Tips for Getting a Better Night’s Sleep From A Naturopath

Melissa McDonald Naturopath

“I can’t get to sleep”, “I can’t stay asleep”, “I wake up all night”, and “My brain won’t stop” are some of the most common words I hear in my office. Insomnia is reported by about 30% of people, and research suggests a decline in sleep duration of up to 18 min per night over the past 40 or so years. Meanwhile, complaints of sleeping problems have increased over the same period.

As a Naturopath, I understand the importance of finding and addressing the root causes of sleep disturbances and promoting holistic approaches to getting you a longer and more restful sleep. Below we explore some important practices to give you that great night’s sleep you’ve been dreaming of.

 

No TV in the bedroom

Electronics have invaded our lives, our homes and our sleep. Sleep is intrinsically associated with our bedroom; we do not associate sleep with the living room or the dining room or the kitchen. Therefore, the bedroom should have the right environment for inducing sleep.

When we watch TV in bed, our brains get confused and over-stimulated. Consequently, our brain fails to know if the bedroom is meant for watching TV and staying awake till late or if it is meant for switching off and going to sleep.

This is how the dissociation between sleep and the bedroom develops. The brain does not associate the bedroom with sleep anymore when you keep watching TV there instead of sleeping. Therefore, even when you try to fall asleep in your bed, it does not happen, because the brain still associates the bedroom with staying awake.

Re-regulate your body clock

Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. To support this rhythm, try to:

  • 1

    Maintain a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends

  • 2

    Expose your eyes and body to natural light, at dusk and dawn to reset your circadian rhythm

  • 3

    Avoid artificial light in the evening to help synchronize your internal clock for better sleep

Stress, less

The HPA axis, or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, is a fancinating and complex system in the body that plays a crucial role in our stress response and circadian rhythm (also known as our body clock):

Hypothalamus:

The hypothalamus, a region of the brain that releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) in response to stress or as part of the circadian rhythm.

Pituitary Gland:

CRH signals the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).

Adrenal Glands:

ACTH then stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol, a hormone that helps the body respond to stress and regulates the sleep-wake cycle.

In people that are chronically stressed, the HPA axis may become dysregulated, leading to elevated cortisol levels. In normal circumstances, cortisol is highest in the morning and lowest in the evening (when our melatonin turns on).

But for some people who experience chronic stress, their cortisol might be lower than normal in the morning (those who drag themselves out of bed) and high at night (those who are considered night owls). Cortisol being high at night stops our body’s production of melatonin, and causes insomnia, poor sleep onset and latency.

You might think, “ill just take melatonin” but for most people, it is just a band-aid solution, not addressing the root cause.

Supplement with magnesium

Naturopaths have been prescribing magnesium to improve sleep for yonks, and the research shows that a deficiency in magnesium decreases the production of melatonin which affects sleep-wake cycles.

Magnesium plays an important role in the glutamatergic and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) ergic system. It binds to GABA receptors and activates GABA to reduce excitability of the nervous system. So… if you’re feeling extra stimulated and wired at night, magnesium may be your solution here. Supplementation has also been shown to decrease cortisol which results in calming the nervous system and relaxing you before bed.

Magnesium glycinate is my favourite form of magnesium because its magnesium is attached to glycine, which is helpful for improving sleep quality.

Create a relaxing bedtime routine

Establishing a calming bedtime routine can signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. Engage in activities that promote relaxation, such as reading a book, gentle stretching or yoga, or enjoying a warm bath.

Avoid stimulating activities, such as intense workouts or screen time, at least an hour before bedtime, as they can interfere with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

By incorporating these tips into your routine, you can create a sleep-friendly environment and support your body’s natural processes.

To dig a little deeper into your sleeping issues, and to find more ways to improve your sleeping habits, an appointment with our Naturopath Melissa McDonald will help you to work towards a great night’s sleep, every night.

To book an appointment today with our Naturopath Melissa McDonald, click here.

To find out more about Melissa and her Naturopathic services, you can click here.

References

PMID: 35184264
PMID: 34883514
PMID:
22158659