Insomnia is common, affecting up to one-third of the population at any one time.
A bad night’s sleep can impact your health by increasing inflammation, affecting hormones, metabolism, mood and food choices.
An ideal circadian rhythm is when cortisol begins to rise early morning, then increases throughout the day and declines after lunch. Cortisol is at its peak at 9 am.
Melatonin, on the other hand, increases as it gets dark and then declines over the night.
The Sleep Stages
Stage 1 is the beginning of the sleep cycle. It is a transition between wake and sleep. It normally lasts about 10 minutes.
Stage 2 is the next sleep stage, lasting for about 20 minutes. This is when our heart rate begins to slow and body temperature decreases.
Stage 3 is the transition between light sleep and very deep sleep.
Stage 4: Deep sleep normally occurs about 35-45 minutes after falling asleep. This is when our body repairs and regrows tissue, builds bone and muscle and strengthens the immune system. This lasts about 30 minutes.
Stage 5: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is when most dreaming occurs.
Sleep begins in sequence, then it cycles through the stages in and out of sequence. The first cycle of REM sleep is normally about 90minutes after falling asleep and can last only a short time. As the cycles continue REM sleep increases.
So, what can impact your sleep?
Lifestyle factors: too much caffeine, drinking alcohol, shift work, jet lag and studying.
Environmental factors: can include excessive noise or light, being too hot.
Psychological factors: stress, worry, parents of young children.
Medical factors: pain, chronic health conditions.
Ongoing stress can lead to elevated cortisol in the evening. This in turn can result in disturbed sleep, decreased deep sleep and reduced sleep time.
1. Routine: set your alarm clock to wake you up at the same time every morning.
2. Try to go for a walk before breakfast as the morning light switches off your brain’s production of melatonin.
3. Do some exercise during the day as lots of studies show exercise improves sleep.
4. Allow 2-3 hours between eating dinner and going to bed. Eating late at night affects your sleep.
5. Prepare for sleep an hour before going to bed.
6. Having a warm bath or shower an hour before bed is beneficial.
7. Avoid watching tv, looking at your phone an hour before bed as the blue light is stimulating to your brain.
8. Alcohol at night can impact your REM sleep
9. Before going to bed, write down 3 good things that happened to you that day.
If you have tried the above and are still not getting a good nights sleep, specific herbal formulas can be very beneficial.
Some herbal medicines called sedative herbs can help relax your mind and help you drift off to sleep. They also don't make you feel groggy in the morning like prescription sleeping pills.
Some of my favourites include Kava, Zizyphus, Passionflower, Valerian and Chamomile.
It is important to speak with a health care practitioner before taking any herbal supplements as they can interfere with certain prescription medications.
Chamomile tea after dinner can also be very beneficial in relaxing you before bed.
Specific nutrients can also help improve sleep quality and aid in falling or staying asleep.
Please get in touch if you would like to make a Naturopathic appointment to help improve sleep.