Posted on October 08 2016
With those autumn days starting to become more and more frequent our urge in the mornings is to curl up in bed and never come out. Nesting season is truly upon us.
Me? I’m thrilled. But what about those of you for whom going to bed is torturous, filled with tossing and turning and looking at the clock to find that it’s getting later and later (or earlier and earlier - depending on how you look at it). Those sleepless nights make mornings awful and our alarm clocks are our worst enemies. We rely on our seasoned sleep routines to pull us through long days and crazy schedules, but when those routines get thrown up in the air we could all use the help of these nutrients to get us back to sleep. Hopefully, they’ll have you snoozing in no time.
I’ll have you know, this is one of my favourite herbs. It is as pretty to look at as it is to smell, and that aromatic nature is actually an extremely effective solution for restlessness and anxiety - not to mention sleep. Lavender eases us into sleep by affecting our relaxation mechanism from the part of our brain known as the amygdala. This gland controls our emotional output and the lavender oils amplify our ability to move into the slow-wave form of sleep. Our muscles relax here, and our heartbeat slows significantly. It’s like taking the edge off to allow your body to ease into sleep.
If you’re not a fan of the smell of lavender, there are capsules that provide an easy and smell-free way of improving your sleep. In fact, a placebo-controlled trial found that lavender significantly reduced the restlessness impacting your ability to get to sleep. It was also found to help you get to sleep easier, and wake up easier in the morning.
Known by it’s full name of 5-hydroxytryptophan, this natural product increases the creation of serotonin in your central nervous system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects everything from your sleep to your temperature to your emotional balance. Serotonin affects your ability to sleep better by improving the ability of serotonin to communicate with different parts of your brain. This product, derived from the seeds of the griffon simplicifolia plant, is a great addition to helping you both get to sleep, and stay asleep.
There are 526 000 results for “melatonin and sleep” on google in case you’re wondering. That’s a crazy amount. So why so many? Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland to make you sleepy. It rises in the evening, and falls in the morning, opposite to your cortisol curve (which spikes in the morning to wake you up). If your melatonin production is low, or high at the wrong time, you’re going to have trouble falling asleep when you want. One of the reasons your melatonin production might not be high at the right time is that blue light (like the light emitting off your phone, computer screen, or television) stops the production of melatonin. This is why one of my first recommendations for people who are having trouble sleeping is to nix the electronics before bed (or at least download something like f.lux which removes blue light from your screens as the sun goes down).
Valerian is a very commonly used herb to help people with sleep disorders and insomnia. It can act as an anti-anxiety solution but it’s also a sedative. Unlike lavender, which takes the edge off and promotes relaxation, valerian does that plus being able to knock you out. It’s a hard hitter in terms of natural products for sleep but it consistently delivers time and time again.
For a little bit of a gentler approach than valerian, chamomile is the perfect late night tea to incorporate into your bed-time routine. Caffeine is counterintuitive to falling asleep, so if you crave a warm drink at night chamomile tea might be exactly what you’ve been looking for. It is a mild sedative when consumed in liquid form and has been shown to calm anxiety.
Ready to start snoozing your way through the night? Give these natural solutions a go. In fact, if you’re looking to shake up your bed-time routine you can even combine the herbs that I’ve mentioned above (chamomile, valerian and lavender) into a tea together. Tried these out and still counting sheep? Let’s set up a complimentary consultation to chat.
Dr. Ashley Margeson is a Naturopathic Doctor in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who believes that your health shouldn’t hold you back from living your best life. She works with passionate people, moms and dads, athletes, go-getters, professionals, and retirees to help them achieve (and maintain) their health goals. Current obsessions include yoga pants, coffee, super comfy beds and Instagram (find me at @ashley_margeson!)