There are a range of cost free things can be done to reduce the damaging effects of what we call our modern-day-tipping point. Some of the points I will make come from a new magazine we now subscribe to, called New Zealand Journal of Natural Medicine.
We suggest that you try these tips before even trying additional supplements and herbs including valerian and St John’s Wort extracts.
In order to experience deep restorative sleep we need to have our melatonin serotonin cycles functioning well. Melatonin is the sleep hormone which is the signal that forms part of the system that regulates the sleep–wake cycle by chemically causing drowsiness and lowering the body temperature.
- · Establish an optimum circadian rhythm by Keeping to a regular routine daily. This will help more conducive to times of wakefulness and sleep. The body subsequently “gets used” to falling asleep at a certain time, but only if it is maintained daily. In nature the body adjusts to natural circadian levels governed by sunrise (onset of serotonin cycle with increased light levels) and sunset ( onset of melatonin the sleep hormone or hormone-of-darkness)Melatonin is made from an amino acid called tryptophan. When our surroundings are dark, the SCN tells the pineal gland to produce melatonin, which is thought to trigger sleep.
- Improve melatonin production by eliminating as much light as possible from bedroom which will prevent the production of melatonin the ‘sleep’ chemical in your brain. This also includes the screen from your computer. Try to limit computer work to before 8.00pm as that has a light source that may prevent melatonin from kicking in.·
- Improve melatonin levels by Taking in foods and Herbs rich in melatonin: cherries, bananas, grapes, pineapple, orange, and herbs like feverfew will stimulate melatonin. St John’s wort helps stabilise the serotonin melatonin balance.
- Relaxation before bed. such as yoga, deep breathing and others may help relieve anxiety and reduce muscle tension. The object of this is to place positive thoughts into the frontal cortex which is the conscious part of the brain and systematically reduce muscle tension.·
- Yawn at least 12 times consecutively several times a day and just before bed as this will disengage the limbic system (seat of emotion instinct fear etc) and help prevent negative thoughts from going over and over in your mind. Numerous chemicals are involved in yawning including dopamine, which activate oxytocin production in your hypothalamus and hippocampus. Other neuro-chemicals involved with yawning include nitric oxide, glutamate, GABA, serotonin, HCTH, MSH, sexual hormones, opium derivative peptides. Extensive research on this has been done world wide much of which can be found online under neuro-research.·
- Avoid napping during the day. This will alter the natural circadian cycle governed by day and night.·
- Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime. While alcohol has an immediate sleep-inducing effect, a few hours later as the alcohol levels in your blood start to fall, there is a stimulant or wake-up effect.
- Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime.This includes caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and many sodas, energy drinks as well as chocolate, as these are stimulants.·
- Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime. These can affect the endocrine system in particular when cortisol levels peak at around 4.00am. You may find that you will want to visit the toilet more frequently after sugary foods at night·
- Avoid protein rich foods close to bedtime as this will produce excess acetylcholine which is a neurotransmitter and plays a role in attention and arousal.Protein also competes with carbohydrates that help produce tryptophan.·
- Increase sleep-inducing tryptophan by taking a light snack before bed. Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, ( part of the melatonin/seratonin chemical pathway) may help you to sleep.·
- Don’t Exercise,within 4 hours of bed time . As this will act as a stimulant.Regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon helps deepen sleep.
- Don’t use the bedroom as an office, workroom or recreation room. Let your body “know” that the bed is associated with sleeping. Remove all electronic gadgets from your bedroom. That includes, laptops, TV’s mobile phones. There remains controversy over the electromagnetic field around electronic gadgets.·
- Avoid Play Station games or similar before bedtime This activates the limbic system which can result in negative compulsive thought cycles that are hard to switch off.THis also creates a neuro pathway that becomes more establsihed with time making the person more hyper alert.·
- Resist the temptation to look at the bedside clock during time of wakefulness. This just leads to anxiety about not sleeping.
Some Natural Supplements to Help you Sleep
- An epsom salts (magnesium bath will absorb magnesium transdermally and help relax muscles.
- Take a good magnesium supplement daily.
- A vitamin B complex taken in the mornings will help address the nervous system.
- Cherries—particularly the Montmorency variety of tart cherries—contain melatonin which contain about 13 ng/gm of melatonin, about 6 times more than the Balaton variety, which contain only about 2 ng/gm. A kilogram of cherries would contain 13,000 nanograms or 0.013 mg of melatonin. 2 recent clinical trials suggest cherry juice may be helpful in treating insomnia.
- Valeriana officinalis root is a natural sedative found to increase GABA which reduces anxiety. It has anti spasmodic properties thereby helping relax tense muscles. It also reduces nervousness by prolonging the action of an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
- Hypericum perforatum St John’s wort taken daily has a mild anti depresant effect but without the side effects you get from allopathic drugs and will help improve sleep patterns generally in particular when insomnia is longstanding.
- Chamomile tea or extract also has a sedating effect.
- Interesting fact In the latest New Zealand Journal of Natural Medicine mentioned that chamomile tea could be a more effective cancer inhibitor than chemotherapy and that chamomile taken along with parsley and celery are all rich in compounds that ‘remind’ cancer cells to die. The key component is apigenin which turns on a natural process called apoptosis or cell death. Cancer cells do not die and multiply unchecked.