A good night's sleep is powerful medicine. Insomnia impacts on all aspects of health, body and mind. Chicken and egg-like, poor sleeping patterns exacerbate conditions such as depression, anxiety, bowel problems and lowered immunity, and vice versa, these problems affect sleep. There are many natural sleep remedies, including herbs that work a treat for sleep problems.
There were over 3 million prescriptions for sleeping pills last year. Although they do the job, sleeping pills disrupt sleeping cycles. A good night's sleep consists of four or five cycles, each concluding with REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, the dreaming state. All stages are necessary for physical and mental wellbeing. Sleeping pills can also tend to be addictive.
The following are some suggestions that will help you fall into the land of nod, naturally.
Aim to Quiet the Mind
A busy mind is the enemy to sleep. Hard to believe, but we are master's of our own mind. However, assuming discipline on rascally wayward thoughts is easier said than done. This is where distraction comes to the fore. If you are often inclined, sheep counting is still in vogue. Sleeping solace can also be found in a guided meditation tape / CD / app to listen to in bed.
Breathe From Your Belly
Belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) switches on the parasympathetic, or calming, nervous system as opposed to the sympathetic, or fight and flight, nervous system. Place hands palm down on your lower belly. Breathe in and out through your nose, counting slowly to 3 or 4 (which is more comfortable). Feel your tummy rise with the breath. Breathe out just as slowly, allowing the belly to drop
Herbal remedies are particularly good for sleep. Try one or a combination of valerian, hops, passionflower and Californian poppy or if pain is making sleep difficult, the Chinese herb, Corydalis is excellent. Timing of when you take the remedy is important. If you have difficulties getting to sleep, take one dose at dinnertime, and another as you go to bed. If staying asleep is the issue, take a double dose at bedtime. Kava is a quick acting herb. Have a tablet next to the bed and take one if you do happen to wake during the night and remember to belly breathe, so you can quickly go back to sleep.
Most herbs can be taken in capsule or tablet form, a liquid tincture or as a herbal tea, including the following natural sleep remedies ; valerian, hops and Californian Poppy.
Have a Warm Bath or Shower
Our deepest sleep, in the early hours of the morning, is also the time of the circadian clock when the body reaches its lowest temperature. Having a warm bath or shower before bed, not only relaxes tensile muscles, but by heating the body, our internal thermostat kicks in trying to lower basal temperature, lulling the body into believing it should be deeply sleep.
Avoid Caffeine if Necessary
Some people are so sensitive to caffeine that even a morning cappuccino can affect that night's sleep. If this is you, avoid caffeine altogether, this includes coffee, tea, chocolate, guarana and cola.
Eat Lightly at Night
A roast dinner with the works can take several hours to digest; meaning your digestive system will be working full-time when it should be snoozing, along with the rest of you. However, a small supper such as cheese and fruit, hot milk and honey or humus on a cracker will increase serotonin levels and improve blood sugars. Although a night-cap may have an initial sedative effect, alcohol interferes with sleep patterns. Alcohol is also a diuretic, causing unwanted midnight visits to the loo. Too much fluid is not a good idea before bed, but a small cup of tea made from the natural sleep remedies – valerian, hops and Californian poppy, will assist in a deep and peaceful night's sleep. You can always find herbal tea online, or they may be available from your local health food store.
Insomnia and restless sleep tend to be a pattern. Something may initiate this pattern such as a newborn baby, or a stressful job. However, even when baby sleeps through the night, and job issues have resolved, poor sleep continues. This is why, when you find the right natural sleep remedy, keep taking (or doing) it, night after night, to imprint a healthy pattern of good sleep.
There is nothing worse than a sleepless night, except two sleepless nights in a row.