Health & Happiness: Sweet Dreams
By Jennifer Means, ND, LAC
Sleep is not just some passive time out from life. While you sleep, hormones wash the brain and repair the day’s damage, ridding it of toxins, reducing inflammation and helping to process your daily stressors. If you don’t sleep, you are at a higher risk for heart disease, mood disorders, over-eating and traffic accidents. Many chronic health conditions contribute to sleep disruption and sleep deprivation contributes to declining health.
Good sleep hygiene makes a big difference in a person’s health. Get distractions like cell phones and TVs out of the bedroom. If you have a Wi Fi router nearby, move it or turn it off at night. The blue light on your I-phone or computer screen affects your melatonin, a hormone that is critical to deep sleep. It can also suppress your REM stage sleep, the deepest level where many beneficial effects occur.
For some, melatonin is a helpful supplement. 1-3 mg is usually enough, although it causes weird dreams for some people and, because it is a hormone, it is best not to use regularly.
If you have noisy neighborhood dogs, try a sound machine with ocean waves or crickets. Make sure that your room is dark. Use black out curtains or a nice face mask to reduce the light.
Herbal teas are a wonderful way to induce relaxation. There are a number of sleepy time blends on the market. But if you want something stronger, try lemon balm, passionflower, skullcap or valerian root teas or tinctures, alone or in combination.
A pillow of lavender near your nose in the night is delightful and can induce relaxation.
If all else fails, Epsom salt baths, calming music or progressive relaxation meditations can help. Sometimes it takes time to retrain your body to sleep, especially if you experience a lot of stress or your hormones are out of whack.
As Shakespeare says, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” So get a good night’s sleep.
Dr. Jennifer Means & Dr. Elizabeth Elliott welcome you for Primary Care for the whole family: Nutrition, IV Therapy, Naturopathy, and Acupuncture. For more information, contact us at 503-641-6400.