Treat your body like Pavlov’s dog.
The law of repetition says that the more you do something repeatedly, it becomes a habit ingrained in our psyche.
Create a sleep routine. Much like you would for a baby, when you create a night time routine for them and repeat it everyday - you are signaling their bodies that it’s time to sleep soon. Once the routine is habitual, their body responds and they go to sleep.
These are some of the things I do everynight.
1. Perform nightly stretches:
Throughout the day our bodies hold tension in areas that we overused. For example, if you are one that sits in front of the computer all day your body has now formed to that seated position. So, it doesn’t feel comfortable laying flat to go to sleep. You have to encourage your body to unwind and relax.
Especially if you experience tightness in your hips, shoulder or neck when you are sleeping. This will help you. If you need help discovering what stretches you should be doing specifically, join the pain free movement series.
2. Diffuse Essential Oils:
A relaxing oil is lavender. You can even place some oil on your temples.
3. Turn your phone on sleep mode
This will silence all incoming calls, text messages, or alerts. You can respond in the morning. It will be okay.
This one is so important. If you have an iphone, go to your clock app and click bedtime. When you set your bedtime for a certain time, your phone will stop all notifications. You can deal with any “emergencies” life may throw your way in the morning. This step has helped me tremendously to disconnect and prepare my body for a magical night's sleep.
4. Download the insight timer in the app store and play gentle, meditative music when you are getting ready for bed. You can even use this app for guided meditations before bed.
5. Deep Breaths:
Check out the most recent blog to see how to hack your nervous system with breath.
Extra help with Herbs
1. Ashwagandha: known for it’s adaptogenic qualities. It helps the body adapt to daily stressors. So, you can imagine if stress is hindering your ability to gain quality sleep, this herb might help.
Infact, a recent 2021 study⁷ on Ashwagandha showed promising results. 150 subjects who suffered from low sleep quality ingested 120mg of the herb. After 42 days, not only did sleep quality drastically improve but the subjects reported no side effects whatsoever
2. Valerian root:²,³,⁴ for those who feel that they need restorative sleep. Nighty Night Extra by traditional medicinals is my go-to tea that contains valerian root. I drink this along with magnesium every night. It has a very mild sedative effect.
3. Rehmannia: This herb is used in chinese medicine to treat disorders related to aging.⁸ Which has been used for night sweats as it is a cooling and anti-inflammatory herb.
4. Kava: Ah, the infamous “kava coma.” Kava is known for its anxiolytic and sleep inducing effects⁹, hence the “coma”. I don’t often prescribe kava unless someone is desperate and desires to reach that coma-like state.
One wellness patient of mine announced abruptly at her appointment that she was experiencing sleepless nights that were really frustrating her. I discussed her options based on her needs etc, once she heard “kava coma” come out of my mouth - she was ecstatic. The next day I received a message stating, “I slept, thank you. #kavacoma”
So, what’s the deal with the kava coma??
Kava is not only helpful for inducing sleep related to anxiety. It also helps with relaxing the muscular system as well.¹⁰ Acting directly on inhibiting muscular contraction to induce relaxation.
A very helpful herb for those who also experience muscle spasms. Kava works when the mind and body won't shut off.
5. California poppy: this herb is helpful for nerve pain related to insomnia; neuralgia, sciatica, and toothache.¹
6. Skull cap: for the mind that won’t shut off. In numerous studies, we are understanding the benefits of this herb (along with rhodiola and lion's mane) as the same mind-relaxing benefits as an antidepressant.
The bioactive ingredients found within S. baicalensis, H. erinaceus and R. rosea target the main biochemical events which are implicated in psychiatric conditions. mimicking at some extent the mechanisms of action of conventional antidepressants and mood stabilizers in the absence of serious adverse effects⁶
This is phenomenal information! You guys, not only do these herbs work on inhibiting the SAME neurological pathway that causes depression and anxiety -- they also work to “counteract oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and inflammation” and without the crazy side effects. So they help with anxiety and depression while also combating toxic stress on the body!!!
Are you having a mind-gasm yet?!
In addition to aiding in mood, each herb in the study also has additional individual health benefits. “Including antitumor, hepatoprotective, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-hyperlipidemic, antidiabetic, cardio-protective, neurotrophic,and neuroprotective effects”⁶
So basically these herbs help a whole bunch of health conditions.
And again, without side effects -- they all have a favorable safety profile
S. baicalensis, H. erinaceus and R. rosea produce neuroprotective effects in models of Parkinson’s disease (PD), Alzheimer’s disease (AD),, Huntington disease (HD), hypoxia/hypo-perfusion/stroke, nerve and brain injury, glutamate-induced neurotoxicity, and epilepsy.⁶
Skullcap contains baicalin which specifically initiates dopamine release, which is why it helps in so many neurological disorders. Biaclin also helps with memory related dysfunctions which are associated with the neurotransmitter, GABA. This is why this component of skullcap also helps with anxiety, ADHD, and depression.
Depending on your specific need, we can create a sleep tincture that would contain a blend of herbs to help with sleep!
I never recommend someone go on synthetic melatonin, this is a hormone, and can disrupt your endocrine system and circadian rhythms
Other Factors That May Be Hindering Sleep....
1. Nocturnal Hypoglycemia:
If your blood sugar drops too low - this is a stressor to the human body - and it will increase adrenaline and norepinephrine to wake you up. Remedy this by eating a handful of raw nuts before bed. This can be the reason for dreaded night sweat or hot flash. However, there are other reasons for nocturnal night sweats/hot flashes, one being the liver. In general, it’s good to check fasting blood sugar, HA1c, cortisol, and liver enzymes on your labs to see where your numbers are.
2. Restless Leg Syndrome: This is due to the sympathetic nervous system, the stress response on overdrive and you can’t shut off your body’s signal to fight or flee. So your legs are basically still “running” even though you are laying down. A couple things that help that are helpful
3. Liver inflammation: The time of night that you wake up says something about an organ that may be hindered. Not necessarily a pathological disease. The liver can get burdened by the plethora of functions the liver does. One of which is to filter the blood of poisonous substances.
If you tend to wake up at the same time every night, specifically between 1-3am, this is the time when the liver (an organ) is heightened. And therefore if it’s inflamed or burdened, you may be having a bit of trouble trying to do the many tasks for your body. Therefore you may need to get a further functional medicine analysis of your liver. For now you can try some lovely liver friendly veggies to the diet; like beets, artichokes, asparagus, globe artichoke, cauliflower, broccoli, arugula, and bok choy.
I hope this sleep blog helps suss out where your sleep trouble is stemming from.
At the bare minimum, start with stretching, breathing, and turning your phone on sleep mode.
If you still need extra help, book a functional medicine appointment to help get to the root cause of your sleepless nights.
To buy herbs or magnesium, visit our online store.