Let’s Start with Food
A few basics may be useful. It is understood that high levels of fatty foods can disturb sleep patterns, just as ‘carby and sweet’ prevalent diets will do. So white bread, noodles, pasta, sugary drinks, sweets, all will pave the way for poor quality sleep. Turning to greater intake of fruit, veg, whole grains for carbs, and good fats like olive oil will be important. But also consider taking fatty acids (omega 3) as a supplement because studies have proved sleep duration and quality was increased as well as improving serotonin levels ‘the happy hormone’. Foods rich in omega 3 are chia seeds (a great carby-like food) also hemp seed oil, walnuts etc.
Studies have shown that low carb diets overall increase deep sleep, ‘slow wave’ sleeps which reduces dreaming and rapid eye movement type sleep which is less restorative.
There are specific foods of course that encourage better sleep, and these are often those rich in B vitamins and anti-inflammatory compounds, but the list is long.
A Glass of Milk or Green Tea
When I was a child hot milk was a ‘go to’ for any sleep problems. Nowadays there may be more wisdom in a cup of green tea as the amino acid ‘Theanine’ helps brain neurotransmitters and neurons function better. It produces a calmer outcome and generally helps relaxation, sleepiness, stress reduction etc. But it’s important for the green tea to immerse for no longer than half a minute. Longer and tannins (useless for sleep) will be extracted (or take 200mg theanine before bed).
Don’t Forget Superfood Plus
Our Dr Schulze Superfood Plus contains a lot of the foods that calm, it is rich in anti-inflammatory botanical compounds and is also rich in B vitamins which feed, rests and soothes the nervous system. (This will also help daytime fatigue and of course, if you’re more awake during the day you will sleep better at night) we mostly suggest Superfood Plus as a breakfast or morning ‘food’ so you could take half your daily quota then and half at night (1 hour before bed). It’s worth a try. Or simply take extra in the evening?
Zinc the Immune and Sleep Mineral
We’ve all been taking it during covid for immunity so it’s good and important to know that it’s actually a mineral that improves the quality and duration of sleep.
And Magnesium Too
This one is hard because we don’t ‘keep’ magnesium we, therefore, need new amounts each and every day, so if it’s not abundant in our daily foods then we should supplement with this [food state sources as supplements try ‘Wild Nutrition’ in Sussex]. Magnesium helps relax us in general, soothing tight muscles etc and importantly it will reduce the production of the stress hormones and cortisol. All in all it helps the quality and duration of sleep.
Sleep Cortisol Levels
I’ve just mentioned that magnesium will help regulate this but so will the adaptogenic herb Siberian Ginseng [Eleutherococcus senticosus]. Not only will it reduce unwanted cortisol spikes at night, but it can also reduce night (and daytime) sugar cravings. The night will go better, whilst getting up and feeling good will follow. Siberian Ginseng balances the adrenal glands in general terms and will also help protect and repair nerve components as well as reducing inflammation. Our Siberian Ginseng blend ‘EnergiRevive Powder’ is a good morning booster but it will also help sleep so it’s worth trying this as well as in the evening.
[Adaptogens work with circadian rhythms to deliver what is appropriate and when].
There are many valerian, passionflower, skullcap, chamomile, vervain and many many more. I often talk about lavender and all the studies done on the plant for sleep, anxiety, ADD, depression, the list is endless. Lavender or chamomile make a lovely night-time choice in the hours before bed. You can also pop a drop or two of lavender essential oil in a glass of water alternatively, as the essential oil has some of the main sleep-inducing components.
Of the other herbs, you may be familiar with me talking about our ‘Chamomile and Vervain’ Formula where all the calming herbs are packed in this time-old formulation. We’ve also got the classic and traditional combination of ‘Valerian and Passionflower’. It’s very good for many, won’t help some and for 3% of people, the valerian can kick back, keeping them awake instead. For this reason, I always suggest a sample and first try it when not desperate for sleep. All in all I favour the Chamomile and Vervain formula which plods away at repairing, re-connecting, shutting down, waking up and generally re-balancing the nervous system in a quick yet gradual way.
Griffonia and St John’s Wort
Some of you may know Griffonia simplicifolia herb as 5HTP, it’s a great herb rich in Tryptophan. It especially helps those people who genetically find it hard to ‘uptake’ serotonin. Similar yet different is St John’s Wort. I find that some people work best with one or the other. So, try out both if you like, but don’t take them together and never if you’re on antidepressants. [St John’s Wort has a long list of when not to take including those on the pill].
Menstruation and Menopause
This will increase the likelihood of insomnia and sleep difficulties and addressing the hormonal issues will be paramount. Agnus Castus is a very good menstrual herb helping address the actual hormone equilibrium but it also has antidepressant biochemistry as well. Agnus Castus Tincture is also used to help the menopause and put with herbs like black cohosh can resolve sleep issues quite quickly.
A Final Thought on Waking Up
If you do wake up in the night apparently, it’s best to light a night light candle (safely) rather than turn on the electric light. History suggests that in the days when electric light was unavailable ‘darkness’ helped us seep better and more. The dark naturally regulate our circadian rhythms, helping leave melatonin synthesis intact and stable. So apparently candlelight does not count in disrupting darkness, as electric light will.
Sleep Better, enjoy the day!
By Jill Davies