Getting a good sleep, one that’s restful and restorative, is essential for our physical and mental well-being. Yet many of us are not getting enough sleep to function well.
The UK seems to be a nation of insomniacs, with up to a third of adults reporting regular issues with sleep disturbance.
The consequences of not getting a good sleep are more serious than simply being under par the next day.
Not getting a good sleep regularly, one that’s restorative, can lead to a whole host of health problems. It can age us prematurely if left unchecked. Chronic insomnia can also lead to weight gain, diabetes, inflammation and even heart disease.
So, what can you do if you seem to spend the night tossing and turning?
What positive steps can you take if you’re wired but tired and suffering from chronic sleep issues?
The answer lies not only in what you do in the evening but what you do in the rest of your day and in the rest of your life.
It is important to think about the usual suspects, such as avoiding screens or cutting down on caffeine as you head towards bedtime. But the chances are that if you’re not getting a good sleep on a regular basis there is more going on and you’ll need to dig a little deeper to get back on track and restore good sleep patterns.
In most chronic health problems, there is often a perfect storm. Insomnia is no exception.
Types of insomnia
You’re unlikely to connect that skipped lunch with waking up at 3am or link your weight gain with not sleeping well. It’s only by stepping back and looking at your overall health and well-being, your diet and lifestyle, that you can start to resolve chronic sleep issues.
And the chances are that if you have chronic insomnia you will need some help doing this.
There are different types of insomnia, too, all of which need to be managed very differently. Do you have trouble getting to sleep or are you waking frequently? Maybe you wake up too early or you may even experience all three.
If you have a problem with getting off to sleep in the first place, it might be enough to choose sedative herbs such as valerian, passionflower or hops and use them at bedtime.
For chronic sleep issues, with wakeful episodes through the night, herbs are needed during the daytime, too, but you need to give a more detailed case history before we can join up the dots.
For chronic insomnia, restorative work with deep-acting adaptogen herbs such as withania (also called ashwagandha) or schisandra will help restore your circadian rhythm.
Boosting reproductive hormones like oestrogen or neurotransmitters like dopamine might settle hormonal flux which can be behind not getting a good sleep.
Toning the vagus nerve with digestive bitters will promote rest and digest, and increasing anti-oxidants will help with free radical damage and inflammation.
Signs of restorative sleep
There is no simple answer and no simple remedy, but that doesn’t make getting a good sleep impossible. We just have to put in some effort with some detective and restorative work. The results will be worth it.
If you seek good health and longevity, sleeping well should be equally as important to you as eating well and digesting well. The three are intimately connected and all need to be considered if you are looking to function at your best.
Check out our herbal medicine clinic if you think you need help with insomnia.
Having a good sleep, waking at the same time every day without the need for an alarm clock and feeling refreshed when you wake up are all signs you are achieving truly restorative sleep. The beauty of it is it’s totally achievable, too!