Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This…1 Sep, 2019
“I want to sleep but my brain won’t stop talking to itself!”
Can you relate?
We would all love a good night’s rest…we all deserve a good night’s rest…we all need a good night’s rest! Shut eye is as, if not more important, than food and water to your physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
“It’s critical that adults aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night to receive the health benefits of sleep, but this is especially true for those battling a chronic condition.” – M. Safwan Badr, MD, MBA, former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)
We can eat well, exercise efficiently, be on numerous fantastic supplements, but without quality sleep each night we can’t properly heal. It’s been said that as much as 75% of our body’s growth hormone is secreted at night whilst we sleep. Human Growth Hormone promotes growth, cell reproduction, and cell regeneration.
Sleep is essential to immune function; it helps to reduce stress and inflammation. Whilst sleeping we produce hormones and process substantial toxins not to mention the fact that a good night of quality sleep improves our memory and keeps us alert for our day to day functioning. Sleep also helps us to process our thoughts and emotions. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to numerous health consequences such as an increased risk of obesity, hypertension, depression, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, among others.
“Army sharp shooters’ accuracy is almost 99% when they get eight hours of sleep. It drops to 79% when they get six hours of sleep. It drops to 35% when they get five hours of sleep, which is the equivalent of drinking two to three alcoholic beverages. Lack of sleep — sleep deprivation — is like driving drunk.” – Mark Hyman, MD
Yet more people are struggling with sleep complaints than ever before – complaints ranging from difficulty falling asleep to frequently interrupted sleep and genuine insomnia.
Without getting too caught up in the science of sleep, the simplified version goes something like this…we sleep courtesy of our pineal gland – a gland approximately the size of a grain of rice and shaped like a pine cone (hence its name) that is located deep in the centre of our brain. Our pineal gland secretes a hormone called melatonin which helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle – a natural, internal process also known as our circadian rhythm.
Melatonin helps us to fall asleep by calming our body before bed and by simply letting our body know that it is night-time so that we can relax and fall asleep easier. The secretion of melatonin involves the countering of cortisol, the stress hormone which is secreted from our adrenal glands. Cortisol is almost like our built-in alarm system – a surge of this stress hormone in the morning jumpstarts various systems in our body to get active and orients us in time and space, as we anticipate the demands of our upcoming day. Our body has designed melatonin and cortisol to be antagonistic to each other.
The recipe for a great night of sleep is a progressive rise of melatonin and the lowest possible level of cortisol at bedtime. However, this delicate balance can be disrupted by stress, too much exercise late at night, noise and light.
Speaking of recipes…the following foods have all been known to help with sleep issues as well as enhance the effects of sleep-promoting supplements:
- Mangoes – eating a mango prior to bed can help you to fall asleep easier as they’re very high in bioavailable magnesium.
- Cherries are one of the few foods that are a natural and rich source of melatonin.
- Bananas have the ability to soothe neurotransmitters thanks to their high levels of tryptophan and fructose.
- Sweet potatoes provide a vital form of glucose that promotes the development of various sleep-inducing neurotransmitters.
- Pomegranates have been shown to reduce lactic acid build-up which can cause muscle cramps at night therefore disturbing sleep.
Sleep is still such a mystery to medical communities, so the reasons why so many people struggle with sleep are even more enigmatic to them and almost everybody has a different reason why they’re not sleeping.
The list is seemingly endless but a hormonal imbalance, a sluggish liver, viral issues, toxic heavy metals in the brain, digestive tract issues, adrenal issues, pain & inflammation, too much caffeine or alcohol, sleep apnoea, snoring partners and even just eating too large a dinner or eating too close to bedtime can all bring about a troubled night’s rest. That said, while people’s sleep issues may be very similar to each other, they will never be identical. While we know that sleep is crucial for healing, should you be dealing with any of the above issues, sleep may seem like a pipe dream.
On the subject of sleep deprivation, did you know that the record for the longest period without sleep is 11 days?
So how can we create a bedtime ritual that hopefully gets you closer to sleeping like a log?
Simple changes can be quite powerful. There are numerous but here are a few suggestions for better sleep:
- Minimize or avoid stimulants i.e. alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime and caffeine-containing beverages or foods after 2pm.
- Aim to complete any aerobic exercise by at least 3 hours prior to bedtime.
- Try to avoid any anxiety-inducing activities close to bedtime. This would mean different things for different people but could include watching the news, paying bills, checking the stock market and arguments with loved ones.
- Relaxing bedtime rituals like yoga, meditation, journaling or mindful breathing have all been proven to help ease night-time tension and anxiety.
