In my last post, I discussed the detrimental effects of sleeping less than 8 hours each day and, given that the average person is now sleeping a mere 6.8 hours, and many sleep less, with devastating short and long-term effects, I thought it would be helpful to share some natural methods to achieve a good nights sleep.
There are a few key triggers that are known to decrease quality and quantity of sleep, so the first step is to do your best to eliminate these. The main ones are eating late at night, watching television less than 2 hours before bedtime, leaving the modem on in the house so that you are stimulated by EMF pollution…and tempted to turn on the computer or spend time on your phone. Alcohol in the evening is another common culprit when it comes to sleeplessness, as is coffee and other stimulants after noon (some people must eliminate stimulants completely), along with artificial light in the evening.
So, having turned off the modem, the television, the iPhone, and the overhead light, lit a candle (or three or four) and put aside that drink, what next? Historically, people used to talk, read, sit by the fire or meditate, and these are excellent ways to support a gentle wind down from the day, but here are some other suggestions that will help to send you off on a nourishing nights sleep.
The nervous system requires certain minerals and vitamins to support healthy functioning and good nights sleep, the most important being calcium, magnesium, melatonin (hormone and antioxidant), potassium, several B vitamins, D and E and iron.
•Raw sesame milk is very high in nourishing calcium, and is a wonderful sleep aid
•Spirulina is rich in essential amino acids, with one teaspoon a day easily providing the necessary B vitamins required for a good nights sleep
•Magnesium rich foods include dark, leafy greens, soaked almonds and cashews (which can be blended with water to make a delicious alternative to milk), many vegetables like broccoli, green beans and cabbage, and fruits like avocado, banana, figs and raw cacao.
•Foods rich in melatonin include bananas, pineapples, oranges and tomatoes. Natural whole oats are another good source. Bananas are rich in potassium too, and contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP in turn is converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin. Tart cherry juice is another excellent source of melatonin.
•Foods high in iron include many leafy greens, including spinach, currants, pumpkin seeds and most nuts and seeds.
There are several herbs that support a good nights sleep, and these are more effective when you are also nourishing your nervous system. Herbs of Grace is an superb resource that offers three herbal formulae that nourish the nervous system and these can be alternated monthly; the Nerve Rejuvenator, Nerve Tonic and Nerve Vitaliser formula. The Sweet Sleep formulae is also a valuable, nutritive sleep aid. These can be purchased by students at this link.
•When iron deficient, there are many excellent herbal sources that are high in iron and other nutrients that can be taken as tea, including Yellow Dock, a non-constipating source of iron, Red Raspberry leaf, Dandelion and Nettles.
•Valerian is well known as an herbal sleep aid. It can be taken as capsules, or as a tea, in the hour or so before bed. Valerian is also a herb that provides quality nutrient for the nervous system and can be taken in small doses daily (1gm daily) for regular nourishment.
•Lady’s Slipper is my favourite herb for supporting a good nights sleep and I also use it for airline travel to minimise jet lag. Lady’s Slipper is an endangered species, so it is important to only purchase from ethical sources that cultivate the herb specifically for the consumer.
•Chamomile tea and Passionfruit tea are both recognised for their calming effects and are gentle sleep aids.
•Lobelia is a herb that is regulated in the UK and is currently banned for internal consumption. However it is still readily available for external use, and there is nothing like a lobelia bath to gently unwind you for a good nights sleep. If you don’t have a bath available, then a foot bath with 1/2 cup Lobelia will achieve the same results.
•Vitamin D is produced in the body naturally when we are exposed to the sun. During a long dark winter, sun may be hard to come by. Spending some time with a full spectrum ‘HappyLight’ on winter mornings will not only help with regulating your energy levels during the day, but will also support a good sleep at night. If you live in the far north, or far south, when the nights get short, make sure that your windows are blacked out when it comes to bed time so that the light doesn’t keep you awake.
•An Epsom salts bath provides magnesium to release tension from muscles and relax the nervous system. Warm baths alone are a great sleep aid, but the addition of Epsom salts or Lobelia significantly increase the beneficial effects.
•For those that hold tension from the day and find it hard to unwind, a Castor oil pack on the abdomen can be just the thing to ease that tension and allow your body and mind to relax. Castor oils packs are as simple as putting Castor oil on a cloth the size of your belly, placing the cloth on your belly then wrapping with a towel, and then putting a hot water bottle (which will need to be refilled once or twice) or a heating pad on top of the towel, then just lie back and relax.
There are numerous essential oils that are used as sleep aids and to calm and relax the nervous system. Some well known ones are Lavender, Patchouli, German or Roman Chamomile, Valerian, Ylang Ylang, Bergamot, Vetiver and Sandalwood. As essential oils have many properties, it is good to research each one and than choose based on the combination of benefits that best fit your needs from a holistic perspective. Another option is to buy an essential oil blend that is preprepared to support sleep. My personal favourites are those available from Rocky Mountain Oils in the US.
Flower essences can be a superb support for calming the mind so that you can have a restful sleep. One of the best is White Chestnut, for those whose thought circulate like a broken record, making it difficult to truly relax. If anxiety is an issue, there are several essences that can be helpful, including Impatiens, Cherry Plum, Mimulus and Aspen.
Flower essences must be chosen individually as, like homeopathy, the individual symptoms must be matched with the correct remedy. If unsure which is best for you, then Rescue Remedy is an excellent choice for calming and relaxing a state of anxiety prior to bed.
There are many other natural options that can support a good nights sleep, but these are some enjoyable and accessible options to consider. Enjoy experimenting and I wish you all a nourishing, rejuvenating nights sleep!
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies or changing your diet.