At the end of a long, busy day, you expect to be able to fall asleep, no problem. Yet when you crawl under the covers and turn out the light, what happens? You can’t sleep. Maybe you lie awake for a long time before falling asleep. Perhaps you can fall asleep initially, but you’re not able to stay asleep. Instead, you wake up on and off throughout a restless night, or you wake very early in the morning—even hours before the alarm is set to ring. You rise from bed to start the day feeling tired and unrefreshed. Unfortunately you are not alone, one of the many curses of modern day living is insomnia with studies showing that 10 % of people have long-term insomnia and 40% have occasional insomnia. Many complain of constant fatigue and elevated stress levels, both of which are linked to bad sleeping patterns. Often, costly pharmaceutical solutions are sought out, wreaking further havoc on already compromised immune systems.
Before going this route, we have put together a list of natural strategies for you to overcome restless nights. Some you might have heard of before others may be like finding gold, but we suggest you try all six together for a period of 3 months to get the best results:
Power down. Switch off all electronic devices well before bedtime. Electronic devices that emit blue light (e.g. tablets, cellphones, and notebooks) have been known to affect levels of the hormone melatonin in your body. Melatonin is primarily responsible for regulating sleep and wakefulness in animals. If you can’t commit to switching off entirely, at the very least stop browsing well before bedtime and pick up that paperback instead (Kindle’s don’t count).
Destress. Have a warm bath with a few drops of lavender essential oils, while listening to calming music. Follow it up with a warm cup of milk, which contains Tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can be converted into melatonin, a hormone that has a role in regulating our circadian rhythm. However, some studies challenge this and put it down to a psychological response, like a much-loved teddy rather than a physiological response. But if it works, go for it!
Exercise early. Even if it’s a short brisk walk, studies have shown that regular exercise in the morning has positive effects on sleep patterns - those who exercise more frequently had less trouble sleeping than those who did not exercise. Pilates is another common calming practice that assist in reducing stress, and will thereby make falling asleep easier.
Take your supplement. Calcium and magnesium supplements are both said to aid sleep. Calcium helps the brain manufacture melatonin, while magnesium deficiency is linked to chronic insomnia. A diet rich in leafy greens should provide the necessary quantities of these micronutrients, but supplements will go a long way to fill any voids in your diet.
Chew some valerian root. This treatment dates back to ancient Roman times, and valerian plant is thought to have mildly sedative properties. This natural supplement will be considerably less harsh than most synthetic meds, and will undoubtedly leave you feeling less hungover than sleeping pills.
Because there are a plethora of natural alternatives, it’s not always necessary to rush to your nearest pharmacist to treat a few sleepless nights. Despite this, it’s important to identify whether your sleep problems are, in fact, a sign of something more serious. If nothing seems to work and you’re left feeling exhausted, stressed and no more rested, it’s probably a good idea to consult your doctor.
Date Published: 08 August 2017