- In order to train your biological clock, try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
- Avoid eating large meals or spicy foods too close to bedtime and aim to finish eating at least 3 hours prior to going to sleep.
- Raising your body temperature before sleep can help to induce sleep – a hot bath / shower is also beneficial for relaxing tired muscles and easing tension. If water restrictions aren’t enforced in your city and you’re able to bath, a recipe for a heavenly bath to create calm and relaxation pre-bedtime is: 1-2 cups of Epsom salts, ½ – 1 cup of Bicarbonate of Soda and 10 drops of Lavender oil (which can assist in reducing our body’s cortisol levels).
- If bathing is an issue due to water restrictions try this recipe in a foot soak.
- Decrease the light in the room you are occupying 15 minutes before going to bed and consider using amber glasses for an hour or so before bedtime to reduce your exposure to light, especially artificial and / or blue light from electronic devices.
- Many people swear by the effectiveness of eye shades for blocking out any light exposure beyond their control whilst sleeping. Eye shades have also proven effective against awakening too early because of the light.
- If noise is a problem for you, try sleeping with ear plugs or using a white noise generator.
- The temperature of your bedroom is important too. Most studies appear to agree that a temperature of between 16°C and 19°C is optimal for a good night’s rest for adults.
- Invest in the highest quality bed linen that you can afford, including hypoallergenic pillows.
“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin
While it’s important to prioritise lifestyle choices to support our body to use its own wisdom to create the perfect balance for a good night’s rest, there are supplements we can use temporarily to gain rapid relief and to disrupt habits that aren’t serving us.
In recent weeks I was invited by Lucy from VidaLife to try out a few of the sleep supplements she stocks. The first supplement I experimented with was Moonshine Botanicals’ Sleep Herbal Blend. This blend of potent sleep-inducing herbs went a long way to easing any anxiety from my day and definitely contributed to a more restful night’s sleep.
Product featured: Moonshine Botanicals Sleep Herbal Blend
The second supplement I trialed was Quicksilver’s Liposomal GABA with L-Theanine. I found this product lived up to its claim to support rest and facilitate relaxation without impairing my cognition.
Product featured: Quicksilver Liposomal GABA with L-Theanine
I verified the effects of each of the supplements I tested, by way of various Karnak scans I ran on myself during that period.
Another supplement of VidaLife that is on my radar for possible future trialing is Viridian’s 100% Organic Californian Poppy Tincture. California Poppy is a medicinal herb and flower that is rich in vitamins A, C, and E as well as minerals such as calcium and magnesium. It’s supposedly excellent for relieving anxiety, stress, sharpening cognitive skills such as memory and concentration and it’s known to be an amazing natural pain reliever.
Product featured: Viridian 100% Organic Californian Poppy Tincture
Essential oils like Lavender and Chamomile are also widely known for their calming effects.
Product featured: Now Lavender Essential Oil
Lastly, Magnesium is a mineral that is critical to our health and wellbeing as it fuels hundreds of enzyme reactions in our body. Besides being great for our bone health and helping to ease stress and anxiety, taken at night, magnesium helps to relax our brain, heart and other muscles whilst we’re sleeping. Magnesium deficiency is rampant and can certainly contribute to sleep challenges.
Product featured: Good Health Magnesium Sleep Support
The Good Health Magnesium Sleep Support contains easy-to-absorb forms of magnesium for fast acting relaxation and sleep support. It also contains California Poppy and Passion Flower which are herbs that help ease a busy mind of stress and worry, and help support a deep, restful night’s sleep. Finally it includes Ashwagandha which is an adaptogenic herb helping the body adapt to emotional and physical stress. It provides further support for the nervous system, sleep and relaxation.
To end off…before you delve into ways to improve your “sleep hygiene”, take a moment to get curious and reflect on your own sleep concerns and what could be preventing you from getting a good night’s rest. Seek the assistance of a medical professional if necessary but do take the time to invest in this critical piece of the overall puzzle that is your health & well being – your future self will thank you!
“When you see into sleep’s mysteries, the cycle transforms from vicious to virtuous. The more quality sleep you get, the more you can eliminate the issues that make sleep troublesome in the first place. Around and around it goes as you heal, until sleep becomes your go-to source of respite – one that takes care of you and renews you so you can meet another day with the vitality you need to pursue your purpose and make the world a better place” – Anthony William
Disclaimer: Each person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual condition is unique. The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your doctor for matters pertaining to your specific health and diet. The author of this article is not held responsible for any adverse effects or consequences resulting from the use or misuse of any information, suggestions or procedures described herein. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.