As a society, I believe we undervalue sleep. We stay up late, get up early, and avoid naps even though our body is begging for rest. If only we had known as children how much our bodies would crave sleep as adults...
According to sleep.org, if it takes you an hour or more to fall asleep or if you wake up during the night unable to go back to sleep, you may be dealing with insomnia. On the other hand, if you fall asleep within five minutes of laying down, you may not be getting enough sleep. It should take 10-20 minutes to fall asleep.
During sleep, the body repairs, recovers, and detoxifies. Throughout the day, the body naturally becomes acidic. It relies on sleep to alkalize it for the next day. Remaining in an acidic state leads to inflammation and potential disease.
The pineal gland is responsible for secreting melatonin, the sleep hormone. Melatonin regulates the circadian rhythm as well as reproduction and it protects against free radicals.
The circadian rhythms are physical, behavioral, and mental changes that follow a daily pattern. These patterns respond to light and darkness. Melatonin production decreases with the morning light. Your body is told to wake up and get moving. As the sun begins to set, melatonin production begins and it peaks around 10 pm. This is why you begin to yawn and start feeling sleepy as the evening goes on.
Melatonin production can be interrupted by a variety of internal and external influences which can hinder our sleep. Worry, stress, noise from the TV, lights on in the house, drinking too many fluids before bed, stomach acid shooting up into the esophagus, etc.
Prescription medications can also be a problem. Below is a list of common medications that can hinder sleep. There are many more that also cause this problem so be sure to look at the side effects for any prescription medicines you take. You can find a lot of information at drugs.com.
Ideally, you want to sleep 7-9 hours every night. When our circadian rhythm gets out of balance, it is important to reset the clock. Here are some tips for doing so:
Go to sleep the same time every night
Wake up the same time every morning
If you sleep in on the weekends, sleep in one extra hour only
Go to bed when you feel sleepy; if you get your second-wind, you are using the energy needed for overnight healing as well as the energy that should be reserved for the next day
Avoid bright lights and electronics 30 minutes before bedtime
Be physically active throughout the day and wind down in the hours before bedtime
Not getting the sleep you need can cause:
Inability to pay attention
Inability to think clearly
Depression, suicide, and risk-taking behaviors
Disruption in thought patterns
Increased risk of obesity
Increased systemic (affecting all body systems) inflammation
Problems being able to learn
Problems in decision making and problem solving
Problems being able to control emotions and behavior
It to be harder to cope with change
The immune system to be altered
Problems in healing and repairing the heart and blood vessels
A natural remedy for bringing your circadian rhythm into balance and getting your sleep back on track is called grounding or earthing. A study published in the Journal of Inflammation Research concluded:
..."As this report explains, it is a system requiring occasional recharging by conductive contact with the Earth’s surface – the “battery” for all planetary life – to be optimally effective."
In other words, grounding works! In various studies, grounding has been shown to:
Affect the living matrix, which is the central connector between living cells
Have a positive effect on heart health
Reduce muscle damage and pain post-exercise
Reduce pain, stress, depression and fatigue
Walk barefoot outside. Walk in the grass, in sand, even in mud. Just let your bare foot come in contact with the natural ground.
Lay directly on the ground. Lay in the shade and read a book. Lay under the stars. Relax and take it all in.
Go swimming. The ocean or a clean lake is a great place to connect with the earth.
Balance the thyroid and the adrenal glands. Both directly affect sleep.
Eat Tart Montmorency cherries. They contain high levels of phytochemicals, including melatonin.
Increase good fat in your diet like avocados, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, etc. These support brain function.
Take a B-Complex supplement to balance energy and improve nervous system function. Be sure to take it in the morning time.
Magnesium helps quiet the body. Epsom salt baths (also known as magnesium baths) before bed can help you prepare for sleep. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to increase relaxation.
Chamomile tea at bedtime induces sleep
Kava Kava is a root used for sleeplessness, stress-related tension, anxiety and restlessness; do not use longer than 3 months due to liver effects
Valerian root relieves anxiety, headaches, menstrual cramps, stomach pain and depression
Passionflower tea before bed can improve sleep quality.
Other Natural Ways to Balance Your Circadian Rhythm
Reduce stress. Learn how to manage your stress in more effective ways. Flower essences can balance emotions.
Before bedtime, pray. Give your worries to the Lord.
Keep a gratitude journal, expressing 3 things you are thankful for in this day. Meditate on the good things in your life.
Create a restful environment. Keep your bedroom cool, quiet, and free of electronics.
Keep a bedtime routine. This helps your body know it is time for sleep.
Do not eat too much or too little right before bedtime. Being overly full or being hungry can affect your sleep.
Avoid nicotine, caffeine and sugar before bedtime as they are stimulants.
Make sure you drink plenty of water through the day.
Avoid over-consumption of salt.
Ameling, J., DC, BCND. (n.d.). Sleep. Retrieved September 08, 2020, from https://trinityschool.instructure.com/courses/472/pages/week-4-lecture-1-sleep
Neel, A. B. (n.d.). Insomnia - 10 Medications That Can Cause Sleeplessness. Retrieved September 10, 2020, from https://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-04-2013/medications-that-can-cause-insomnia.html
The Complete Guide to Insomnia for Aging Adults How to Get More Sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2020, from https://www.aplaceformom.com/resources/senior-insomnia-guide
Circadian Rhythms. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2020, from https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx
Lockett, E. (2019, August 30). What Is Grounding and Can It Help Improve Your Health? Retrieved September 10, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding
Oschman, J., Chevalier, G., & Brown, R. (2015, March 24). The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Retrieved September 10, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378297/