Finally the days are getting longer, the sky bluer. We are still practicing our quarantine habits of distancing and doing a lot online. For some, days can meld together and for many, the blue light of our addictive devices can stimulate our brains to stay up longer than we’d like, and reduce the restfulness of our sleep.
Thankfully, there are many herbal allies that may help.
Insomnia, the inability to fall and stay asleep, is incredibly common! The most common sleep issues are as followed
- Difficulty getting to sleep (not feeling tired or feeling tired but not able to fall asleep)
- Waking up in the night (one or more time, with or with out restless/shallow sleep and an inability to get back to sleep)
- Restless leg syndrome (which can cause or exacerbate the previous two complaints)
Since there are many contributing factors, let’s take a look at the most common.
Blue light interacts with the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin, which contributes to our circadian rhythm (and naturally correlates with the sun in the sky, thus helping to increase energy in the day and decrease it at night).
Try using a blue light filtering setting or app on your device, have a cut-off time for using devices (ideally at least 2-3 hours before bed) and dim home lights and replace blue-white lights with warm yellow lights.
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I personally believe that this correlates with device use because we can access such vast and controversial information, as well as continue work and socialization at any hour. For the majority of human history and prehistory, late evenings and nights consist mainly of winding down activities rather than stimulating ones. It’s OK to sign off.
Some herbs which help to slow down and relax our nervous system include Passionflower (my personal favorite), Kava and Holy Basil. Slow deep breathes, relaxing music and peaceful literature are also underrated tools.
Relaxing Tea Blend
– 1 part Passionflower herb
– 1 Part Chamomile Flowers
– 1 Part Skullcap
Combine, and use 1tsp per cup of freshly boiled water. Steep covered for 3 minutes, strain, add sweetener if desired and enjoy.
Note: Stevia is a great herb for sugar substitution, keto and low carb diets. To learn more about how to utilize this naturally sweet herb, check out this article “Simply Add Stevia”.
Can’t Fall Asleep
Maybe you feel relaxed and are snuggled up in bed, but end up tossing and turning. Since there are many and varied factors individual to you, let’s just look at which herbs may be of most benefit.
Valerian | This stinky herb is well known as sleep herb, but did you know that one out of every ten people experience the opposite effect (increased energy)? This if definitely worth a try, especially if there’s accompanying muscle tension. Tip: add in a blend because of the pungent flavor.
Ashwagandha | Since this herb is an adaptogen, it’s commonly thought to be energizing, which is partly true. This herb helps to regulate and balance the body and energy levels long term, but I find it to be quote sleepy within 20 minutes of ingesting. The flavor is a bit like dirt, but can hide pretty well in a chai type drink (obviously without black tea or caffeine).
Hops | This resinous herb is very sedating, and a little goes a long way (which can also be said about it’s flavor). I like to use this herb in formulas rather than alone, mostly due to it’s very potent and somewhat harsh aroma/flavor. But it get’s the job done!
Restless Leg Syndrome
I myself suffered from this for a time, and I found three factors which have since resolved this issue. One is caffeine, which if I ingest (in amounts larger than green tea) after around 4pm, stays in my system in sufficient quantities to disrupts my sleep schedule. A second is magnesium, which can relax muscle spasms. An herb high in magnesium is Oat straw, which is of benefit in restoring nervous system well being. There are also dietary and supplemental avenues of ingestion, in addition to an epsom salt bath which causes absorption through the skin. The last is actually a cannabis lotion. I’ve found that using a lotion of salve with mostly THC or a combination of THC and CBD (the two most popular cannabinoids) helps to relive spasms locally. I live in Oregon, so these products are widely available, and no you won’t feel a high when using a THC lotion topically on unbroken skin (though it’s a possibility with use on a mucus membrane).
Whatever your reasons for poor sleep, do what you can to increase the quality of this very important restorative process. You may already feel the correlation your mental and physical health have with your sleep. You deserve deep and restorative sleep!
Goodnight Tea Blend
– 1 part Valerian root
– 1 part Passionflower
– 1 part Lemon Balm
Combine and make a standard tea extraction, and I wouldn’t drink this 1/2-1 hour before bedtime.
And you gentle with yourself. Our minds want to “what if!” us all day long, but remind it that you are more than just your thoughts, and that it’s OK to say “give it a rest please” to your inner ego voice who’s yapping on and on. Long breath in, long breath out. You got this. Now go get those jammies on and brush those teeth!
Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposed only and should not be taken as medical advice. Consult your doctor before starting any supplementation.