| Erin Stokes | June 16, 2016 |
We all know that there is nothing quite as good as getting a good night’s sleep, yet millions of people aren’t able to enjoy the benefits of sleeping soundly.
A century ago, Americans were getting 9-10 hours of sleep per night, as opposed to our current average of just 6.8 hours (according to a recent Gallup poll in 2013)1. In fact, almost 60 million Americans have insomnia, which can include both difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. 60 million folks… that translates to 1 in 5 people.
This is a situation that deserves our attention! The good news is, there are a number of healthy habits one can develop to promote sound sleep. Here are three areas to focus on, with tips included for each focal point.
Good Sleep begins in the Kitchen.
That’s right, the kitchen! Your nutrition during the day can make a difference in how you sleep at night. Here are some considerations:
Protein! It’s important to include protein throughout the day at each meal to keep blood sugar levels balanced - particularly at dinnertime. As you look at the meal, ask yourself, “Where is my protein?” At the same time, note that heavy and rich meals late in the evening can negatively impact sleep.
No caffeine after 3pm. This goes beyond just coffee or tea. For some people, even chocolate in the afternoon can keep them up at night!
Pass on that next glass. People may initially fall asleep more quickly, but REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is decreased with alcohol intake. REM sleep is the stage of sleep when people dream. This is the restorative type of sleep that we all need to feel well rested.
Good “Sleep Hygiene” is a key to the Zzz’s!
These are simple, yet profound, lifestyle changes to help you sleep better:
Stick to a routine. Translation? Establish a set bedtime, and stick to it every night.
Set the mood. The temperature should be cool. The room should be dark, and free of glowing (and distracting) electronic devices.
Wind Down. Consider a warm shower or bath on nights you’re feeling wound up. Try a few drops of essential oils in the bath- lavender is a good choice for many people.
Stretch out. Take a few minutes to do some light stretching (not strenuous exercise) just before retiring.
Timing is everything. Ideally, you want to be hitting the pillow by 10pm to support adrenal gland health and optimal cortisol levels. There’s a traditional Chinese saying that comes to mind: “An hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight.”
Botanical Sleep Support: Herbs that Help
Once you’ve worked on mastering nutrition and lifestyle tips, you may be looking for a little botanical support for optimal sleep. Here are some of my favorites:
Valerian.This well-known plant has a long history of use that dates back to ancient Greece and Rome, where it was taken to help with both sleep and general nervousness.* The part of the plant that is generally utilized is the root. When Valerian is taken at night, it is used to promote a deep and restful sleep.*
Ashwaganda. Ashwaganda’s role in sleep is indicated in its botanical name, Withania somnifera. Ashwaganda is an ancient Indian herb that helps release tension.* This plant is also an adaptogen, meaning that it helps support relaxation.*
California poppy. This is a beautiful plant with a bright orange flower that can be found in many people’s gardens. California poppy promotes a deep and restful sleep, and helps with those who may be uncomfortable at night.*
Vervain. This a unique herb that is not typically found in most sleep support supplements, but has been used historically in several different countries. Vervain is a calming herb.*
Dream Release: The Catch-All. Formulated to help promote a sense of relaxation and restorative sleep*, MegaFood’s Dream Release contains all of the above botanicals, as well as magnesium, making it my go-to formula to relax and renew!
Restful sleep contributes to a positive mood, improves memory and even helps support healthy inflammation levels. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrated that sleep deprivation resulted in elevated high-sensitivity CRP.
A good night’s sleep allow you to recover physically, mentally and emotionally, and restores you for the next day. I hope these nutrition, lifestyle and botanical suggestions move you a few steps closer to achieving optimal sleep on a regular basis!
* This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.