Quality sleep is crucial in establishing health and wellness. The body undergoes most of its healing and recovery while asleep, since other demands that usually require energy such as physical activity and digestion are minimized during this time. Obtaining quality sleep is vital for immune function, physical recovery, and mental rest. Unfortunately, many people struggle with falling and/or staying asleep, which drastically impedes quality of life. There are numerous factors that have the potential to disrupt sleep, including unmanaged stress, hormone imbalances, and blood sugar dysregulation. A naturopathic approach to insomnia involves resolving the underlying causes responsible for hindering consistent restful sleep. While these are different for each individual, there are some helpful strategies to assist in restoring consistent quality sleep.
1. Establish a Consistent Circadian Rhythm
The body thrives while operating in a consistent predictable pattern. Waking at approximately the same time each morning, and going to bed around the same time each evening is one method of strengthening this rhythm. Keeping mealtimes and exercise regimens consistent offers further benefit. The body releases certain hormones at different times of the day that affect our energy and sleep. Having a regular routine establishes healthy rhythms for the body that line up with hormones that are being secreted internally.
2. Manage Stress
Stress is one of the most common factors affecting sleep. With increased stress, the body and mind have a harder time winding down for sleep. Higher stress over a prolonged period of time can affect how the body regulates cortisol, one of the main stress hormones. Ideally, cortisol is highest in the morning, providing energy for the day, and lowest in the evening, allowing for a restful sleep. If this rhythm is out of balance, cortisol can spike in the evening, providing an inappropriate burst of energy, when the body is actually tired and needing rest. There are many effective strategies for managing stress, such as grounding exercises, relaxation techniques, meditation, exercise, music, and medicinal herbs in the nervine and adaptogen families, which calm the nervous system and help the body adapt to stress respectively.
3. Avoid Electronics Before Bed
The light from most cell phones, computers, and TVs interferes with melatonin production, which plays a major role in triggering the onset of sleep. The content from these devices is often significantly stimulating as well, raising cortisol when it would naturally be dropping. If complete avoidance is not possible, a filter can be helpful in reducing the amount of blue light exposure, and care can be taken to avoid higher-stimulating activities.
4. Minimize Alcohol
Alcohol has a calming effect on the body, but once it wears off there is a rebound effect that makes it much harder to stay asleep throughout the night. Even during the initial period of sleep that may occur after consuming alcohol, the quality of sleep is poor, and does not provide a rested sensation in the morning.
5. Balance Female Hormones
Progesterone is known as the calming female hormone. Estrogen and progesterone and normally in balance with one another, but there are some instances where progesterone tends to drop, removing a calming ingredient from the sleep recipe. The most common scenario involving this shift is peri-menopause. As menopause is approached, female hormone production from the ovaries begins to drop, and it’s common for progesterone to decline at this time. There are various avenues for balancing female hormones, including diet, lifestyle, herbs, nutrients, and hormone therapy. Interestingly, the oral form of bioidentical progesterone converts into additional relaxing metabolites in the body. If you suspect your hormones are out of balance, talk to your healthcare provider about lab testing and treatment.
If you struggle with insomnia, please reach out to a healthcare practitioner who is open to discussing the effects of diet, lifestyle, hormones, and stress on sleep, in order to get the rest you need and energy you deserve.