5 Things That Could Help Improve Your Sleep
1. Sleep in a dark room
- When going to sleep at night make sure the drapes are drawn, the computer is off or out of the room, and any other possible sources of light are blocked out. Your brain responds to darkness by producing more of the 'sleep time hormone' melatonin, so if there is too much light you may not be producing enough melatonin to send you off to a good night sleep.
2. Keep a regular bedtime and wake up time
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps to support your circadian rhythms, which is the natural rhythm your body develops that runs all your physiologically processes in a given day. Having a consist sleep time will allow your body to know when to prep for sleep so you get better sleep easier.
3. Decrease the Stimulants
- Anything that contains caffeine (coffee, black tea, most soft drinks, etc.) can contribute to sleep problems. Stimulants have the effect of increasing our sympathetic response, also called the fight or flight response. The body needs to be in parasympathetic mode in order to rest. Consuming less or cutting out stimulants can be very helpful with getting more sleep.
4. Herbal Teas
- A nice soothing cup of tea before bed can make getting to sleep that much easier. There are many ‘sleepy time’ type teas on the market at the grocery store, health food store or local tea shop. One common tea is chamomile, which is very soothing for the nervous system, among other properties. Consider consulting a health care practitioner, such as a Naturopath, for herbal suggestions that will best suit your needs.
- Acupuncture has been used for all kinds of conditions for thousands of years as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Insomnia, or difficulty sleeping, can be very effectively addressed through Acupuncture. A preliminary report in 2004 found that in patients with anxiety, acupuncture increased nighttime melatonin production and total sleep time. The patients who received acupuncture fell asleep faster, woke less during the night, and were less stressed. The researchers concluded that, “Acupuncture treatment may be of value for some categories of anxious patients with insomnia.”
Note: This does not represent an exhaustive list of possibilities for dealing with insomnia. If you suffer from insomnia and require more information, contact your Naturopathic Doctor to find out how they can help you with your health care needs.
1. Spence, DW. et al. (2004). Acupuncture increases nocturnal melatonin secretion and reduces insomnia and anxiety: a preliminary report. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. Winter;16(1):19-28.
2. Nutrition and Healthy Eating. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/caffeine/AN01211. Copyright Oct. 1, 2011.
Are You Feeling Anxious or Worried?
10 Ways to Get rid of Worry!
1. Eat Real, Whole Food
- Eating like your grandparents used to eat instead of consuming highly processed foods that are low in nutrition value. This kind of eating provides essential nutrients for building neurotransmitters (eg. GABA) essential for calming the brain and body
2. Eat Breakfast
- Including protein (eggs, meat, fish, nuts/nut butters) helps keep blood sugar levels at a more steady level throughout the day, which can reduce feeling anxious and stressed
3. Eat 3 meals a day, with 2 healthy snacks
- Helps keep blood sugar levels even when you eat regularly to maintain levels before they drop. Healthy Snack Ideas: boiled egg, veggies and hummus, fruit with nut butter, leftovers (a drumstick or ¼ size portion) or nuts/seeds. Traveling, seeds and nuts are easy to pack and can make you feel more satisfied while helping maintain blood sugar levels and mood. Pumpkin seeds for example give you tryptophan and zinc, which both help with mood and anxiety.
4. Rethink Coffee
- This is especially important if coffee makes you more anxious and affects your sleep. Perhaps a nice herbal or non-caffeinated tea would be a better choice. Chamomile can be nice and calming, or Rooibos is rich in antioxidants.
5. Consider your Gluten Intake
- Some people find that gluten has an effect on their energy and mood. Why not try a little two-week experiment where you eliminate gluten, then add it back in and see if gluten has an impact on your mood.
6. Get outside and do some exercise!
- Exercise on its own can elevate serotonin levels, which is a key player in your mood (making you feel less sad or worried). Getting outside to exercise can really help compound the benefits as research is showing many beneficial effects on the brain and body in general by spending some time in nature.
7. Enjoy Yoga and/or Meditation Regularly
- yoga, tai chi and meditation/visualization can have a dramatic effect on GABA levels (calming neurotransmitter). More GABA can help you feel less overwhelmed.
8. Good vitamin boost!
- A good quality multivitamin, with B vitamins and essential amino acids (especially tryptophan or tyrosine) can help to alleviate stress and anxiety. Make sure you consult with your health care provider before adding or changing your current regimen.
9. Take some down time
- Taking some time for yourself to relax and recharge is very important for controlling stress and anxiety. Learn to say no when you need to and make taking care of yourself a priority.
10. Make and Keep a Schedule
- A lot of people fret and stress about the long list of ‘to dos’. Take some time to develop a schedule, either at the beginning or end of each day and be realistic about what can be accomplished in that day then focus on accomplishing one task at a time and be proud of your accomplishments for that day.
I am a Naturopathic Doctor and Doula providing care in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. I have a passion for helping people with their health issues and improving the birth experience for Moms, and their babies. I also have a life long love affair with soccer, curling, and the alto saxophone.