Whom among us couldn’t use a little help in the sleep department? With our modern lives it can be difficult to quiet our minds. Whether it is the constant stress of our daily lives or the over-stimulation from all of our technology that keeps us up. Sleep has quickly become one of the most sought after luxuries. Unfortunately, sleep should never be a luxury (sorry parents I know for you it will always feel this way). Our bodies NEED to rest! It is when we allocate time and resources to naturally detox and repair our bodies from the strain of our daily routines. Yet, more and more of us struggle to get the recommended eight hours a night (for adults between the ages of 20-40).
The Hunt is On
In fact, sleep is such a sought-after commodity that it has quickly risen to the top of the list of problems that pharmaceutical companies are targeting. The following areas are the most mass marketed complaints from consumers: weight loss, anti-aging, sleep, and stress reduction. What does this mean? The largest portion of consumers cash is spent in an attempt for a quick-fix option to treat one of these four areas. What if I told you that you have the means to treat all four areas simultaneously from the comfort of your own home? Does it sound too good to be true? Well fortunately it is true and as simple as adjusting your nutrition.
Where to Begin
One of the things that most consumers do not understand is that all four of these areas interact with one another. In fact, it is next to impossible to fix one of these four areas without simultaneously fixing the others. What most people are unaware of is how simbiotic our hormones are with one another. Making restoring balance within our hormonal levels on of the most important investments we can make for our overall health and wellness. But if all of our hormones are interconnected where do we start when trying to balance them out? Any good doctor will tell you to start by cleaning the slate. More often than not, this translates over as a detox, cleanse, or fast. Once we have started to reset we tend to notice our bodies require more rest.
All Work & No Play
Have you ever noticed how tirelessly our bodies work to help us perform to the best of our ability? Our bodies are constantly working for and with us. That is why it is imperative that we provide our bodies with an adequate amount of time to restore and rebuild itself. While our bodies are asleep there is a symphony of things all happening simultaneously. During sleep or rest our bodies are actively digesting, detoxing, breaking down old or damaged organisms, building new organisms, and trying to rebalance our hormones and other physiology. It helps if you try and think of it as if you were trying to deep clean your house while your family and friends are over. By the time you finish one room it is often destroyed in the time it takes you to turn around.
A Constant Battle
Don’t worry, while it sounds like a never ending battle there is a way to create a natural rhythm that will help you avoid having to start from scratch frequently. The first step is to insure you get enough sleep. This will lay the foundation of establishing a normal level for your hormones. One of the best ways to improve your sleep quality and quantity is through the regulation of the hormone Melatonin. Melatonin, most commonly referred to as the sleep hormone, is a natural hormone that affects various roles throughout the body including circadian rhythm, sleep, and immune health. When melatonin levels become deficient symptoms can include fatigue, illness, irritability, depression, anxiety, weight gain, and other mood disorders.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is produced from Serotonin and is created in the pineal gland. The pineal gland is a pea-sized gland located in the middle of your brain. It aids in the regulation of your sleep clock which tells your body when to sleep and when to wake. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates this gland and sleep clock. Whereas Serotonin is responsible for triggering Rapid Eye Movement (REM) which is a deep sleep. Melatonin does not make you sleep, however, it is critical in signaling the body to sleep and in the regulation of sleep cycles. Sunlight acts as a natural trigger for the production of Melatonin. When it is dark out, your body produces more Melatonin than when it is light out. Young children produce the highest levels of nighttime Melatonin, which is why they need more sleep during development.
While there are several things in our environments that help support natural production of Melatonin, there are also things to avoid in our environment. For example, did you know that blue screens (TV, computer, phones, etc.) suppress the production of Melatonin? With the use of technology on the rise, it is imperative that we remove these blue screens from our environment for at least 2 hours prior to sleep. Luckily there are several all natural ways to promote Melatonin regulation such as:
- Sunlight Exposure
- Establishing a Regular Schedule
- Avoid Stress in the Evenings
- De-stress Naturally
- Avoid Blue Light
- Deep Breathing Exercises
- Create a Sleep Cave
The Light of Day
As mentioned previously, regular exposure to natural sunlight our bodies naturally regulate our circadian rhythm. Going out in nature regularly is also a great way to reduce your stress levels and even increase your metabolism (again everything is interconnected). For those individuals who have difficulty getting sunlight exposure (anyone above the arctic circle) another way to simulate this is through the use of artificial lighting. For example, blue light naturally lowers Melatonin production and therefore would be ideal to keep you awake. For more relaxing lighting try red light (which can also increase the production of collagen) or just bask in the dark.
