Insomnia and Sleep
With several viruses and flus still around this season, it is important to keep your immune system functioning at its best. Along with a healthy diet, reducing stress and introducing herbal supplements, SLEEP is another essential factor that needs to be considered.
Human sleep is possibly one of the least understood physiological processes. Sleep is absolutely essential to both the body and mind. Many health conditions, particularly depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety and fibromyalgia are either entirely or partially related to sleep deprivation or disturbed sleep.
As with other health conditions, the most effective treatment for insomnia is based on identifying and addressing the causing factors. The most common causes are psychological: depression, anxiety and tension. Other causes may include various foods, drinks and medications, acute or chronic pain, hormonal factors, along with being disturbed by a partner with snoring etc., sleep apenea, restless legs etc.
The functions of sleep include: rejuvenates our body renewing energy, through the process of self-detoxification; recharges the immune system and repairs any damage done to the body; helps process, sort and store experiences learnt, felt, or experiences during that day; promotes growth, enhances memory, sharpens the mind, stabilisers the emotions and slows the aging process….so why wouldn’t you want to know about how to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep?
Exactly how much sleep an individual needs varies from one person to the next. We do know that sleep needs to decrease with age and that women require more sleep than men (so us girls should be allowed to sleep in!!). Teenagers require a lot more sleep and the elderly tend to sleep less at night but doze more during the day. Recent studies indicate that our best time for sleeping, from a healing and weight loss point of view, is from 9pm-5am, so ideally we would go to bed early. Adenosine and growth hormones start to be produced after 9pm. Half an hour before midnight = 2 hours of sleep after midnight. The body will actually burn fat during sleep so enough restorative sleep = weightless. Set the time to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning and stick to it.
Beginning a regular exercise program that elevates the heart rate by fifty to seventy fie percent for an east twenty minutes per day will assist with sleep. Just be sure to do it during the day and not at night time.
Part of ‘Sleep Hygiene Tips’ include:
- unwinding at night;
- adding lavender essential oil to a bath, shower or pillow;
- breathing exercises;
- low level lighting;
- relaxing music;
- counting as you are trying to fall off to sleep;
- avoid TV (especially in bed) or using computers or phones one hour before bed as the light stops melatonin from being released and stimulates the wakefulness chemicals – cortisol;
- preferably remove all electrical items from the bedroom as electromagnetic radiation disrupts sleep and restorative hormones; and
- avoid tyramine rich foods.
Tyramine rich foods should be avoided after 5pm as tyramine increases cortisol and can exacerbated insomnia. These foods include: banana’s (the riper, the higher in tyramine), pizza, processed and cured meats, avocado (the riper the higher tyramine), liver (especially pate), caviar, cheese (except cream and cottage cheeses), and chocolate, alcohol (especially red wine and champagne), and soy, soya sauce, tofu, miso and tempeh.
Anxiolytic and hypnotic herbs can be quite powerful in treating insomnia and sleeplessness. They can assist with duration in time in falling asleep as well as frequent waking. The correct combination will also allow a person to awake refreshed and not groggy. It is important to receive advice from a qualified Naturopath if you would like an effective response. Correct and treatment dosages are essential to receive therapeutic benefit.
Valerian will assist with sleep onset and maintenance, as well as assist in waling refreshed. There are two species of valerian which are European and Mexica. Children and people with vivid dreams respond best to the Mexican species. Other sleep herbs include lemon balm (stress); Passionflower (Sedative); Zizphus (irritability, palpitations and night sweats in hypnotic); magnolia (anxiety and depression) etc. A qualified naturopath can also dispense Kava (except in WA). Kava needs to be dispensed only by a naturopath as it is essential that it is only extracted with water or may cause health problems. Kava is the one herb that is the closest to a pharmaceutical sleeping tablet, in the Herbal Kingdom. A combination f three herbs enhances the quality of each herb. Some herbs can be taken throughout the day to calm the nervous system down and prepare the body for rest at night.
Calcium, especially in food, has a sedative effect and a deficiency will cause restlessness and wakefulness. In tablet form, it is best to avoid carbonated form of calcium, as most people have difficulty with absorption. Calcium will assist in regulating melatonin levels. And the Old wives tale about having a glass of milk helping with sleep is actually true, providing you do not have a dairy intolerance. L-tryptophan is found in milk and turkey and will convert to serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a sleep inducting neurotransmitter. L-tryptophan also enhances the brains ability to produce melatonin.
DISCLAIMER: This is not to replace medical advice. Please speak to your Medical Practitioner if you have any concerns. Please contact your Naturopath if you would like to do a supervised detox.