In order to understand what may be causing those restless nights, you’ll need to learn about the basics in Vitarock’s Essential Guide to Insomnia: Part I
Quick Recap of Part I
Sleep is regulated by two bodily systems: sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock. There are also many factors in your day (intake, activity, stress) that can have an impact, however these two body systems are your master sleep controllers. You also have the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) and this regulates the circadian rhythm. Without complete darkness, your SCN will actually increase cortisol (stress-hormone production) and delay producing beneficial melatonin. Our body wisdom coincides with nature, and we’ve only had electricity for about 150 years. Artificial light confuses our SCNs. Our bodies are not designed to operate with light at night.
We will now move on to explore what we can do to create better quality sleep.
Essential Basics for Sleep
The cortisol boogie man won’t get you, but melatonin will, and that’s a good thing. Your SCN is hyper-light sensitive, meaning you can’t fool it. Blocking out any lights (interior, or shining in from outside) is a non-negotiable point for quality sleep. If darkness isn’t possible then try using an eye mask. It may take some getting used to, but the pay-off is worth it.
Loading your body up with preservatives, artificial ingredients and processed sugars certainly does have an effect, even if your pants size isn’t showing it yet. Fake, manufactured foods do put an extra load on your digestive system, liver and endocrine system. There is some wisdom in avoiding sugar for kids before bed; adults might want to follow suit. There are a wide range of foods that will actually have calming effects, promoting relaxation while still providing ample energy. Incorporating herbs and foods that have calming properties can be a great benefit. Substituting sugars can also help. Opt for a low glycemic sweetener like Stevia.
Exercise communicates to your body that it will need time to repair. It turns out that your body does the best repair work when you’re asleep. But there’s another angle to the exercise and sleep connection: serotonin. Exercise increases serotonin production, particularly in the brain. About 95% of production of serotonin happens in our intestinal walls (so don’t skip the ab crunches), and exercise encourages our brain to produce serotonin as well. As a precursor to tryptophan, and with tryptophan a precursor for melatonin, increasing your natural serotonin production adds up to better sleep. These are also all the same hormones related to mood swings, making sleep extra important for a happy mindset.
Human beings love routine, and our bodies adapt particularly well to the routines that coincide with light and moon cycles. A schedule for sleep can be very beneficial, but not always possible for us all. What we all can do is create a sleep-time routine that we can use at any hour. Keep it simple, and the less stimulating the better. Try meditation, relaxing music, or reach for a book to let your mind decompress. Skip anything that might stimulate your mind, like an adventure novel.
Choose a supplement that will work with you, specifically. There are literally thousands of choices; it can easily be overwhelming. Each one offers different results. Only some will only work for you, and others might make your symptoms worse. It’s best to identify what specifically keeps you awake, and then look for appropriate remedies
Top 4 Sleep Complaints & Natural Remedies
Here are some of the most common sleep complaints and natural remedies for relief:
L-Theanine for Racing Mind
You just can’t quiet your busy mind. Thoughts are racing through a review of your day and you’re already thinking about what the next day brings. This also drives your cortisol production up. L-Theanine is an amino-acid (AA) that has become popular for natural treatment of ADD, ADHD and yes, sleep. This AA is incredibly effective at bringing about focus, clarity and mental relaxation, without the side effects of drowsiness or stimulation.
Falling asleep is easy, but staying asleep can be a real challenge. This is another top sleep complaint, and some remedies work better for others, than for all. Passionflower might be an herb that works for you, with a history of use for those that wake frequently in the night. Another popular remedy is melatonin, available in many different doses. If you’re not working with a health practitioner, exercise caution when choosing your dose – more is not always better. Both of these have shown to be very effective, with fast-acting results.
Restless Legs, Muscles and Magnesium
You’re on the cusp of sleep and then you feel it - an electrical current, running through your leg, ending with involuntary kicks. This is also the most partner-disturbing sleep complaint. Or perhaps it’s just sore muscles from your awesomely active lifestyle that are cramping up, or even worse – a Charlie-horse. In either case, magnesium can be a heavyweight in the battle of insomnia. With a simple bedtime addition, it’s also an easy 2-part fix.
First, make sure that you’re getting enough electrolytes. A simple glass of water, with pinch of salt + 1 teaspoon of honey will do the trick. Secondly, supplement with some straight-up magnesium (without any added calcium) to bring about deep muscle relaxation. Often, with Restless Leg Syndrome, it’s an indication that you may be deficient in magnesium. Almost always, magnesium will aid in muscle cramping and spasms. You can also apply magnesium oil topically, achieving localized, fast results.
Hormonal Night Sweats
There are a few key times when you may get those unsexy night sweats, and almost all coincide with hormonal changes. The most common ones are PMS, Menopause and Andropause. A great fix is commonly found Sage. You might even have a jar sitting in your spice rack. Easily made into a tea, the sage has ‘drying’ effects and has been traditionally used for night sweats, particularly hormonal-related sweats. If you have frequent night sweats, it really is wise to find out what might be causing them, and then go from there.
A friendly reminder for you to treat yourself well…..
This is your body, your health and you deserve a good night’s sleep. Sleep is essential, and quality sleep is ultimately our goal. If you’re suffering from a sleep disorder, or having sleep issues, then working with a practitioner is ideal. Finding the root cause of what’s keeping you up at night, then working towards achieving ultimate health, is always a great approach.
If you’re on any medications, please consult your doctor as these can often cause side effects, including loss of sleep.
Be well! Thanks for reading the Vitarock Blog.