The Power of Sleep - Part 2
Natural Solutions for a Good Nights Sleep!
In The Power of Sleep - Part 1, I discussed the detrimental effects of sleeping less than 8 hours each night and, given the average person is now sleeping a mere 6.8 hours, this information is important to know. However, what then?
In this article I share a range of practical, natural methods to achieve a good nights sleep, including diet and lifestyle, supportive therapies, herbs, essential oils and flower essences.
First, there are a few key triggers that are known to decrease the quality and/or quantity of sleep, so alongside the suggestions below, make the shift to eliminate these.
1. Eating late at night
Ideally, we should avoid eating a meal or snacking for three hours prior to bedtime. If truly hungry, eat a piece of fruit as this will move through the digestive process quickly.
2. Screen time
The television, computer and mobile phone should be turned off at least two hours before bedtime. I offer some wonderful suggestions below for what to do instead. I also recommend turning off the modem, not only so that you aren't tempted to have one last peak at your instagram (which can turn into an hour of mindless scrolling) but also to eliminate EMF pollution while you sleep.
3. Stimulants and Alcohol
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). There are many alternatives, and I've provided some suggestions below.
4. Artificial light
The light bulb was an amazing invention, and certainly changed the way we live, but artificial light at night confuses our body's circadian rhythms. These rhythms play a vital role in cognition, mental health, metabolism and many other body functions, and if we spend our evenings lit up by artificial light, our body doesn't recognise that it is time to wind down and sleep.
So, having turned off the modem, the television, the mobile phone and the lights...and put aside that drink...what does one do?
This is where the magic sets in. Historically, people used to talk, read, sit by the fire or meditate, and these are all 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 a good nights sleep, the most important being calcium, magnesium, melatonin (hormone and antioxidant), potassium, several B vitamins, D, E and iron.
Raw Sesame Milk
Rich in nourishing calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, B vitamins and vitamin E. It is a wonderful sleep aid and nourishing to the nervous system.
Rich in essential amino acids, one teaspoon as day easily providing the necessary B vitamins required for a good nights sleep.
Magnesium Rich Foods
These include dark, leafy greens, soaked and rinsed almonds and cashews (which can be bleneded 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.
Melatonin Rich Foods
These 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 is converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-NTP in turn is converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin. Tart cherry juice is another excellent source of melatonin.
There are several herbs that support a good nights sleep, and these are more effective when you are nourishing your nervous system. Herbs of Grace, by Farida Sharan, is a superb resource for herbal formula, offering three formula that provide superior nutrient for the nervous system: Nerve Rejuvenator, Nerve Tonic and Nerve Vitalizer. In the UK you can source these at Totally Natural Skincare, and in the US, you can source these at Earth Pharm in Colorado. Note: When using herbs, if you are taking medication, or are pregnant or nursing, always consult your healthcare professional and/or a qualified herbalist to ensure that there aren't any contraindications.
Alongside support for the nervous system through diet and lifestyle, the following individual herbs offer excellent superior nutrient and phytochemicals to support a good nights sleep.
Herbs High in Iron
There are many herbs that are high in bioavailable iron, and these can be taken either as a tea or in capsules. Yellow Dock, a non-constipating source of iron while also supporting the digestive tract and liver, and promoting beautiful skin (not recommended when pregnant or nursing). Red Raspberry leaf, Dandelion leaves and Nettle are other great sources of iron.
Valerian is a well known herb that, depending on the underlying cause of sleeplessness, can be a great sleep aid. It provides quality nutrient for the nervous system, so its affects are cumulative. It can be taken in capsules, or as a tea, in the hour or so before bed to promote sleep. It can also be taken in small doses of 1gm daily for regular nourishment. Valerian is also available as an essential oil.
This is my favourite her to support a good nights sleep and I also use it for airline travel, along with essential oils and hydration, to minimise jet lag. Note: Lady's Slipper is an endangered plant species, so it is important to only purchase from ethical courses that cultivate the herb specifically for the consumer. Do not purchase 'wildcrafted' Lady's Slipper!
Calming Herbal Teas
Chamomile and Passionfruit tea are both recognized for their calming effects and are gentle sleep aids.
Serentitea from Herbs of Grace
Try one or two cups of this tea before retiring. Because it is a strong but pleasant tasting tea, the addition of cow or nut milk and honey improves the flavour. This is also a useful tea to have on hand to weather stress, crises and emotional upsets.
