By Alixandra Laub Feeling refreshed and energized in the morning can set the precedent for the rest of the day, and to no surprise, sleeping has a lot to do with that. Sleep is a basic human function, we all do it whether we love it or not. We know that sleep is essential for […]
By Alixandra Laub
Feeling refreshed and energized in the morning can set the precedent for the rest of the day, and to no surprise, sleeping has a lot to do with that. Sleep is a basic human function, we all do it whether we love it or not. We know that sleep is essential for long-term health, healing, recovery, and regeneration. So why is it so hard to get some sleep? Or likewise, how am I still tired? As with all-natural healing, a multi-step approach can be achieved with little to no cost involved.
Do not worry about the numbers so much.
Not only does worrying make it difficult for the mind and body to relax, but there truly is not an exact number of hours that you should be getting; eight hours is more of an average. In a few sentences, here’s why: Everybody’s sleeping needs reflect their own unique genetic make-up, lifestyle, physical environment, and many other unpreventable factors. Some people just do not need that much sleep, when others could zzz all day and need more. Like most things in life, quality is more important than quantity.
Not sleeping as much as you used to? It might be helpful to know that as we get older, our bodies just do not need as much sleep and it naturally gets more difficult to achieve deep sleeps. Normal aging also naturally comes with longer and more frequent wake-ups. If this sounds like your situation, you might be normal after all. Insomnia (why is it so hard to get some sleep?!) and hypersomnolence (how am I still tired?!) are amongst the most common sleeping complaints among the aging population. In fact, 57% of the elderly are considered to have chronic insomnia, in my eyes that percentage reflects big pharmas agenda on coping with a perfectly normal human occurrence.
At least you are consistent.
This might seem daunting, especially for the spontaneous type, but consistency really is important to getting good sleep. That is why there are so many technologically savvy sleeping apps out there, and also why you have probably already heard about screenless bedtime routines. Switching coffee for tea is one of the best ways to get more healing herbs in your life. Also, regular caffeine intake may actually lead to chronic fatigue. Journaling can help to monitor alcohol, caffeine, sugar intake, screen time, exercise can help realize problematic areas. Then, of course taking actionable steps to at least cutting those anti-sleep culprits down.
Psychological factors account for half of insomnia cases. Unresolved past stresses, loss, overwhelm, anxiety, and worry, can cause exhaustion and fatigue due to adrenal and hormonal depletion. Some mind body work like using tapping therapy, meditation, using worksheets and books, self-work, and professional help when it is needed. Adaptogenic herbs are extremely useful for stress and mood imbalances. I covered some of these herbs more in-depth in an article called “An Herbalist’s Guide to Mental Hygiene” in the June 2020 issue.
Sleep during COVID-19
A 1000 person study conducted in May found that the majority of participants felt that the lockdown changed their sleep schedule by going to bed later, and taking more naps during the day. The restriction of social interaction had extended to a decrease in physical activity and mobility, though an increase of stress may have sent sleeping patterns into sleeping disarray. Transient insomnia is the scientific term for the few rough nights before and during a stressful experience. Stress and anxiety related to uncertainty and increased screen time all have a direct impact on sleep.
When to seek intervention
Every once in a while we will be faced with times of either lack of or excess sleep. Diet, stress, and lifestyle habits are often suspected here, though not required to mess up a good night’s rest. However, when there are seriously disruptive or irregular patterns in your regular sleep cycle three or more nights for a few weeks to months with no known cause, see a professional for potential infection, pathogens, or diseases as a precaution.
After using strength, courage, and willpower to act upon the practices needed for a restful sleep, the next step could be to implement botanicals to help. First, I must mention hops (Humulus lupulus). I am not suggesting that you go grab a beer, but rather that you grab a few grams of dried hop flowers to drink as a tea. This incredibly bitter and almost unpalatable tea should be consumed quickly RIGHT before bed. To draw up an image about its potency, when I was attending graduate school, we were asked to do a lab making hop tea. In the middle of the day, I carefully identified, examined, and researched the herb, then conducted an experiment on myself. After an almost 5 hour ‘nap’, the sedative effects finally shrugged off in time for bed. So lesson learned, dried hops can be an inexpensive, effective, plant-based alternative. If you can get past the taste that not even honey can help, that is. If hops is the bitter heavy hitter, then lavender, chamomile, and holy basil tea are the lightweights that can be brewed into tea and drank as a part of your new bedtime routine. Motherwort (despite its witchy name) and passionflower are excellent light-medium strength relaxing tea choices as well. If anxiety is involved, more potent kava kava and heavily researched valerian can be useful, but those are more commonly used in a capsule or tincture form.
There is mixed evidence about cannabis and sleep, and this is probably due to studies observing different dosages, tolerances, plant genetics, human genetics, and a variety of other factors. Though we do know that cannabis affects the endocannabinoid system which is involved with circadian rhythm sleep-wake cycle, THC is known to have acutely sedating effects at the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor of the central nervous system. Though major studies still need to be conducted regarding cannabis for insomnia, some small studies have shown that both THC and CBD have been associated with improved quality of sleep in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One study that came out of Australia showed that 10mg THC to 200mg CBD was useful for sleep. That 1:20 THC to CBD ratio was decided by researchers as optimal to induce the effects of feeling tired without impairing cognition, but is by no means a ‘golden ratio’.
With a nutrient deficiency, you can pretty much expect to be tired. Magnesium is one of those vitamins that result in daytime fatigue since it’s a nutrient required for energy production, muscles, nerves, and blood glucose. Other vitamins associated with tiredness and fatigue are iron, zinc, and vitamins K and B12.
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