When was the last time you woke up feeling energized, refreshed, and ready to start the day? Do you find yourself in bed with a busy mind, ruminating over the day or worrying about the future? Over time, burning the candle at both ends affects your health and wellbeing.
Studies show that women are more prone to insomnia than men (thanks, hormones) and that more than 70% of women have sleep issues. If you fall into this category, chances are you are not getting adequate rest and feel tired much of the day. Before reaching for over-the-counter sleeping pills, try making simple lifestyle adjustments and incorporating natural remedies into your routine.
Having a few late nights at work or out at events isn’t a bad thing—the problems creep in over the long haul when you’re not respecting your body’s need for rest. When you decide getting enough is non-negotiable, you will be a more effective person and better able to carry out all of your dreams and obligations.
You’ve probably had at least one cup of chamomile tea in your life. Did you know it has a reputation for effectively treating anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, and stress? Chamomile comes in two varieties—the German flower is most widely used in tea. The next time you want to ease your way into the evening, turn on the kettle, sip tea chamomile tea, and enjoy the calm. If you want to make your tea fancy, add dried lavender to help bring even more relaxation.
It can be challenging to shut off the mind when it’s time to go to bed. Changing your breathing pattern is the quickest and most effective way to change your thoughts. This is a very helpful practice at night when you’re brain won’t detach from the day or you’re obsessing about the future. A very simple breathing practice of extending your exhales will quickly relax the nervous system and prepare the body to rest. This practice works best when you breathe in and out through the nose and make your exhales 2 to 3 counts longer than your inhales. Try this practice by sitting up or lying down for 5 minutes before bed to unwind from the day.
Often times your body is tired at night but energy is still high. A few simple stretches or yoga poses in the evening will help ground your energy from the day. One of the best poses for relaxing after a long day is Legs Up the Wall. This pose is restorative and the perfect way to end the day or relax deeply anytime you need a break. Legs Up the Wall improves digestion, relieves mild backaches, reduces headaches, and alleviates tired or cramped legs and feet. Try this for 5 to 10 minutes breathing slowly in and out through the nose and notice how relaxed you feel afterward.
Do you ever find yourself exhausted midday reaching for a coffee or sugary pick me up? The fatty acids DHA and EPA found in fish oil have been shown to help reduce norepinephrine, a stress hormone that is part of our fight or flight response. If your stress hormone levels are out of balance it can keep you from sleeping well and can cause an afternoon energy slump. High quality fish oil will give your body the fatty acids it needs to promote rest and keep your brain sharp throughout the day. Take as directed.
If you find yourself fried at the end of a long day try taking magnesium, the anti-stress mineral. It’s one of the minerals most used for relaxation and helps to promote sleep. Magnesium is required by your cells to make energy, soothe muscles, and wind down the brain at night. The RDA for magnesium is about 300 mg and most people get less than 200 mg. To make sure you are getting enough magnesium eat foods rich in this mineral such as dark leafy greens, nuts, and seaweed. When taking a magnesium supplement make sure it also contains calcium to keep your levels balanced.
A regular sleep cycle can be challenging with a full schedule and loads of responsibilities. Try waking up at the same time everyday and taking melatonin for a few weeks to get your body on track. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the body’s natural sleep and wake cycles. Your brain produces melatonin in the pineal gland, which is in the center of the brain. Right before bedtime melatonin levels in the blood are at their highest. Melatonin supplements have been shown to improve sleep and speed recovery from jet lag and have been deemed safe for short-term use (up to 3 months). Take as directed by the manufacturer and discontinue use if it makes you feel exhausted the following day.
Pay Attention To Your Cycle
Most women tend to get the least amount of sleep right before their menstruation cycle. This has to do with the slight lowering of body temperature after ovulation and hormone levels falling right before menstruation. PMS and and PMDD have also been linked to sleep issues. It’s important on the days leading up to your period to keep your schedule as light as possible and make extra time for rest. Unplug from the computer and take warm baths in the evenings to help wind down from the day.
Valerian is a potent root that has been used for ages to support restful sleep. It’s currently one of the most celebrated herbs for anxiety and insomnia and is a wonderful alternative to chamomile. Unlike chamomile, valerian is very bitter and is best absorbed by the body in the form of a tincture. The wonderful thing about valerian is that it is highly effective and very few people experience grogginess the day after taking it. For the greatest benefit, take valerian as directed, every night for at least one month.
Wake Up At The Same Time Everyday
A quick way to re-pattern your sleep cycles is to wake up each morning at the same time. This can be challenging if you are in the habit of staying up late so be prepared for some tired days in the beginning. A regular wake up time helps balance your biological clock and keeps your natural rhythm consistent. Tip: Be sure to open your curtains in the morning for a dose of natural light. This helps your body sync to your environment and gives your body energy. Try this practice for two weeks and notice what a difference it makes.