Lack of sleep has a major impact on brain/nervous system health (a causative factor implicated in dementia) and overall immune system function.
Sleep insufficiency may be caused by societal factors such as round-the-clock access to technology and work schedules, but sleep disorders such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also play an important role.
Here are some holistic ways to encourage sound sleep.
• The wind-down routine. Try to go to bed and get up the same time every day. Regular sleep hours help your nervous system learn when to turn on and off.
• Meditate daily to release stress. In the evening, do some gentle movement, preferably restorative yoga postures, along with deep-belly breathing and meditation to let go of the worries of the day.
• Practice yoga nidra (the “yoga of sleep”). It resets the nervous system and can be helpful for improving sleep and treating insomnia. Rod Stryker is a yoga nidra master and has great selections (parayoga.com); Integrative Restoration or iRest (irest.org) is also fantastic.
• Exercise at least 30 minutes each day. Regular exercise can decrease the time it takes to fall asleep and increases total sleep time.
• Sip a cup of chamomile tea or warm organic milk with raw, organic honey and/or special sleep-inducing herbs about an hour before bedtime.
• Take a warm shower or bath before bed. The warmth deeply relaxes body tissues. Add calming essential oils to the bath like lavender, rose, ylang-ylang, geranium and clary sage.
• Consider supplements like melatonin, hemp extract with CBD, valerian, 5-HTP. Also make sure your magnesium levels are up to snuff. It isn’t called the “relaxation” mineral for nothing! Check in on any of these with your doctor, especially if taking pharmaceutical meds.
• Keep your bedroom dark and cool. Turn the TV off at least an hour before bed. Bright lights, especially the blue light from TVs, computers, iPhones, LED lighting will signal the pineal gland to stop producing melatonin.
• Do not have a large meal within three hours of bedtime, though a small protein snack—a few almonds or a small amount of yogurt—may help promote restful sleep by helping your body maintain normal blood sugar levels through the night.
• Get enough melatonin-boosting organic foods and nutrients. These include oats, sweet corn, brown rice, barley, ginger, tomatoes, bananas to name but a few.
• Avoid taking anti-anxiety drugs, NSAIDS, steroids, beta and calcium channel blockers and some antidepressants at least one hour before bed if possible. They inhibit melatonin production.
• Don’t drink wine right before bed. Alcohol stimulates the central nervous system, so it may make you feel drowsy at first, but then rebounds to disrupt sleep.