Natural Remedies for Sleepless Nights
Did you sleep well last night? Because–you look tired. Those are the dreaded words that everyone hates to hear as someone scrutinizes your face with a mixture of concern and distaste at the dark circles adorning your eyes. To say someone looks tired is a polite way of saying they look like poo!
The science of how we sleep has always fascinated me. In fact, when I was in college at CU Boulder I was on a sleep committee for three years with the Wardenburg Health Center. Our committee would visit different classrooms and share sleep facts with the students, and we received funds to create sleep pods in the school library for naps or studying. Speaking of naps, they are something I’m very passionate about!
To Nap or Not to Nap
There are a lot of varying opinions out there on naps. Some people believe wholeheartedly that a mid-day nap can be a healthy addition to their day (me!). Others feel they only wake up groggier after taking a nap. But this is only the case if you are asleep for longer than thirty minutes, which puts you into deep sleep and REM cycles.
I happen to believe that naps are a great recharge. When you are feeling sleepy during the day your body is telling you it needs to recoup for a bit. Longer naps also help us to get more of the deep sleep we may be missing at night. Many people today do not get deep enough sleep at night due to being on their phones or computers up until bedtime, and often while in bed. This stimulation interrupts sleep patterns and prevents the body from getting the deep sleep in which the brain is able to shut down completely.
Too Tired, Too Much of the Time
Insomnia is a rising epidemic because people are either not sleeping enough, and/or are stressed out. This starts an unhealthy cycle in which the body can never catch up on sleep. If you are not sleeping deeply or consistently, it can really begin to impact your life and you may realize you feel tired most of the time. This can actually be a condition called adrenal fatigue syndrome and it’s very tough to recover from. I have worked with clients who have adrenal fatigue syndrome for five years now. Something that contributes to this syndrome is drinking too much coffee.
Teas and Aromatherapy to the Rescue
As an alternative to coffee, I recommend my Pick Me Up tea, which stimulates the mind and blood circulation. If you just can’t let go of the taste of coffee, there is a tea available at most natural food stores called DandyBlend. It’s a blend of roasted chicory root and dandelion root and is a good coffee alternative because it tastes similar.
Another tea option is my Nourish Me tea (right) which has magnesium in it. Magnesium is important for the sleep cycle and also aides with adrenal fatigue syndrome. You can also find magnesium in foods such as dark chocolate (but eat it in the morning as it contains the chemical compound theobromine, which is in the same family as caffeine found in coffee), almonds, spinach, avocado, bananas, brown rice, peanut butter, cashews, molasses, and figs. So if you are finding that you are not sleeping well, you could assess how much magnesium you are getting–it’s an easy thing to look at first.
Aromatherapy spritzers can be the perfect fix for the afternoon slow-down. A thoughtful blend of essential oils can perk you right up! And if you are having trouble sleeping you can do an aromatherapy spritzer right before bed. One made with calming oils will help lure your brain into sleep. Aromatherapy can actually help bring you out of the fight or flight mode that many people live in continually. The oils can move you into a calming, coherent space in which your brain can process your day and fall asleep more naturally.
Of course, sometimes the reasons we can’t sleep are not necessarily bad. We may just be excited about something happening the next day, or have a lot on our minds. Teas that are excellent for calming the mind are chamomile tea and my Love Life and Relax tea, which contains passion flower; perfect for calming at bedtime. You can take passion flower as tincture or as a tea blend. It helps to calm the nervous system and is a slight muscle relaxer too, which helps to reduce tension in typical tight muscle areas such as the neck.
Training Your Body and Mind for Good Sleep
More and more, my clients ask me if I have anything to help them sleep better. It’s becoming a common question and I really believe it’s due to the extremely busy lifestyles that so many of us lead these days. Add smartphones, computers, TVs, stress and worry about jobs and world issues and it’s a recipe for a sleepless night.
It can take a while for people to learn how to relax when they want to go to sleep. Breath work can help with this; it’s a way of talking yourself into a sleeping space. And of course daily physical exercise is helpful in increasing sleep quality, with activity four to five times a week being ideal. Another way to wind down before bed is with a hot bath. Use that time to focus on yourself prepare yourself mentally to enter into sleep.
One trap that many people fall into is that they work late into the evening and try to get a lot done before bed, and then count on sleeping in the next day to make up for staying up late. However this is really doing your body a disservice. Your body wants and needs sleep so you are stressing your body and you aren’t as focused as you would be if you waited to do it in the morning when you are fresh. In fact, you will probably get the task done in half the time when you are well-rested!
Let’s talk about melatonin for a hot second. The topic is often thrown around the water cooler as a quick fix to help you sleep. But real talk–most of the melatonin available is synthesized in the lab, and is a hormone that’s extracted from the pineal gland of animals. There are vegetarian versions available but then it is just a synthetic hormone and who really wants that? I firmly believe in all of the natural, plant-based methods, and lifestyle modifications that I have talked about in this post.
Overall, I want to emphasize that you should always try to get to the core of your sleep issues, rather than rely on any remedy all of the time. While any of the practices in this post will help you sleep better, you still want to understand why you are having trouble sleeping and see if you can address that to make a positive change.
Looking for more teas when life is getting too stressful? Try my Anxitea or my Love Life and Relax tea. Or, my Deep Sleep Tincture is helpful for insomnia and major sleep issues. Contact me for this tincture at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, my Calming Spritzer (coming soon!) is a zen aromatherapy spritz that will tame the stress beast.
Coming in January: Stress & Sleep Workshop! Contact me for more information.