We are launching a regular new series of articles where we look at one health issues and ask our experienced practitioners for their input. Sleeping problems seem to crop up on everyone’s agenda, so it’s a good one to start with.
Sleep is vitally important for our overall wellbeing. Interrupted sleep or lack of sleep can have a serious, long-term effect on our health, and may lead to issues such as irritability, depression, reduced mental alertness, headaches and physical fatigue.
Many factors may affect the amount and quality of sleep you achieve on a regular basis, for instance:
- depression, anxiety and / or worry
- hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms
- diet – quality of food, timing of meals
- outside factors eg noisy neighbours, uncomfortable bed, partner who snores, very young children waking in the night
- variable shift work prevents the body from establishing a regular routine
- certain illnesses and pain will hinder deep, restful sleep.
When looking to resolve your sleeping problems, it is important to establish the real cause – it could well be a combination of various factors. Take an holistic approach – in other words, look at your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being rather than just one of these in isolation.
It t is always recommended that you consult a qualified practitioner before self-diagnosing!
At Vinings Natural Health Centre our experienced practitioners can help uncover the root cause and deal with it.
BAD FOODS, GOOD FOODS (from Yaso Shan, Herbalist at Vinings)
|BAD FOODS||GOOD FOODS|
|Biscuits, cakes, chocolates and other foods that are high in refined sugars||Green vegetables except spinach|
|Coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate drinks and fizzy drinks (too much caffeine and / or sugar)||Lettuce (a natural sedative)|
|Red meats, rich creamy dishes and cheese (high in protein and difficult to digest, especially late at night)||Porridge (slow-release carbs will regulate sugar and energy levels)|
|Spicy dishes, curry or oriental foods (can cause heartburn, which will disturb sleep)||Sunflower and pumpkin seeds (high in magnesium to relax muscles, relieve stress and promote sleep)|
|Alcohol and tobacco (disrupt body processes and are generally bad for health)||Wholegrain foods and other low glycemic index (GI) foods (eg wholewheat foods, brown rice, oats). These regulate blood sugar levels, calm and soothe the gut and nervous system.|
|Bacon, ham, sausages, sauerkraut, spinach and tomatoes, all of which increase adrenaline which will keep the body alert at night, not conducive to getting to sleep||Increased complex carbs in wholefoods (eg pasta) boosts serotonin levels which promotes sleep. Serotonin is regarded as the body’s natural relaxant and anti-depressant.|
| ||Cottage cheese, turkey, yoghurt, bananas and avocado are all high in tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, promoting good sleep|
Let’s look now at some ideas from our practitioners. First, Vinings’ herbalist, Yaso Shan:Take steps to lower your stress levels. Apart from yoga, meditation (or mindfulness), aerobic exercise, a hobby or just socialising with friends can help you relax.
Herbal remedies can help to calm, soothe and relax the mind and the body. Recommended herbs include chamomile tea, hops, valerian, passion flower, lemon balm, Californian poppy, lettuce and St John’s Wort. Natural remedies such as these avoid the unwanted side-effects of grogginess that some prescription drugs may cause.
Julia Biggs, Vinings’ Acupuncturist, emphasises the importance of quality sleep for good health. Acupuncture has a long history of treating all types of sleep disorder. Unlike conventional therapies, it addresses the underlying causes of disturbed sleep, providing safe and effective relief for many conditions including difficulty dropping off; night sweats; snoring; early waking; restless legs; and dream disturbed sleep. Treatment is customised to a client’s individual needs and restores balance on the physical level as well as helping to relax and quieten the mind.
Carole Thornton, Aromatherapist, Massage Therapist and Healer at Vinings, suggests creating a new bedtime regime. She advises leaving 2 – 3 hours after your last meal so that your digestive system can do its work before you go to bed – and, of course, ensure that you eat the right sort of foods especially late at night!
Modern gadgets stimulate the brain and are not good for encouraging sleep. Remove computers, tablets and mobile phones from the bedroom – not only are they highly distracting, the blue screens are very disruptive to the brain.
A warm, relaxing lavender bath will soothe, and massaging two drops of neat lavender oil into the soles of your feet will act as a natural sedative. Put a drop of lavender oil on a tissue under your pillow in the morning, then turn the pillow over when you go to bed and you will have the beautifully relaxing scent of lavender as you drift off to sleep. Sandalwood is a good alternative is lavender is not for you.
Read something uplifting before you sleep, and keep a gratitude diary, noting good things that you experienced during the day. And, of course – relax. Just sit quietly and say the word “relax” over and over. Ensure your whole body is relaxed – no clenched fists or teeth – and let thoughts drift out as easily as they drift in. In time, this will become much easier and will certainly help you to have a good night’s sleep.