. Take a hot bath before bedtime (with Epsom salt and lavender essential oils!)Ask a health care professional or product advisor for more information on these natural treatment options to help control your insomnia!
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.