How to enjoy great sleep, naturally
I only appreciated the full value of sleep after my son was born and we experienced regular interrupted nights. After a few weeks my mind started playing tricks and my wife would often find items in our food cupboards which were obviously not supposed to be there!
It took us several months to resolve my son’s regular wake up calls - we mixed bananas with his formula which sustained nutrition beyond 2 hours. By that time, I felt I was functioning at 30% of my usual capacity. However, I then found it difficult to restore my sleep pattern back to the pre-parenthood 7-8 hours. My body and its sleep hormones had adapted to the new regime.
Sleep research demonstrates how long term sleep problems impact health. The health impact data for sleep problems is a wake up call in itself! Long term effects include a decline in cognitive function, increase in mental health problems, chronic fatigue, and lack of concentration / irritability.
Every person is unique. However, the National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise that healthy adults should sleep, on average, between seven and nine hours a night.
How to reset the sleep pattern with natural solutions.
Sleep disturbances can be caused mainly by lifestyle, environmental and health factors.
Understanding and treating the primary cause, should usually resolve the issue and improve the quality of sleep.
I concluded from this experience, that I should never underestimate the power of food or drink to affect my health including sleep. To reset my system, I cut out all products containing caffeine and sugar for 2 weeks and then reintroduced them carefully avoiding caffeine in the afternoon or evenings. I love a glass of red wine in the evenings but I noticed even one glass affected the quality of my sleep making me wake up during the night so I reduced my week day alcohol intake too.
I’m not a smoker but the data shows that nicotine is a brain stimulant so, while it is advisable to quit smoking altogether, it is important to avoid smoking just before bedtime.
Daily exercise is fundamental for physical and psychological health; however, exercising just before bedtime will increase the body’s adrenaline production and raise body temperature, making it more difficult to switch off. So, exercise earlier in the day and try to avoid more intense exercise 2 hours before bedtime if possible.
The influence of daylight on the body’s sleep hormone melatonin is well documented. Exercising in daylight helps to restore melatonin levels in the evening. However, a glance at a mobile phone or laptop screen at night will quickly reduce the levels of this sleep hormone. Even opening a fridge door at night can have a negative effect.
Problems such as headaches, migraines or chronic pain will stop you from getting a good night sleep. Speak to your GP or Pharmacist about the appropriate medication or natural remedy to treat the relevant symptoms in order to resolve the issue.
Stress and mental health problems like anxiety and depression contribute to a high percentage of sleep difficulties. In this case, a combined approach of psychological support, lifestyle changes and use of medication/natural remedies, tailored to the severity of symptoms, is often very helpful and can restore emotional balance and promote restful sleep. Also, relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness can help you to relax and unwind.
Furthermore, sleep difficulties can be related to hormone imbalances; fluctuations in the levels of testosterone, thyroxin, cortisol, progesterone and melatonin (sleep hormone) can all disturb your sleep pattern.
The production of melatonin naturally increases especially with evening darkness and it is a central part of the body’s sleep-wake cycle. The levels of melatonin are very important to induce and maintain sleep. Synthetic melatonin can be taken for the relief from short term sleep disturbances and can help adjust the body's internal clock. Consult your GP before starting melatonin therapy which is available on NHS prescription.
The bedroom should be somewhere that we associate with sleep. It is better to remove distractions from your bedroom and watch TV, play computer games and eat in another room. This will allow you to relax and unwind.
Also the ‘blue light’ generated by computers, phones and tablets displays suppresses the production of melatonin, hence causing sleep disruption. It is recommended not using these devices at least two hours before you go to sleep in order to reduce the impact on the quality of your night rest.
Other common factors that can affect sleep are light, temperature and noise. You should be able to control the intensity of light and noise in the room by using blackout curtains/ eye mask and ear plugs respectively. The temperature of the room is also very important; feeling too cold or hot can disrupt your sleep so always make sure you work out the best sleep environment for you. Keeping a sleep diary can be useful to record the conditions that helped you get a good night sleep.
How can Nature help?
At the Naked Pharmacy we believe in a holistic approach to health.
While addressing the root cause of sleep difficulties should be the first point of action, the use of natural remedies can support the process leading to a better quality and quantity of sleep.
Saffrosun with Marine Minerals
Saffrosun with Marine Minerals helps to reduce tiredness, fatigue, improve sleep and maintain emotional balance. Saffron has been shown to have neuro-protective effects. It balances the production of serotonin (happy hormone) in the gut which constantly signals to the brain, via the vagus nerve, your state of well-being.
At The Naked Pharmacy, we ensure that all of our supplements are made with effective strength bioactives and are scientifically supported by clinical trials. You can read more about our research here.
Pure Marine Magnesium is a natural remedy which helps to support optimum nerve and muscle function, while promoting relaxation. It is sourced from sea algae and is one of the seven essential minerals we need for our bodies to function healthily. Magnesium helps relax muscles and induce sleep.
You can read more about clinical trials on the effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia here.
The medicinal herb Avena Sativa has been shown to promote restful sleep and relaxation. This plant contains natural compounds which are both sedative and soothing to the brain and nervous system; hence it is very helpful in resolving sleep disturbances.
Other medicinal plants that can improve sleep quality are: Valerian root, Lavender, Chamomile and Passiflora.
Valerian root and Passiflora are among the most commonly used herbal ingredients to induce sleep. Several studies have shown their efficacy in improving sleep quality. You can read more about the research here and here.
It is recommended to consult your Pharmacist or GP before taking any new supplement to make sure it is suitable for you.
After the birth of my son I realised why sleep is a vital component of overall health and well-being to help my body repair and re-set, ready for a new day. Taking a step by step approach to treat my sleep disturbance eventually resolved the issue. Eventually, I realised that my pre-bed routines and environment had a significant influence on the quality of my sleep. Small, incremental changes made a big difference.
Natural remedies proved effective for me and still form part of my approach, whenever I am troubled with poor sleep. At The Naked Pharmacy, we are always very happy when we help solve customer sleep problems because we know how much this will improve overall health and happiness.