Not Sleeping? Here are Our Favourite Sleeping Hacks!
Sleep! We are told it is important, but many of us don’t realise just how important it is for both our mental and physical health, until we are struggling to get enough of it!
Reduced sleep, aside from making us cranky, has been shown to increase inflammatory markers in the body, with compromised sleep increasing the risk of metabolic syndrome, obesity and other chronic diseases.
There are many factors which can influence our ability to fall asleep and/ or stay asleep. Here is a list of some of the most common reasons a person’s sleep might be compromised:
Stress or over-thinking. This is one of the most common reasons for sleep disturbance that I see among my clients.
Jet Lag or shift work. Jet lag and shift work disrupts our circadian rhythm.
Hormonal changes - insomnia is a common symptom experienced in peri-menopause. Oh the joy!
Sleep apnoea - this is a condition where someone has pauses in breathing or shallow breathing while they are sleeping. It is more common in overweight individuals.
Over-stimulation before bed - technology use before bed is so common these days, with many people sleeping with their phone next to their pillow. Gaming before bed is also common and can affect sleep both due to the mental stimulation as well as the blue light affecting melatonin production.
What can you do about it?
First and foremost, it is important to set yourself up for the best sleep possible by adjusting your lifestyle to aid sleep.
Stop ALL technology use 1 hour before bed, especially answering emails and gaming. Also, at sunset, switch the light on your devices to a warm light instead of the standard blue light. Blue light exposure before bed has been shown to significantly reduce melatonin production and the ability to fall asleep. Melatonin should naturally rise in the evenings as the sun sets, making us nice and sleepy and ready for bed. However, blue light exposure from your phone or laptop interferes with this process.
Sleep in a cool and dark room. Our body temperature drops as we fall asleep, helping us to stay asleep throughout the night. If we are too hot we are more likely to toss and turn as REM is affected.
Reduce alcohol intake to no more than one glass at night, especially in the case of snoring and sleep apnoea.
Reduce your intake of stimulants, including energy drinks and caffeine. Caffeine increases cortisol, our stress hormone, affecting our ability to fall asleep. Have your last coffee before 12:00 pm.
Herbs and Supplements for Sleep:
Keep in mind, that if you haven’t addressed the above lifestyle points, then supplements can only do so much to help. Here is a list of some of my favourite sleep inducing herbs and supplements:
Magnesium - this is one that I prescribe to almost everyone struggling with sleep as it is a very common deficiency. It is a great sleep supplement as it helps to relax the nervous system, promoting GABA synthesis, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps us to relax and sleep. Make sure you chat to your naturopath or nutritionist about an appropriate form of magnesium, as not all forms of magnesium are created equal.
L-theanine - is an amino acid, found in high amounts in green tea. It has been shown to relax the nervous system and increase GABA. You can often find a magnesium supplement combined with L-theanine. Win!
Valerian and Humulus - are herbal medicines traditionally used to improve sleep onset and sleep duration. Studies have shown their successful use in primary insomnia, with comparable results to benzodiazepine use without the common side effects of daytime drowsiness.
There is also so much more that can be done from an individualised perspective, so come in and chat to our naturopaths, nutritionists and pharmacists about why your sleep might be compromised and what can be done to help.
About the Author
You can find this blog and more on Casey's website The Natural Path Health. Casey is a clinical naturopath and nutritionist and has been working at Barangaroo Pharmacy for three years. She writes content for her own wellness website as well as other health websites. She loves educating clients on health and natural alternatives, as well as encouraging her clients to lead their happiest, healthiest life.