Some nights it’s as though we have been visited by Rip Van Winkle – dosing off easily and could happily stay that way for 20 years. Other nights are as long as a lifetime, or two. So what makes one different from the other? Plus some of us just never get a full night of uninterrupted sleep, or manage to stay asleep throughout the night.
[private]It’s very tedious not sleeping, yet insomnia is not uncommon. A lack of sleep has some pretty serious and detrimental side effects.
An estimated 30% of the population suffers with insomnia at some stage in their lives. Lack of uninterrupted sleep causes all sorts of problems. Low blood sugar may be one cause, kids, pain such as arthritic and muscular could be another, hormonal changes during menopause or pre-menstrually, over or under eating, feeling cold, nocturia (having to pass urine at night), allergies, noise, pets, Restless Leg Syndrome and obesity are other contributing factors, as are insulin resistance, high blood pressure and an overactive mind. A broken heart can and will keep you awake, as will worry, anger, guilt and fear – well let’s just say ‘stress’ in general.
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is the most common reason insomniacs end up seeking help. This annoying and disruptive pattern affects 10% of middle-aged men and 5% of women, but it’s likely to be more like 30%.
Sleep disorders are estimated to cost millions in lost productivity, accidents and health costs and mostly are triggered by our own anxieties and worries.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart not only regulates the circulation of blood, but is also responsible for consciousness, sleep, spirit, memory and is where the mind is seated.
– Sleep Apnoea (waking yourself up due to interrupted breathing up to 200 times a night)
– Restless Leg Syndrome
– Anxiety, depression or grief
– Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine (Nicotine is a stimulant)
– Anti-depressants and beta-blockers (heart medications)
– Too much mental stimulation
– Insulin resistance
– Heart problems like high blood pressure and cholesterol
– Prostate issues
– Children wake up before us, generally
Melatonin. Makes you sleepy and it decreases with age. (Maybe this is a contributing factor to why we sleep less as we age.) It is released from the pineal gland at sundown, but only if we see it. So having your computer, TV or lights on when day changes into night, will prevent this release. It has been scheduled ‘4’ in Australia, which means its prescription is restricted to medical practitioners only, although you can get it in homeopathics from you health food store. Excessive supplementation of melatonin causes nasty side effects like depression, insomnia, irritability and agitation. Shift work really messes up our melatonin. So the idea is to watch the sun set, as much as you can.
Liver. Insufficiencies will often cause overheating, causing insomnia, feelings of frustration and aggressive behaviour. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, coffee, junk food, sugar and animal products, and leaving emotions unresolved, bubbling away long term.
Blood. An insufficient amount of blood being produced in the body can cause insomnia, anaemia, depression and irritability. Include blood building foods such as leafy greens, pumpkin, beetroot, kidney beans, coconut milk and chestnuts; Chinese red dates.
Heart. When heat rises in your body we get headaches, bloodshot eyes and insomnia – resulting in hypertension. If the heart is out of balance, you won’t sleep well. Symptoms include uncontrolled thoughts and irregular heartbeat or worry. (At John Hopkins School of Medicine in the United States, a 2001 study found that sleep disorders may increase the risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality). To control imbalances of the heart include bitter foods like grains, vegies and legumes, lychees, mulberries and seaweed.
Foods to Include
– Lychees nourish the heart and ground the spirit thereby aiding sleep
– Mulberries benefit the kidneys therefore beneficial to those suffering with insomnia
– Oysters nourish the liver and blood, helping with insomnia
– Pungent herbs like dill, fennel, caraway, anise, cumin and coriander, relax the nervous system
– Pineapple is useful in summer for insomniacs
– Whole wheat, brown rice and oats calm the mind
– Mushrooms soothe the spirit and calm the mind
– Silicon rich foods improve calcium and strengthen nerve and heart tissue
– In the evening, eat foods that are high in tryptophan, which induces sleep. These are figs, dates, yoghurt, goats’ milk or nut butters.
Foods to Avoid
– Foods containing tyramine, which causes brain stimulation. These are chocolate, potatoes, cheese, bacon, sugar, sausage, tomatoes and wine. Especially avoid close to bedtime
– Avoid eating before bedtime
– Avoid large evening meals
– Exercise regularly and moderately
– Reduce alcohol intake
– Nicotine is a stimulant, so avoid if having trouble sleeping
– Go to bed when sleepy
– Get out of bed if not sleepy. Bedroom should be used only for sleep and sex
– Don’t exercise late at night
– Stop thinking by trying to bring energy down to your heart
– Avoid sleeping tablets and shift work
– Consider learning a meditation technique
– Have a regular waking time and early morning exercise.
– Avoid having a TV or computer in your bedroom
– Check out the feng shui of your room. Your feet shouldn’t be facing the door
– Avoid clutter in your bedroom. Keep the energy flowing and clear
– A calcium or magnesium deficiency may be responsible for waking and not getting back to sleep
– Magnesium for Restless Leg Syndrome
– Californian Poppy, Passionflower, Magnolia, Mexican Valerian, Skullcap or Valerian root. A mixture made into a tincture and taken before sleep is very effective
– Kava is a great sedative
– Chamomile is a sedative and may be drunk throughout the day. Both Chamomile and Catnip are safe for children as herbal teas
– Use dill or basil for their calming effect in tea or in cooking
Some research is now proving that anything less than 8 hours of sleep a night is adding to our toxic load/oxidative stress, and…a power nap during the day is an art worth cultivating.
Here’s to ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ for us all, every night. The recipe below is from my new book coming out in November – ‘Janella’s Super Natural Foods’.
GF DF VG V SF GrF
Nuts are a great source of tryptophan,
which induces sleep, and cacao is one of the
best sources of magnesium. Having trouble
sleeping? Make yourself a modern-day
warm chocolate milk.
2. cups almond milk
1 heaped tsp cashew or macadamia nut butter
1 tsp syrup sweetener
1 tsp raw cacao powder
1 Pour your milk into a small saucepan and gently
heat over low heat until just simmering.
2 Divide the nut butter, sweetener and cacao
powder between two mugs, then pour the hot
milk over the top. Stir well to combine and adjust
the sweetness to how you like it.
In Love and Wellbeing,