Why is sleep so important?
Sleep is the vital act of restoration and strengthening in the body. Sleeplessness has been linked to chronic illness such as dementia, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer. A good night’s sleep supports the immune system, prevents weight gain, improves memory, increases concentration, reduces stress and improves libido.
What can I do to improve my sleep quality?
Sleep quality and quantity can be improved and supported through a combination of herbal, dietary and lifestyle recommendations.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Passionflower helps to relieve insomnia by increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. This reduces brain over-activity and allows for relaxation, promoting a deeper sleep.
California poppy (Eschscholtzia californica)
California poppy exhibits sedative properties which may reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep at night via its interaction with several neurotransmitters as a nootropic.
Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)
Ashwaganda reduces stress hormones such as cortisol, positively affects receptors responsible for GABA uptake, reducing neuronal excitability and stabilizes blood sugar levels, all in which are linked to sleep disturbances.
Protein eaten in combination with essential fatty acids (avocado, olive oil, flaxseeds), enables sufficient relaxation which allows for improved sleep quality.
Avoid stimulants after 4pm
Stimulants such as chocolate, caffeine, refined sugar and refined carbohydrates can over-stimulate the neurological pathways in the body, reducing the ability to relax and prepare your body for sleep.
Introduce tryptophan-rich foods
Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin (a sleep enhancing amino-acid). Increasing tryptophan-rich foods such as walnuts, almonds, tuna, rice, honey, hummus, eggs, spirulina and bananas into your daily diet may improve sleep quality and quantity.
Address any food allergies or intolerances
In the case of a food allergy or intolerance, an adrenaline reaction may occur in the body, which can interfere with sleep initiation.
Studies show a cleaner bedroom can help with your quality of sleep. This includes less clutter, a made bed, clean floor, allergen-free air, a clean and relaxing scent, and a comfortable mattress, sheets and pillows.
Reduce screen time
Screen time (iPhone, laptop, TV) can over-stimulate the brain, especially before bed, which interferes with the serotonin and melatonin pathways. Introduce no screen time 1-2 hours before bed.
Meditation and breathing techniques have been shown to relax the nervous system by shifting the stress response. Mindfulness involves focusing on the breath and bringing your attention to the present, letting your concerns of the past or future drift in and out until you are no longer actively thinking.
Written By: Emma Brooker
Naturopathy combines traditional herbal medicine with nutrition to help you heal and thrive.