Sleep is one of the most valuable tools we have to be able to experience the highest level of energy, productivity, and creativity so that we can make the greatest contributions to the world around us. We need to protect our sleep and treat this time of the day as sacred. In my practice I see many patients who sacrifice sleep to get things done. These are ambitious, successful women who feel sleep is a waste of time. But these same women are also experiencing hormonal imbalances, difficulty losing weight, and mood issues. As a naturopathic doctor, it is my job to put the pieces of a patient’s health together so root cause can be identified and treated. Without a doubt, if sleep is not optimal, hormones, gut, and metabolic balance are going to be disrupted. The best way to bring balance to the body is restoring a healthy sleep pattern. If you don’t already prioritize sleep, now is the time.
Lack of sleep is associated with:
- Decreased memory since the brain consolidates memories during sleep.
- Increased irritability
- Increased anxiety
- Increased depression
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Decreased ability to make decisions and problem solve.
- Decreased ability to multitask
- Decreased resilience
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Decreased creativity
- Increased risk of insulin resistance
- Increased hunger
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes.
- Decreased immune system
- Lower life expectancy
Here are some ways to achieve a better night’s sleep:
Get on a regular schedule:
Parents know that babies need to be on a regular schedule to sleep best at night. Adults are the same way – we need the same rhythm and routine to ensure the best night rest. Going to bed and waking at the same time each day creates a rhythm to our bodies which promote healthy sleep.
Keep bedroom for sleep and sex:
I think most people know this already but a majority of my patients are still using their phone in bed. Keep your phone, ipad, computer, and television out of the bedroom. Studies show that artificial light can disrupt brain activity and alter sleep hormones, like melatonin.
Turn off electronics by 9PM:
Natural sunlight (either from the sun or a light box) triggers your brain to shut of melatonin production so that it will be ready to be produced in the evening. You can also try blue light glasses in the evening which helps your brain rest for sleep and increases the body’s production of melatonin in the evening.
Create a ritual that divides day and night:
A ritual that separates day and night helps clear your mind and gets your body ready for sleep. This can include: journaling; writing the next day’s to-do-list, so worrying thoughts don’t keep you up at night; dimming the lights; making chamomile tea; taking an Epson salt bath; evening meditation; or stretching.
Use relaxation practices:
This should be included in your evening ritual and may include meditation, deep breathing, or guided imagery. You can also set up an aromatherapy diffuser with calming essential oils such as lavender, ylang ylang, or chamomile.
Take an herbal or nutrient support:
Magnesium is a cofactor in hundreds of reactions in the body and most people are deficient in this very important mineral. I love Magnesium to help calm the body and mind for sleep. Taking 100-200mg of Magnesium can help promote sleep. I like Passionflower as a a safe herb to help with sleep (generally 300-600mg). Certain amino acids like GABA (250-550mg) and L-Theanine (200mg) can also help calm the active mind before bed and promote a restful sleep.
By not prioritizing sleep, we risk harming the very tool we need to make the highest contribution to the world, ourselves. If you do struggle with sleep, make an effort to implement the above steps – if you need support in doing this, or if you are already doing this and need additional support, please schedule with one of our practitioners who will take an individualized approach in understanding and addressing your sleep.
Dr. Maggie Ney is our licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor and co-director of the Women’s Clinic at Akasha. You can schedule an appointment with her by calling 310-451-8880 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.