Thoughts On Sleep

Friday, March 30, 2018

Who needs some sleep!?! Answer: ALL OF US. Haha!
Sleep deprivation can contribute to many health problems including depression, anxiety, reduced immunity, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Not to mention it negatively affects our cognitive functions! I believe in starting with lifestyle changes before we go interfering with our chemistry. Exercising daily, relaxing yoga, or meditation can aid in getting a good night's rest. As can incorporating an evening ritual like reading, journaling, or drinking herbal tea, if you don't add too much honey/sweetener! Recognize which stimulants may be keeping you awake...we all know caffeine is a culprit, but even a mid-afternoon cup of coffee/soda can contribute to keeping you up at bedtime. Some herbs can also be energizing, so be aware of that if you take supplements. Alcohol and late meals can act as stimulants. If your liver or digestive system are busy metabolizing, you may not get restful sleep. In this day of constant connectivity, screen time is especially problematic. Blue light from screens affects our natural melatonin production, so it is best to turn off devices an hour before bed.
If that doesn't do the trick, there are herbal sleep aids available. Valerian is one of the most commonly known sleep herbs. It relaxes the muscles systemically (so you may also see it in muscle relaxer/pain relief blends) and calms your nervous system. It is non-habit forming but smells just God awful. I have had customers say they cannot get the pills down from gagging. I found that if I just sit the capsule out on the counter for a few minutes and let my sense of smell reset from the stink blast of opening the bottle, it is totally manageable. Some valerian is even sold with peppermint. Passionflower is also used to treat anxiety and sleeplessness. It seems to relax the whole body, but it is pretty mild. Lemon balm is another great herb. We see it used to help with anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness in adults, and children. If you are using essential oils, it is known more commonly as 'Melissa'. Interestingly, it is of the mint family so it is even found in digestive soothing blends. Chamomile is another mild herb used, most often in tea form, for sleep/relaxation, and probably the most common one used for children. Kava is one of the stronger herbs used for anxiety and sleeplessness. In tincture form, it will numb your mouth and has a very strong taste, but it is very effective. Kava coladas are apparently a thing. If your sleep woes stem from chronic stress, one of my daily supplements is Ashwagandha. It is an adaptogenic herb that supports adrenal glands and nervous system functions. If your cortisol levels are high from chronic stress, it will be harder to sleep. It doesn't have to be taken in the evening because it isn't a relaxer or have sedative properties, so I take mine around lunch, with my other handful of supps. Ha!
As far as amino acids and minerals go, try magnesium!! Truly! You can find a great tasting powder called Natural Calm at probably any health store and possibly your grocery store! I am pretty sure Meijer has it. It is magnesium citrate, so it has some regularity/bowel perks as well! Mix it up with some water or juice (or the raspberry lemonade in lemonade and it is like a mocktail!) around an hour or two before bedtime and it truly helps me just drift off to sleep. (If you are ever told you are magnesium deficient, I would recommend an ionic mag we carry that tastes terrible, but is way more absorbable!) L-theanine, an amino acid, can be calming in the daytime, evening, or both. 5-HTP, also an amino acid, raises serotonin levels in the brain and is commonly used for
insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, fibro, pms, etc.
You've probably heard of melatonin and I generally do not mention it to folks, unless they ask for it specifically. It is a synthetic hormone, and I don't like to mess with my hormone levels if any other option is viable. It has been shown to cause changes in the cardiovascular, immune, and metabolic systems. The more melatonin you take, the less your body produces on its own. I am personally very sensitive to melatonin in supplement form. It will make me fall asleep just fine, but it will wake me up in the middle of the night and I will be wide awake with no hope of falling back asleep. This is the most common complaint we hear in the health store about melatonin...that it wakes people up in the middle of the night. And what that could mean is that you are taking too much for your body. A 2001 MIT study found that 0.3 mg is the proper dosage for melatonin, and most supplements start out at 1 mg, if not 3, 5, and beyond! In the case of melatonin, it is not like a pharmaceutical in which increasing your dosage means more effectiveness. It is actually the opposite. Taking too much also means that it is still stored in your plasma the next day and you may be groggy. But, melatonin is a popular supplement because it does work for most people. You want to take it an hour before bed, when your body is increasing its own production of melatonin. There are also timed-release melatonin supplements to keep it going all night. I haven't tried one, personally, but it makes sense that it would work. If you don't want to do a supplement, tart cherry juice is the richest food source of melatonin. Some customers buy it for an evening glass that helps them sleep. (others buy it for gout!)
Another good use for CBD oil is that it can help with anxiety and reduce the mental chatter that sometimes keeps us wide awake. I tried our green label 1 mg spray from CV Sciences ($22/80 doses) for this very reason. It was already difficult for me to drift off to sleep but after Naiya was diagnosed in early December, I could not fall asleep, stay asleep, or get back to sleep on my own. When I tried the CBD, I noticed an immediate reduction in the mental chatter and anxiety. For me now, I've worked up to about 3 mg in early evening.

If you're into essential oils, diffusing lavender or adding a couple of drops in to a warm evening bath (try adding 1 c. epsom salt/magnesium flakes, too!) can help with relaxation. Sweet dreams, everyone!
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