Set it & Forget it
Have you ever noticed how much smoother your day is when you have a routine? Well there is a reason, our bodies actually go into a state of auto-pilot when we stick to a routine. It provides our bodies with another way to regulate our sleep cycles. The best way to transition into a new routine is to slowly adjust your schedule by increments of 1 hour. For example, if you are trying to wake up at 5 am every morning. But you currently wake up at 8 am, do not try to jump straight to waking up at 5 am. Instead, gradually get down to your desired wake time. This will increase your rate of success. If you are able to wake up and fall asleep at the same time everyday for a week without assistance you have officially established a sleeping schedule.
While it may not be reasonable to suggest you avoid or remove as much stress as possible it is reasonable to give you options to naturally reduce your stress. Some of the best ways to do just that is by making changes to your daily nutrition, through exercise, meditation, deep breathing, reading, music, coloring, and aromatherapy. When using any of these techniques close to bed you want to remember that you are trying to de-stimulate and slow your heart rate. With that in mind avoid things like HITT workouts or Rock music. For aromatherapy options here are some of my favorites:
- Cedar Wood
- Blue Tansy
- Wild Orange
Citrus Essential Oils
Citrus essential oils are more predominantly used to help stimulate people. However, individuals suffering from ADHD react differently to stimuli and things like wild orange can actually induce sleep. It should also be noted that citrus essential oils have been shown to be extremely effective at reducing stress levels which has been proven to aid in the regulation of sleep. Some citrus oils have been shown to help improve the quality of sleep, such as lemon oil. Lemon oil can help you sleep deeper. While Bergamont is better at inducing sleep and promoting positive mood.
Wood Essential Oils
One of the more commonly utilized essential oil categories to aid in sleep are derived from wood. Some of the more commonly used wood oils include vetiver, frankincense, cedar wood, sandalwood, and patchouli. While each of these oils house the ability to naturally induce a relaxed state some have a tendency to aid in other areas. For example, vetiver has been shown to aid in the promotion of sleep in individuals dealing with PTSD and can deepen sleep experience. Frankincense, however, has a tendency to amplify the majority of oils it is combined with and works well as a mood enhancer especially when combined with bergamont.
Floral Essential Oils
Lastly, floral essential oils are commonly used to promote sleep. The most commonly recognized floral essential oil for sleep is lavender. Lavender has been proven to have a number of health benefits including its effects on the reduction of stress levels. It provides a subitel transition into sleep by slowing the heart and breath rate. Other floral essential oils include chamomile, jasmine, and blue tansy. Personally, I prefer to use blended oils. I use a 50-50 split of balance and serenity to help me sleep. If I am having trouble falling asleep I will also apply vetiver to the bottoms of my feet at night. Everyone is different and you may need to experiment a little to determine which option is best for you.
Eat For Your Health
If you are looking for another way to increase your Melatonin levels here is my favorite gummy recipe to help you do just that.
Cherry Lime-aid Nighttime Gummy Bears
Gluten-free Makes 100 Gummy Bears
- 2 Cups Tart Cherry Juice
- 2 tsp Lime Juice
- 1 tsp Vitamin C Powder
- ⅓ Cup Honey
- ½ Cup Gelatin Powder
In medium saucepan heat juice and honey. Stir in gelatin and vitamin C once juice starts to boil. Remove from heat and continue to stir until completely combined. Transfer to silicone gummy bear molds and let set up for 4-5 hours. To reduce the time you can let them setup in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
Ready For a Change?
A happy and healthy life is closer than you may think. Our health is something that we all have to deal with daily, and when we don’t feel our best, it shows. If you are tired of just making it through your day then you NEED to start investing in your health today! You are not alone on this journey. If you ever need any help I am always here to do just that. Even if it is something as small as just acting as a sounding board. Do you have any questions or concerns I can help you with? Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] or you can even book a one-on-one call with me. Be sure to subscribe to gain access to tons of free goodies and check back daily for more great recipes and information!