Solve Your Sleep Troubles: Remedies & Tips for Restful Nights

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Struggling to get a good night’s sleep? We all experience sleep problems from time to time, some of us worse than others. Our minds race while we toss and turn, anxiously watching the clock tick down the hours. Sometimes it seems that with all the mental activity occupying our “brain space,” we’ve forgotten how to sleep. 

The next day we feel groggy and our minds don’t work efficiently. We need to catch up. The problem is, however, that catching up on lost sleep is an elusive gamble. Research shows that once your rest patterns are disrupted, it takes a lot more than sleeping late on the weekends to reverse the damage.  

There are solutions, but we must choose carefully. Pharmaceutical sleep aids and over-the-counter drugs can make us feel drowsy when we need to be alert. We also don’t want to become dependent on them.  

So, other than herbal tea and a relaxing read, what are the best ways to help ease into restful sleep? We must look at it strategically. Quality sleep isn’t an isolated event — it’s a holistic process that involves many systems of the body: hormonal, neurological, digestive, and more. If we need help sleeping, it’s important to take the right steps throughout the day so we can wake up rejuvenated and refreshed.  

Is Your Lifestyle Sleep-Friendly? 

How we live affects how we sleep. For example, exercising regularly and eating nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods can contribute to more restful sleep. Exercise helps us manage the stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that increase agitation and prevent us from unwinding. In addition to relaxing us, workouts also spend excess energy. 

There are also foods and ingredients we may need to subtract. Caffeine is obvious. Even a cup of coffee hours before bedtime can disrupt sleep. Alcohol, sugar, gluten and dairy can also be problematic, particularly for those with sensitivities. These items can fuel inflammation and wreak havoc throughout the body, disrupting the hormonal signals that help us unwind and reach deep, restorative sleep. Also, don’t eat a large meal close to bedtime. Our digestive process at work can impair deep sleep. 

It’s important to re-learn relaxation and self-care practices. Many of us don’t even remember how to slow down, yet we expect to go from 60 to zero in minutes. The body doesn’t work that way. Take some time to relax before bed by dimming the lights or lighting some candles. Meditate for ten minutes. Take a warm bath. Stretch and do deep breathing.  

Avoid using the computer, television, phone, or any electronic device at least two hours before bed. After sunset, the light emitted from these technologies prevents your pineal gland from releasing melatonin: a critical sleep and repair hormone. Since melatonin is so important for good sleep, we’ll take a closer look at it in a moment.  

Eat Your Way to Better Sleep  

Unprocessed, nutrient-dense whole foods such as organic vegetables and fruits, raw nuts and seeds, healthy fats, and sprouted whole grains and legumes are important for every area of health. Over time, these foods can balance our systems, contributing to better quality sleep. There are also specific foods that can directly support more restful sleep.  

The amino acid tryptophan is notorious for making us tired after a Thanksgiving dinner. (To be fair, the wine, stuffing and pumpkin pie may also play a part.) Tryptophan is found in most meats but is particularly high in turkey. Our bodies convert it into serotonin and melatonin, which helps us relax and sleep.  

Bananas and lentils also provide tryptophan, as well as magnesium and potassium, which can help relax us. Cherries provide melatonin. In moderation, potatoes, rice and other carbohydrates also support sleep. But again, don’t overindulge before bedtime. 

Achieve Better Sleep With Help From Homeopathy 

Homeopathy provides time-tested insomnia remedies. These have the advantage of gently nudging us towards relaxation and restful sleep, rather than knocking us out. Here are a few good options: 

  • Coffea cruda, or unroasted coffee beans, can act as a sleep aid. This may seem counterintuitive, as coffee is a stimulant. However, homeopathy works on the theory that in tiny doses, like treats like. This can be especially useful when we need help calming an overactive mind. 
  • Natrum muriaticum helps when we’re tired but still can’t get to sleep. 
  • Arsenicum album can relax us when we are anxious or restless. 
  • Lycopodium clavatum is recommended when we wake often from hunger. 
  • For those who fall asleep at first but then wake up in the early morning and can’t get back to sleep, Nux vomica or Phosphorus can both be helpful. 

Understanding Your Circadian Rhythms 

As mentioned above, melatonin is a critical sleep aid. The hormone-like neurotransmitter is closely linked with circadian rhythms — our sleep/wake cycles, and also acts like a powerful antioxidant and repair hormone. Melatonin is mainly produced by the pineal gland in response to darkness, which is why we shouldn’t bathe in bright light right before we go to bed. In fact, it’s important to remove all sources of light in your bedroom and invest in some blackout curtains to block outside light. You’ll likely notice a difference in sleep quality the first morning.  

That’s in part because circadian rhythms influence more than melatonin and sleep/wake cycles. They’re involved in nearly every biological process right down to the expression of specific genes, so taking the right steps to harmonize these biological rhythms is critical for long term health. One need only look at studies of shift workers who suffer from greater rates of hormone-related cancers and other diseases, to understand how important it is to balance circadian rhythms and melatonin production. Setting a regular bedtime can help balance sleep cycles and circadian rhythms. I also recommend going to bed earlier, as we experience deeper, more restful sleep before midnight. If you find this hard at first, just turn the lights off and relax in the dark. With extra help from the additional sleep tips here, your body will likely get the hint after a while. 

Natural Remedies for Deep, Restorative Sleep

There are melatonin supplements available, but it’s important to exercise caution and discuss this supplement with your doctor. It acts like a powerful hormone and too much can throw off our delicate balance. Before taking melatonin, have your doctor check your hormone levels. If you get the go-ahead, a small dose of around .5 mg should do the trick as a healthy sleep aid. Other helpful sleep supplements include passionflower, lemon balm and vitamin B6. 

I also recommend pure honokiol, an active ingredient extracted from Magnolia bark. Honokiol is known for its ability to support restful sleep. One pre-clinical study found that it extends non-REM sleep, which is associated with physiological restoration and memory consolidation. It’s also a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety agent, neurological protector, and remarkable anti-cancer compound.   

Rest Easy 

In our society, sleep is sacrificed at the altar of productivity. But science is showing that sleep disruption can affect many areas of health and contribute to chronic degenerative diseases. These sleep recommendations should be helpful, but if not, see your doctor. Serious insomnia may also indicate an underlying health issue.  

Most often, however, sleep disorders result from our fast-paced, pro-inflammatory lifestyles. By working to reset our natural rhythms with foods and supplements, exercise, relaxing self-care, and a scheduled routine for unwinding and getting to bed, we can help restore balance, promote better sleep patterns and boost overall health. That should help you rest easy.  

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