There are many ways to improve sleep through herbal medicine and supplements. Each plan I make is different depending on the patient’s case. Some patients need to balance cortisol levels. Some need to optimize the hormones and neurotransmitters involved in sleep. Some need to calm anxiety. Some need to address physical issues like restlessness and pain.
First, I like to make sure patients have the basic recommendations for good sleep in place. Below I go through basic sleep recommendations. Anyone with sleep issues should think about these before jumping to stronger treatments.
KEEP YOUR ROOM VERY DARK
Cover up lights coming from electronic devices. This includes little lights from charging laptops, TVs and alarm clocks. Buy blackout curtains to block street lights. This is critical for producing melatonin (the sleep hormone).
EXPOSE YOURSELF TO THE MORNING SUN WHEN YOU WAKE UP
Open curtains as soon as you wake up rather than keeping them sealed shut. Even go outside ASAP if you can. This is important for setting your natural sleep-wake internal clock.
NO SCREENS AND NO WORK 1-2 HOURS BEFORE BED
Sadly, this includes staring at phone screens. This is also important for melatonin production.
USE YOUR BEDROOM ONLY FOR SLEEP
Find somewhere else to do work or hobbies. This way when you enter your bedroom, your brain associates it with just sleep.
KEEP YOUR ROOM SERENE AND CLEAN
Does your bedroom look neat and calm like the picture above? Research shows a neat room leads to better sleep.
I like to place a few drops of lavender essential oil on a cotton ball by my bed to help with sleep.
But do it before evening hits (or at least be finished 2 hours before bed).
CONSIDER HAVING A WARM BATH BEFORE BED
This will calm your mind. Also, your temperature naturally drops before sleep. A warm bath often leads to a drop in temperature after which may help signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep.
NO ALCOHOL OR CAFFEINE BEFORE BED
Alcohol may knock you out but it leads to a very poor quality of sleep.
DO MEDITATION OR DEEP BELLY BREATHING BEFORE BED
You may have to practice so that you can do this without the help of apps or websites – since we’re avoiding screens.
RESTRICT YOUR TIME IN BED
If you can’t fall asleep within 20-30 min, get up and do something relaxing like reading (no phone/TV though). If you stay in bed while you’re tossing and turning, your brain will start to associate your bed with sleeplessness. This can harm your sleep pattern long term. As you can see, a lot of sleep therapy is a mind game.
ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE
Humans are creatures of habit. If you can set up a bedtime routine that you stick to every night it will let your brain know that it’s time for bed soon. This will help your mind wind down and your body prepare for sleep.
There’s a lot more I could write about treating sleep problems but I would have to turn this post into a novel. If you need some help with sleep, don’t hesitate to book an appointment or free 15 min consult.
Dr. Samantha Dass is currently a naturopathic doctor working at Holland Landing Health Centre in East Gwillimbury, Ontario, which services Holland Landing, Newmarket, Aurora, Keswick and Bradford areas. If you are interested in naturopathic services please contact Holland Landing Health Centre at 905-853-7900 or via e-mail at [email protected]!