September Wellness - Sleep & Insomnia
This week's September Wellness blog post is focusing on SLEEP.
With higher demands upon us all with families, work, school and more, sleep routines are affected.
Perhaps you are also dealing with anxiety, burnout, an illness or injury that is affecting your sleep as well.
Gone are the days that we sleep like babies - although when this does happen it's a reason to celebrate.
Sleep is just as important for our bodies as food, water and air. Without it, hormonal imbalances and weight gain can occur along with lowered immunity and risk of other health disorders.
Let's start with sleep hygiene basics, because the basics set our foundation.
Sleep Hygiene Recommendations:
Go to bed only when sleepy
Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time
Use bedroom only for sleep & sex
Avoid daytime naps
Block out sounds with earplugs or white noise
Remove all light from the bedroom (wear a mask if necessary)
Avoid stimulants (caffeine, ginsengs, spicy food, chocolate) and sugary foods right before bed
Exercise during the day but not 3 hours before going to sleep
While there are many natural remedies that are supposed to help with sleep, I'll take the time to go over a few researched naturopathic treatments around the topic.
1) Lavender aromatherapy
A study of 42 female college students using lavender for insomnia and depression found that the length of time to fall asleep, insomnia severity and self satisfaction with sleep were improved. (1). Other research shows that lavender aromatherapy is likely more effective in mild insomnia, instead of severe (which may need other treatments).
2) Valerian, Hops & Passionflower
Many herbal medicines contain sedative, relaxing properties which are similar to conventional medications such as benzodiazepines that are used for sleep. This makes them helpful if the reason for insomnia is anxiety, stress or low mood.
Both Valeriana officinalis (Valerian) and Humulus lupulus (Hops) were found to help with some sleep parameters (sleep latency and quality of sleep). A combination of both valerian and hops was found to be the most effective in several of the studies.
Passiflora incarnata (Passionflower), another botanical, has been studied for its anxiolytic properties (anti-anxiety abilities). It is likely able to do this by binding to the GABA receptors in the brain.
More research on herbal medicines for sleep is required.
A study of aircrew found that those using 2mg of Melatonin/day had less difficulty falling asleep, fewer night-time awakenings and better sleep quality. Melatonin was found to be equivalent in its abilities to zopiclone (a conventional medical treatment for insomnia). When we are thinking about insomnia, melatonin is more commonly used to reset circardian rhythms (ex. in shift workers) or to reset a sleep pattern that has been off for some time (ex. chronic insomnia).
Acupuncture has been shown to promote relaxation and reduce stress. Acupuncture in a group of elderly individuals with poor sleep had increased Brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF), improved sleep quality, reduced depression and stress after 10 acupuncture sessions.
Traditional chinese medicine theory uses specific acupuncture points such as Anmain, HT7, KD3 and SP6 that can be helpful for sleep disorders.
I use acupuncture in many of my clinic cases, simply because it is so useful at both physically and mentally relaxing the body, and increasing its resilience to stress.
If you weren't able to read my last post on Stress Management in September, read it here.
Also, if you want some sleep TLC this month I'd love to help you out. Book a consult or 15 Minute Free Discovery Call by clicking here as well.