Studies have shown that poor sleep is related to fibromyalgia, heart disease, breast cancer, digestive disorders, and depression. A study at the National Institutes of Health showed that many people with depression can alleviate their symptoms simply by shifting there sleeping times to a period that is supported by the diurnal rhythm. More recently, studies have shown that overweight people often lose weight when they get more sleep. I find that patients with back or neck pain heal much faster when they are getting deep, restful sleep.
The following practices will assure that you get a good nights rest—this is the foundation of the following day!
- Try to get to sleep before 10:00pm. From 10:00pm-2:00am the metabolic environment in your body supports cleansing and digestion. If you are asleep at this time your body can break down and eliminate wastes from the day and assimilate nutrients. If you are awake at this time your digestion becomes active and you will crave a midnight snack—a habit that will disturb your bodies natural rhythm.
- In the 30-minute period before bed avoid television, computer work, and reading.
- Sometime after dinner and before bed engage in some gentle physical activity such as a walk or a period of stretching or yoga.
- Use your bed only for sleeping and sex. Do not read in bed or work on your laptop. Setting up an environment that supports sleep and rest will help you to fall asleep more easily.
- Dinner should be a relatively light meal, preferably eaten before 6:00pm. Your largest meal of the day should be your lunch.
- Lastly, spend at least 10 minutes before bed practicing some form of stress reduction. Examples include meditation, prayer, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation. Find something that works well for you and make it a regular part of your bedtime routine.
Herbs and Aminos that can be Helpful:
5-HTP: This amino acid byproduct is converted to serotonin, and then melatonin in your brain. These molecules induce good mood and relaxation. Take 50-150mg, away from meals with something sweet like orange juice (the sugar in the juice causes you to release insulin, which is necessary to carry 5-HTP into your brain).
Melatonin: This is a natural hormone that regulates your “biological clock”. Take 1mg with your 5-HTP about 1 hour before bed.
Chamomile Tea: This is a gentle, relaxing tea that can be taken 45 minutes before sleep.
Valerian Root: as a capsule or a tea—take 1-2 grams 45 minutes before sleep. (Look into combination teas that contain chamomile, valerian, hops, passion flower, and/or lemon balm—there are a number of such teas available.)
Bramhi (Bacopa) this is a very relaxing herb that can be taken as a tea (let 1 tsp of powder steep in 1 cup of hot water for 5 minutes) or as a powder (1/4 teaspoon). Take this 45 minutes before bed—you may have to take it for a month to get the maximum effect. This can be ordered from my office.
Kava Kava: This is especially helpful if you find it difficult to sleep due to anxiety or stress. Use a Kava extract that supplies 200-250 mg of kava-lactones per day in 2 or 3 divided doses. This herb should only be used for about a 3-month period, then discontinue use for one month before using again (Kava kava should not be taken in conjunction with antidepressants or anxiolytic drugs).
Lavender Essential Oil: Put several drops of this in a warm bath and soak for 10-15 minutes before bed.
The end of a good night’s sleep is a well-spent morning. You will find that if you practice the concepts outlined above you will wake up refreshed and rejuvenated. Upon waking drink some warm water with a squeeze of lemon in it. This gently helps you to wake up, stimulates your digestion, and has a dissolving effect on build up in the body. In hot weather it is good to add a pinch of sea salt to this. Do some gentle exercises and/or stretching and again spend at least 10 minutes practicing your favorite stress reduction technique as outlined above. You are now ready for the new day!