Sleep disturbance and insomnia are becoming more prevalent in our society and we are seeing an increasing number of patients in clinic suffering from sleep disorders. During the sleep phase, the body is subject to significant restorative activity which nurtures the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, the digestive system and the respiratory system.
If individuals are not getting enough sleep or if they are not entering all the different phases of sleep including the different stages of REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement), they will not be getting the therapeutic benefits that restorative sleep brings to those body systems.
Sleep disorders may relate to one of the following conditions:
- Sleep onset insomnia (difficulty falling asleep at night)
- Sleep maintenance insomnia (waking during the night or continuous awakening early in the morning)
- Non-restorative sleep (adequate quantity of sleep but poor quality of sleep)
Ongoing sleep disturbance can impact our lives in many ways:-
- Stress, irritability and nervous tension / anxiety
- Poor memory and impaired cognitive function
- Low mood and depression
- Gut dysbiosis
- Immune dysfunction
- Weight gain or loss
- Hormonal imbalance
- Headaches and migraine
- Muscular aches and pains
Chronic sleep disorders can be caused by numerous factors so it is important to find out what is causing the sleep disturbance and treat the condition with a holistic approach.
Insomnia can present as a symptom of an underlying issue that won’t resolve until the underlying issue is addressed. In the interim though, here are some tips to help you sleep a little easier and a little more soundly:
1) Keep a regular sleep pattern – go to bed at the same time each night and wake around
the same time each morning. This can be difficult for some whose routine involves shift work or new parents but keeping a regular pattern can help with sleep issues. Napping can also cause sleep disturbance so unless you can no longer keep your eyes open, try skipping that afternoon nap.
2) Avoid screen time for at least 30-60 minutes prior to bed time. All screens including phones, laptops, iPads, television and other electronic devices are stimulating to the brain and can switch our brain over from winding down to gearing up.
3) Ensure you are getting enough protein and essential fatty acids in your diet as these nutrients promote restful sleep by regulating hormones such as serotonin and melatonin and support the nervous system.
4) Avoid stimulating food and drinks including caffeine, alcohol and sugar. These stimulants are known to wreak havoc with sleep and reduce the quality of sleep. Recreational drugs can also cause disturbance to the natural sleep pattern and reduce the quality of sleep.
5) Drink calming, sedating herbal teas in the evening such as chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm or lavender. These teas contain sedative properties that help induce sleep and improve the quality of sleep.
6) Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the occurrence of insomnia and promote restorative sleep. It is important, however, not to exercise too close to bed time as this can be stimulating to the body and impair the sleep onset stage.
7) Winding down before bed time by having a warm bath, turning down the lights and turning off electronic devices or doing some relaxation exercises or meditation can help to calm the nervous system, relax the body and induce sound sleep.
8) Ensure your bed and bedroom are set at a suitable temperature. Overheating or being too cool during the night will cause disruption to sleep. Try to find and maintain a comfortable temperature to facilitate restful sleep.
If you are experiencing sleep disturbance and would like to resolve the problem, consider natural medicine which takes a holistic approach to treatment and may include herbal medicine formulas, nutritional medicine and/or supplementation and dietary recommendations, lifestyle modifications and other natural therapies. Belle is a Naturopath at Northern Beaches Integrative Practitioners and can help you to sleep soundly again.
To book a consultation with Belle please phone 8406 0679 or book online at http://www.nbip.com.au