Catnip, Vervain, Mistletoe, Peppermint, Wood Betony (3), Valerian (0.5), Scullcap (0.5) and Hops (0.5)
Sweet Sleep Herbal Formula from Herbs of Grace
Equal parts Passion flowers, Lady Slipper root, Valerian root, Scullcap, Hops, Broom and Lime tree flowers. I like to use organic powdered herbs, but you can also make a herbal infusion with dried herbs. This blend helps to mildly sedate the nervous system and releases stress of daily activities, yet leaves you fresh and alert in the morning.
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 then choose based on the combination of benefits that best fit your needs from a holistic perspective. Another option is to buy an essential oils blend that is preprepared to support sleep.
Vitamin D, a nutrient the body requires for restful sleep, is produced in teh 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 light on winter mornings, will not only help with regulating your energy levels during the day, but will also support a good nights sleep at night.
Also, if you live in the far north, or far south, when the nights get short, make sure that you windows are blacked out when it comes to bed time so that the light doesn't keep you awake.
Lobelia Bath or Foot Bath
Lobelia is a herb that is regulated in the UK and is currently banned for internal consumption. However is still readily available for external use, and there is nothing like a hot Lobelia bath to gently unwind you for a good nights sleep. Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of powdered Lobelia (if powdered it will easily rinse down the drain), and you can also add your favourite essential oils.
If you don't have a bath available, then a foot bath with 1/4 cup lobelia will achieve the same results. Soak for 20 minutes.
Epsom Salts Bath
An Epsom salts bath provides magnesium to release tension from muscles and relax the nervous system. [Follow this link](https://herenowhealing.com/blog/?id=magnesium-deficiency-symptoms-causes-and-dietary-sources to read an article that I wrote about the importance of magnesium and its sources. Warm baths alone are a great sleep aid, but the addition of Espom salts or Lobelia significantly increase the beneficial effects.
Castor Oil Pack
This classic naturopathic treatment is invaluable for releasing stress and anxiety, soothing the digestive system and activating the parasympathetic nervous system...thus promoting a deep and restful sleep.
You will need:
Pure organic Castor oil.
(note: if purchased in bulk, it is far less expensive than buying in the health food store, so don't be put off by the 'crazy' prices of a 150ml bottle. I purchase it by liter, or more)
A piece of unbleached cotton the approximate size of your abdomen
(a thin hand towel will also work well)
A larger towel to wrap around the trunk of your body
Cellophane wrap to 'hold it all together'
A prepared hot water bottle (or two) or a moist heat heating pad
Lay the larger towel down on a counter, table or cookie sheet. Lay the unbleached cotton on top of this. Pour a thin layer of Castor oil on the unbleached cotton layer. You can spread this with a spoon or knife to even it out.
This oil layer is going to go directly against your skin across the entire abdomen, and Castor oil can be nigh on impossible to wash out...so be prepared in an old t-shirt or other garment that you don't mind sacrificing for your self care.
Prepare a cosy place for you to sit and read, draw or enjoy the view while doing your Castor oil pack. You can also do this in bed, but if doing this, only use hot water bottles...not a heating pad.
Once ready, gentle lift the larger towel with the unbleached cotton soaked with Castor oil up to your abdomen, with the oil against your skin, the wrap the remaining towel completely around the trunk of your body. Its a little fiddly the first time, but worth the effort. Now wrap the cellophane around your abdomen to hold the Castor oil pack in place.
Make your way to your cosy seat, place the hot water bottles or heating pad on your belly and relax. I generally do this treatment for an hour...or I just fall asleep with it on and take it off when I wake up. This is one of the most relaxing treatments I have ever experienced.
Once complete, you can roll up the Castor oil soaked cotton layer and put in the fridge to repeat the treatment the following day. Just add a little more oil and you are good to go. The cotton layer can be used up to three days in a row prior to washing.
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 thoughts circulate like a broken record, making it difficult to truly relax. If anxiety is an issue, there are several essences that may be helpful, including Impatiens, Cherry Plum, Mimulus and Aspen.
Flower essences must be chosen individually, as individual symptoms must be matched to 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, from using black out shades on bedroom windows in summer months, to having a comfortable mattress suited to your body type and weight, and creating a peaceful environment in your bedroom, 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.