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An Owl or Lark?

Do you ever go through phases when you just can't get enough? Maybe you toss and turn for hours or maybe you fall asleep the minute your head hits the pillow only to wake up during the night? With National Sleep Week just around the corner I was inspired to post a sleep blog.

I've been seeing a run of sleeping issues in clinic and also went through a rough patch myself lately. I had been a 'terrible sleeper ' through my teens and twenties and thought sleeping difficulties were a thing of the past until recently.

I was reminded of how frustrating and tiresome insomnia can be and am so glad that a dose of my own medicine has me sleeping like a log again.

Sleep Hygiene

No, this is not about showering before bed, but refers to actions and behaviours undertaken as bedtime approaches, in order to encourage quality sleep. You might not need to adopt all the following practices, sometimes a little tweak here and there is all it takes.

Good sleeping patterns are an important contributor to good health- A minimum of 7hrs sleep in each 24hr cycle is associated with better health over the lifespan.

Sleep Hygiene 101

  • Dim the lights- dark time before bed helps you produce melatonin- going for a walk as the sun sets provides information to your brain that night is approaching.

  • Limit stimulating activities and screen use just before bed.

  • Consider the bedroom environment- lighting, TV, temperature, bed & bedding.

  • Go to bed when sleepy, get up when not sleepy, get up at the same time each day.

  • Sleep restriction; this means that if you sleep 6hrs on average restrict your time in bed to 7 hours.

  • Aromatherapy- baths and lotions for relaxation- lavender is tried and tested, but there are lots of other essential oils suitable.

  • Create a SLEEP DEFICIT- avoid daytime napping.

  • Relaxation, meditation and guided imagery (a bit like counting sheep) can all help.

'...some of us are larks and some of us owls, regardless, 7hrs sleep in each 24hr cycle is associated with better health...'

Lifestyle essentials

Regular exercise- just avoid excessive body core temperature at bedtime.

Assess caffeine intake- can still be in blood 10hrs after consumption.

Reduce nightly alcohol intake- blocks production of melatonin.

Low GI dinners and deserts- if you're a bit 'prediabetic' or diabetic low blood sugar can interrupt sleep.

Hormones and sleep- What could possibly go wrong?

Menopause- The time leading up to menopause is a time of hormonal fluctuation and often plays havoc with sleep. So yes, sleepy herbs and nutrients can be useful but we also need to support a woman's transition and adjustment to the new 'normal' hormone balance.

Stress- both short and long term stress can disrupt our circadian rhythm. Cortisol-a stress hormone- plays a role in regulating sleep by declining as days end approaches. When we are stressed this can change how and when cortisol levels go up and down- if you are tired most of the day and pick up in the evening this suggests a disrupted cortisol pattern- and is often caused by stress.

'...if you are tired most of the day and pick up in the evening this suggests a disrupted cortisol pattern...'

My top 6 sleep strategies

  • Assess nutritional status- did you know that zinc is needed for melatonin production? Calcium & magnesium help our nervous sytem relax.

  • Sort out stress- stress always comes and goes- look at how to do it differently!

  • 5-HTP - a precursor of Melatonin.

  • Herbal medicine- Lavender, Zizyphus, Withania, St John's Wort and Mexican Valerian are some of my favourites.

  • Caffeine and alcohol - have a good look at how much and when you are consuming, so often adjusting just these two variables can have profound effect on sleep.

Essential oil baths - I like lavender- with 1/2C Epsom salts.

Not getting enough? Talk to us to find out how you can improve your sleep, your energy and your total well being.


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