I know I am focusing a little too much on sleep but I keep hearing stories of caffeine fuelled gym sessions and teenagers on their phone until 5am and its all giving me the nervous sweats. Not to mention the overuse of energy drinks with high levels of caffeine requiring warnings (and if I hear one more “But it doesn’t have sugar in it” I may just scream).
So lets emphasis sleep once more in terms of decreasing stress and increasing resilience.
We know lack of sleep depletes your immune system and sleeping when you are unwell helps your immune system. But did you know even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. It limits your ability to learn, listen and concentrate. It can make you aggressive and impatient. It is linked to rebellious behaviour, depressive symptoms and anxiety. It is also linked to obesity and poor eating causing you to over eat particularly sweet and fatty foods. Finally it makes you more prone to pimples and who wants those.
Sleeping problems are not just a case of bad habits. You can find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle where lack of sleep makes your more anxious and agitated and this in turn increases your stress levels which them impacts your immune response via another direction. The more stressed you become the more your sleep-wake cycle is impacted and the more difficult you will find it to sleep at the right times and this makes you more stressed.
As Naturopaths we try and look at why you are not sleeping and break this cycle. For many people adaptogen herbs are used as tonics to help balance the stress response (and some may work on your immune system too). Magnesium is a great supplement (right dose and right form for best bioavailability). It works as both a muscle relaxant but in times of stress and pandemics has a role in your immune response by decreasing chemicals involved in the inflammation process of disease. There are also our sedative and hypnotic herbs which help relax the mind and body such as chamomile and passionflower.
There are also the good practices to help us both fall asleep and stay asleep such as:
A regular sleep and wake time
Minimise food intake one hour before bead. Your body wants to sleep not digest.
Make your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
No blue light devices half an hour before bed or in your room - that is everything with a screen.
No caffeine 8 hours before bed time (even if it doesn’t contain sugar…sigh)
Reduce light at night to produce melatonin. The thought is 100 lux for two hours before bed is ideal and you can get light meter apps on your phone to measure how bright the light is. It is worth checking these out as the results may surprise you.
In the morning, make sure you throw open the curtains and look outside. Just as low light triggers melatonin and sleep, daylight directly on the eyes fires up your “get up and go” hormones and gets your ready for the day.
Sleep improves our resilience. In times such as now it is an essential component for our well-being. If your sleep is not working well, try these tips and please don’t hesitate to contact me for a quick and confidential chat about what might help you to improve your sleep.