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Sleep: Getting Back on Track

Sleep is an important factor in maintaining good health. When the body is struggling to catch up on sleep, the immune system often suffers, leaving us vulnerable to sickness. Some studies have shown that, over a prolonged period of time, insufficient sleep can lead to poor health and reduced longevity. Restlessness, stress, and various other factors can keep people from acquiring adequate amounts of sleep. This article outlines ways to naturally correct problems that lead to sleep deprivation, ultimately balancing our circadian rhythms.

Magnesium:

This valuable mineral is a key building block for our cellular functions and enzymatic reactions. It stimulates muscle relaxation and reduces adrenaline production which helps to promote rest. Much of the population is deficient in this vital mineral, which can lead to various symptoms (muscle twitches, restlessness and insomnia to name a few). When taken in the right form, magnesium can be a highly effective tool for relaxation. Magnesium citrate powder is a great form of magnesium. Dissolved in warm water, it can be ingested right before bed for increased muscle relaxation. Magnesium glycinate is another highly absorbable form that can be taken before bed. Magnesium oxide and hydroxide, though common, are not highly absorbable forms, and are best avoided. (Note: Limit high calcium intake as it is generally not lacking in the average diet, and may decrease magnesium absorption.)

Pineal Gland:

The pineal gland is an important component in our bodies that helps to regulate our circadian rhythms. The pineal gland is located in the center of the brain and is responsible for the secretion of melatonin and other hormones. Increased melatonin levels are associated with the onset of sleep as they decrease body temperature, signaling the body to slow its metabolic rate and become tired. Doctors often suggest taking melatonin before bed to help patients sleep, however, this hormone is produced naturally by the pineal gland with the onset of darkness and supplementation is not usually necessary. It is not usually a lack of melatonin in the body, but rather a variety of other factors contributing to poor sleep. By routinely depriving your eyes (and thus your pineal gland) of light before bed, you are promoting the production of melatonin. By routinely exposing your eyes to light in the morning, you are diminishing the production of melatonin, allowing your body to wake more readily at sunrise. This can be done by simply setting an alarm and opening the drapes upon awakening, or, if there is little sunlight, exposing yourself to a natural light substitute like an Energy Lamp. Before too long, you will have trained your body to fall back into its natural rhythm of sleeping when darkness falls, and waking with the light.

Nighttime Activities:

Certain activities done during or right before bedtime can lead to a restless sleep. For example, eating after 6:00pm can cause the digestive system to become active by the time you prepare for sleep. This alone can promote restlessness and difficulty falling asleep. Eating heavy meals that require more digestion, including meat and fried foods, may also lead to restlessness. By around 10:00pm, the body begins preparing its routine detox and healing process. At this point, it is best to be ready for sleep. Snacking before bed and continually being active during this time can disrupt the body’s natural processes. As primitive beings, we slept at nightfall and rose at sunrise. Activity done into the night often resulted from a problem keeping us up, so when we continue to be active during resting hours, we’re placing added stress on our bodies, signaling to it that “I’m not asleep because something is wrong.”

Sleeping Positions:

This is a simple yet important factor in promoting a better quality of sleep. Many times people toss and turn in the night in an attempt to get more comfortable. These movements can interrupt our sleep cycle, leaving us feeling groggy and achy in the morning. A few simple tricks can improve the quality of sleep. An comfortable mattress is quite important, but not always affordable. A thick Mattress Pad is another less expensive option that can add cushion to a stiff bed. When sleeping on your side, place a supportive pillow between your legs and under your neck. I highly recommend an organic millet or Buckwheat Pillow for such support. These pillows are easy to shape, fitting to your specific body type. Plus, they don’t contain harsh chemicals like flame retardants, or unfavorable fabrics like conventional cotton. When sleeping on your back, place a pillow under your knees and remove the pillow from underneath your neck. By laying your head flat on the mattress, you are helping straighten out your spine, relieving strain. Sleeping on your stomach is more tricky, as the neck is unavoidably turned at an extreme angle. If you can help it, try to avoid this position for better sleep.

Gotu Kola Tea:

This tea can be enjoyed before bed to increase restful sleep. It is naturally caffeine free, contains high levels of magnesium, and helps to detoxify the body and reduce stress. One Tea Bag steeped for 5-10 minutes is usually sufficient.