Say Goodnight to Restless sleep
Typical sleep problems
Sleep problems are different for everyone, whether you have difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep or frequently waking. If you tend to wake regularly in the early hours you could be suffering adrenal exhaustion due to long term stress. A sluggish liver could also be to blame, overburdened from alcohol, prescription medicines or fatty meals. Not only does a lack of sleep affect energy and general wellbeing, it can have further reaching consequences and has been linked to an increased cardiovascular risk.
Many people when absolutely desperate resort to prescription sleeping pills. These can become highly addictive and if taken in the long term can affect memory and brain chemistry. Luckily, there are a host of natural remedies that can help and are well worth trying before using prescription drugs.
• Try to get into a regular routine by going to sleep at the same time each night
• Try meditation or yoga to reduce stress levels
• Regular exercise can improve sleep patterns. However, exercising just before bed could keep you awake
• Try reading a novel in bed (switch off the TV!)
Caffeine: especially after 4pm. Remember caffeine is found not just in tea and coffee, but also cola, chocolate and some over-thecounter cold remedies. If you are a regular tea or coffee drinker, gradually switch over to herb teas, fruit teas or dandelion coffee. Don’t do this too quickly as you may suffer withdrawal headaches.
Alcohol: If you drink alcohol in the evenings it can make you feel sleepy. Because of the way it is metabolised you might sleep for a few hours, but then wake and find it difficult to get back to sleep.
Smoking: Nicotine is a stimulant and can cause insomnia. Avoid or cut down if possible.
Eating a heavy protein meal late at night can cause your digestive system to remain ‘active’ keeping you awake for much longer.
Complex Carbohydrates: Make the last meal of the day contain carbohydrates like pasta, potatoes or brown rice. These starchy foods have a relaxing effect.
Tryptophan Foods: Include turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, fish, beans, avocados and bananas. An amino acid, Tryptophan makes up Serotonin, a hormone that makes us feel good and reduces anxiety.
Useful Meal & Snack Ideas
• Sprinkle wheat germ over cereal or porridge. Wheat germ is rich in B Vitamins which are important for reducing stress and promoting relaxation.
• Eating a small snack before going to bed such as a banana with some nuts and seeds can stabilise blood sugar levels helping you to stay asleep for longer.
• Eat more lettuce. It contains the natural sedative ‘lactucarium’ which encourages deeper sleep. You can also heat crisp lettuce in stir fry’s, it’s delicious!
• B Vitamins are rapidly used up during times of stress. Take a Vitamin B Complex every morning to support your nerves, provide energy during the day and keep you calmer.
• B6 is also especially important for anxious insomnia suffers. B6 supports the nervous system by making neurotransmitters (chemicals found in the brain that control mood). Often a B6 deficiency is linked with anxiety and even depression, which could be involved in keeping you awake at night. Try a B6 supplement or look for a sleep supplement that contains B6.
• Low blood sugar can keep you awake at night. If you suffer, try Chromium or a blood sugar complex.
• 5-HTP is a supplemental form of tryptophan which can improve sleep quality. For decades doctors and nutritionists alike have been recommending the use of 5HTP for the treatment of insomnia, improving both the quality and the quantity of sleep. It’s ability to do this without side-effects, leaves those on 5-HTP to awake feeling more rested and refreshed.
• Calcium and Magnesium produce calming effects and are sometimes called nature’s tranquilizers. Essential for sleep; try taking Calcium & Magnesium or a ZMA supplement before bedtime.
• Chamomile reigns as the top herb for its relaxing and calming properties. Chamomile has been used for centuries as a sedative and there is even early reference to the Egyptians who used this brilliant herb to soothe, relax and to reduce fevers.
• The herb Valerian can help to enhance sleep, in particular in reducing night-time awakenings. It has been compared successfully with benzodiazepines, a conventional medication for insomnia (which has been known to increase morning drowsiness). Valerian works to reduce this morning sleepiness and in a recent study, 89% of subjects reported improved sleep of which 44% reported ‘perfect’ sleep.
• Hops’ anti-anxiety and calming effect has been demonstrated in many studies, and its effectiveness has been shown when used in combination with Valerian. Traditionally pillows were filled with hops to aid sleeplessness. Studies have demonstrated the combined actions of Valerian and Hops in further supporting a good night’s sleep.
• Another herb that has been considered a calming herb since the Middle Ages is the herb Lemon Balm. Used traditionally to reduce stress, anxiety and promote sleep it too lends itself as a perfect partner for Valerian and Hops.
• Passion Flower is a fantastic herb for reducing anxiety and promoting sleep. Medicinal use of the herb did not begin until the late 19th century in the United States where Passion flower was used to treat nervous restlessness, mental worries and overwork.
• Scullcap is another brilliant bedtime herb. Scullcap was used historically as a sedative for people with nervous tension and insomnia. It was, and continues to be, commonly combined with passion flower and chamomile for insomnia.
Herbs work brilliantly in combination, so look for products that contain a blend of the above for the best results.
Don’t let a lack of sleep cause you additional stress. Relax with some of the lifestyle tips I’ve suggested combined with nutritional advice and ideas I have detailed above. Good luck and sweet dreams!