by Lindsea Willon, MS, NTP
If you’ve been following our articles for the past couple of months, you understand the importance of sleep. And if you have trouble getting to sleep, you understand why melatonin isn’t your best option. This last installment in our sleep series is designed to help you understand why you may be having trouble with sleep and what to do about it.
Trouble Falling Asleep?
If you have trouble falling asleep, you may have an overactive nervous system or poor sleep hygiene. Those with an overactive nervous system are over thinkers and can’t quiet their bodies or minds or “shut down” at night. In this situation, the best solutions are to manage stress during the day, support the adrenals and introduce calming herbs and minerals before bed. See below for our favorite products.
Improving sleep hygiene involves adopting healthy habits. So, here’s a summary of our suggestions:
- Establish a routine for bed time by getting to bed at the same time every night.
- Establish a routine for meal times by finishing your meal at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.
- Work out in the morning.
- Get outside throughout the day in order to better establish a normal circadian rhythm.
- Shut down electronics a couple of hours before bedtime to avoid being overstimulated by its glaring blue light. Computer screens are designed to look like the sun, which is fine during the day but not conducive to sleepiness as the sun sets.
- Add f.lux to your computer, which will warm the screen lighting to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.
- Turn off your cell phone at bedtime.
- Eliminate electric clocks or devices near your bed.
- Create a dark, cool room in your bedroom.
- Sleep with a window crack for fresh air throughout the night.
- If you live in a crowded city, sleep with an air purifier in your room. Email us for our recommendation.
Also, consider the following calming herbs and minerals to be taken before bed. In most cases, as good sleep habits develop, you can wean off this type of support.
- Tilia Tomentosa
- Kava Forte
- Valerian Complex
Can’t Stay Asleep?
If you have trouble staying asleep, you may have blood sugar dysregulation or hormonal imbalance. Those with blood sugar issues have irregular energy during the day, afternoon drowsiness and tiredness after large or carbohydrate rich meals. If blood sugar is poorly managed during the day, there may be unsafe drops in blood sugar during the night that cause you to wake up or have restless sleep. Blood sugar dysregulation can be supported by eliminating processed carbohydrates and refined sugar and eating plenty of healthy fats.
In addition to healthy fats, adequate protein in the diet, beginning with breakfast, is a key player in getting a good night’s sleep. Tryptophan found in protein in converted to 5-HTP, which converts to serotonin. Serotonin then converts into melatonin. If you have symptoms of low serotonin, this may be what’s kept you from that restful sleep each night. Some of the symptoms include:
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Chronic pessimism
- Easily overwhelmed
- Unable to relax
- Obsessive and controlling
- Impatience, irritability, inflexible
- Prone to anger
Contributors to low serotonin are:
- Stimulants like caffeine
- Asparatame, such as NutraSweet
- A high carb, low protein diet
- Skipping meals regularly
- Chronic stress
- Inadequate sunlight
- Lack of regular exercise
Hormonal imbalance includes the imbalance of insulin and cortisol caused by blood sugar dysregulation, but it also includes female hormone imbalance. Those with female hormone imbalances have irregular menstrual cycles, painful periods and mood swings. It is important to support detoxification of estrogen with castor oil packs (anytime of day although some people find them very relaxing at bedtime) and coffee enemas (done in the morning), promote progesterone production with unrefined properly prepared complex carbohydrates at dinner and encourage overall balance with strategic herbal support. Here’s some additional suggestions:
- Eat three regular meals starting with breakfast within an hour of rising. Lunch should follow at 4-5 hours later and dinner 5 hours after lunch. Include a high quality protein at breakfast. Remember, breakfast sets your metabolism. Skipping breakfast (and lunch) every day is a sure way to slow down your metabolism and decrease your production of serotonin.
- Eat meals in a relaxed environment.
- Ensure that you are consuming adequate tryptophan-containing protein daily.
- Avoid over-committing. Create plenty of margin in your day.
- Get outside throughout the day.
Also, consider testing your sex and adrenal hormones for a clearer picture of underlying concerns. Email us to learn about options.
And lastly, if you are If you’re a night owl, let us help you balance your hormone and serotonin levels to encourage a more natural circadian rhythm for restful sleep. In addition to the above recommendations, supplemental support may be able to get you back on track more quickly. Don’t go another night with disrupted sleep. Reach out to us today to talk to your nutritionist to see if any of these supplemental supports are appropriate for you.
- Protefood (a food-based amino acid complex containing the 8 essential amino acids)
- St. John’s Wort
- Cataplex B
- Essential fatty acids
- Ribes Nigrum
- Chaste Tree
If you are new to Biodynamic Wellness, please give us a call at 858.259.6000 to set up a complimentary 10-minute consult with Lindsea to discuss options appropriate for your sleep challenges.