The need for a good night’s rest
We all recognize the importance of good quality sleep, particularly considering today’s fast paced world. Demands have increased both at home and in the workplace, resulting in increased stress, anxiety and poor sleep patterns. Studies show that insomnia is a major health problem in North America that should be taken seriously because it can quickly lead to other, more serious health issues.
If you’re experiencing sleep difficulties, even if they seem minor, speak with your health care professional or consult with your Naturopathic Doctor (ND). Your ND will do a full assessment to find out the reasons you’re not getting adequate sleep and will provide you with natural, effective treatment options.
Reasons for insomnia vary, but the root cause is important to identify in order to provide individualized treatment and the best care possible. Simply masking the symptoms with medication won’t solve the problem, nor is this approach good for your body in the long term. Some reasons for sleep disturbances include a lack of routine, stress, chronic pain, menopause, anxiety, use of stimulants or a poor diet. When you’re sleep deprived, your body and your brain simply cannot operate at their full capacity. However, the most concerning aspect is that sleep issues can lead to serious health concerns such as depression and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Lack of deep, restful sleep usually leads to low energy, depressed mood, anxiety and irritability. Although there’s no quick fix to long-standing sleep issues, there are some good natural health care products available to provide temporary relief. Pascoe has two great health products that work to naturally improve sleep – Pascoe Calm and Pascoe Neurapas. I’ve used both successfully in my practice, and they’re both available at your local health food store. I also frequently prescribe Trancor by Metagenics, another great mood stabilizer and calmer that can treat mild insomnia.
If you’ve struggled with poor sleep for more than one month, it’s important to consult your health care professional to find the root cause of your issues and diagnose the severity of your condition. Here are some helpful tips to improve the quality of sleep for you and your family:
1. Eliminate all stimulants
Such as caffeinated beverages and sugary treats (especially after noon). It’s also a good idea to reach for a healthier alternative to biscuits and black tea before bed. In order to allow for proper digestion, consume your last meal before 7 p.m. Many people often ask me what foods they can eat to increase energy or improve their sleep. Eating a well-balanced diet is essential when it comes to maintaining good energy levels throughout the day, but which foods should you consume to improve sleep? The best answer is foods that are rich in tryptophan, which include nuts, seeds, legumes and soy.
2. Exercise may help
Induce regular sleep and improve the quality of sleep, too. Exercise not only uses up energy, it’s also energizing. If you’re not engaging in regular physical activity, ensure that you’re walking for 20 minutes a day at the very least.
3. Before turning in
Write down your To Do list. This allows your mind to let go of the things you must do the next day. If you go to bed feeling anxious about what you have to do tomorrow, you’re likely going to have some difficulty falling or staying asleep. Hot baths are very calming at night – a perfect opportunity for you to release stress. Some calming essential oils are lavender and chamomile. I suggest massaging the oils around your temples and between your eyebrows before bed.
4. Avoid using
Your iPod, television, computer or telephone within one hour before bedtime. This allows your body to unwind from all stimulation. Also, turn clocks away from your bed. Other than alarm clocks, remove all electronics from your bedroom. The bedroom should be used for rest, relaxation, intimacy and sleep. It’s also a good idea to read, listen to calming music or do some form of meditation before bed.
5. Lastly, make sure!
The room that you’re sleeping in is dark by drawing all blinds and curtains shut and turning off all the lights in your bedroom. The body produces a hormone called melatonin when it’s dark which regulates the sleep cycle. It’s a good idea to avoid taking melatonin in supplement form for long periods of time. I have prescribed it to patients when necessary, but the goal is to only use it short term. You want your body to naturally make this hormone on its own, as melatonin is your body’s way of communicating that it’s time for bed.
One of the questions on my patient intake form is, “Do you feel well-rested in the mornings?” Ask yourself this question – and if your answer is no then it’s time to evaluate the reasons why. With adequate sleep (not too much and not too little), you should feel well rested upon rising. Your performance at work should improve, your energy levels should increase and your mood may improve, too. Remember, sleep is the time for your body to recover and heal. After all, every bodily function depends on it!