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Let's Talk: Sleep

Let's Talk: Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important lifestyle factors in determining good health, and it’s often—unfortunately!—overlooked. It’s essential for hormonal balance, stable moods, enhanced energy, and weight management. Not to mention, the cytokine proteins produced while we sleep are one of our body’s first lines of immune defense!

 The CDC estimates that one-third of Americans don’t get adequate sleep. (Usually 7-9 hours a night, 10-12 when we’re more in need of rest and recovery.) I can personally attest to this statistic knowing that sleep and insomnia are some of the main concerns people bring up to doctors.

So, how can you give yourself the gift of rest this coming year? It just takes a few positive changes in your daily routine.

First, start by balancing your sleep/wake cycle and circadian rhythms.

  1. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. (Including weekends!)
  2. Get 1-2 hours of sunlight every day. If you can’t get outside, indirect sunlight by a window will do.
  3. Make time for physical activity during the day and avoid heavy exercise within three hours of sleep.
  4. Eat something with protein before bed to balance blood sugar.
  5. Disconnect from electronic devices, TV, and phones about one hour before bed.
  6. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and heavy meals three hours before sleep.
  7. Unwind with quiet time, meditation, gentle stretching, or a calming bath about one hour before bed.

Then, make your bedroom a sleeping sanctuary.

  1. Clean and declutter your room.
  2. Keep your room at a cool temperature.
  3. Try darkening curtains to eliminate outside light.
  4. Use calming colors in the bedroom, such as blues, greens, and purples.
  5. Get an aromatherapy diffuser and use lavender, ylang-ylang, jasmine, and sandalwood essential oils for relaxation.
  6. Limit noise in the bedroom.
  7. Avoid using the bedroom for technology and work.

If these lifestyle recommendations are not enough to improve your sleep, you may consider getting your adrenal glands tested to rule out hormonal issues. When under stress, we often have excess levels of adrenaline and cortisol, and lower levels of serotonin and GABA. This imbalance between calming and energizing hormones can lead to insomnia, anxiety, depression, and weight gain.

Herbs and supplements can also be used to improve sleep. Most work by reducing cortisol and building serotonin and GABA, while others have a calming effect on the nervous system.

Get familiar with supplements and herbs that may improve sleep. Sleeping Beauty, a supplement that promotes restful sleep with melatonin, magnesium, and organic valerian root—so can you fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer.*

Calming herbs include:

  • Lavender
  • Chamomile
  • Valerian Root
  • Kava Kava
  • Passionflower
  • Skullcap
  • Oat straw
  • Hemp/CBD Oil

I encourage you to use downtime to renew yourself and improve your health through sleep. Better sleep can be an enormous benefit to your overall well-being. Make these positive sleep changes now, so you can create a new rhythm when life speeds back up again.

Wishing you rest, deep sleep, and sweet dreams.

- Dr. Gabrielle Francis, Naturopathic Doctor and Love Wellness Advisor

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