Mar 15, 2022
Getting a full night sleep is quickly growing to be one of the most wide spread challenges of our time. Some people toss, struggling to get to sleep, while others get to sleep immediately but are awake again between 2:00 and 4:00 am. Then there are those who wake multiple times through the night due to graphic nightmares. In this article, I will outline strategies for each type of sleeper as well provide suggestions for which supplements may be most helpful.
1. For those looking to improve their sleep quality, adopting a practice of good sleep hygiene is the first step, regardless of what type of sleep issues are the problem. To start, getting outside in the morning is valuable in resetting the circadian rhythm. Daylight in the morning reinforces the brain’s response to darkness at night when melatonin levels rise and allow us to feel sleepy.
2. Next, shutting down electronics at least two hours before bed. The blue light coming of our phones and tablets actually shunt the production of melatonin in the brain.
3. Eating a snack containing tryptophan by 7:00pm. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that crosses the blood brain barrier as long as its accompanied by a starch. Once in the brain, it converts into 5HTP which then converts to serotonin then melatonin. Foods such as almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts or blueberries are all good sources.
4. Keep your bedroom cool and dark. This approach will keep body temperature at a constant level and avoid waking up too hot. As well, blocking out light with a mask or blinds remove possible of interruptions the night.
6. Keep your bedtime and wake up to a consistent schedule.
7. One of the biggest mitigating factors to a full night’s sleep is stress or the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone raising our blood sugar providing energy to our muscles. Levels of this hormone are most robust in the morning but wane through the day when melatonin levels rise in response to darkness. For people with chronic stress, their cortisol levels stay elevated leading to a wired but tired state. There are a number of herbs and mushrooms that can help to moderate cortisol levels and bring the body back into balance. Included are Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Reishi Mushrooms or Lion’s Mane. These can be taken in the day to support a more relaxed state without feeling sleepy. Nervines, such as Passion Flower, Valerian, Hops or Skullcap can be taken before bedtime to help get to sleep.
8. For those who fall asleep fairly easily, but wake up between 2:00 and 4:00 am, one tip is to avoid alcohol as it will stimulate the liver to send sugar into the bloodstream and wake you. Having L-theanine by the bed can be useful as taking it will help to mitigate racing thoughts and put the brain in a better position to go back to sleep. Another option is Magnesium Byglycinate, an important mineral and one that is often deficient in those who are highly stressed or who exercise frequently. In this form, both the magnesium and bysglycinate have nerve relaxing qualities and taken over time will improve overall sleep quality.
9. Nightmares can be problematic for some. Often this is due to a deficiency in Vitamin B1 or Thiamine. This nutrient supports the Amygdala in the brain which is the centre for fear driving the source for nightmares.
Lifestyle is the biggest factor associated with sleep, but if that can not be brought into balance, implementing some of these tips could be the answer to your sleep issues.
Article written by Sally Buckingham, C.H.N and Community Natural Foods Wellness Expert
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