Sleep: Elusive and Rejuvenating

by Sue Taggart

A recent article from Delicious Living (reported in New Hope 360) got me thinking about sleep. Until I reached menopause, I never thought about sleep. I was always one of those lucky individuals that fell into a deep sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and would stay asleep until my alarm went off. In fact, I could sleep anywhere, planes, trains, cars, hotel rooms—even in the middle of a busy day I was able to stretch out on a sofa in my office and cat nap for 10-15 minutes. And, I actually woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go!  Now I realize age has something to do with it, but so does our lifestyle.

Our lives are so different now than even ten years ago. We are connected 24/7 (in some cases, addicted) to our smartphones and all that goes with them! We work longer hours, we multitask, we are on information overload. We eat late, some of us drink alcohol and coffee late at night, others have hyped up kids to deal with, and often we are on our computers just minutes before we go to bed.

I know the logic of turning things off hours before we want to sleep, eating early, avoiding coffee and alcohol, but it’s not always possible. So, while we all attempt to adjust our crazy lifestyles, here are some tips taken directly from the Delicious Living article from the experts that might help us get more zzz’s, or at least get more out of the sleep we do actually manage to have!

“Herbalist—Roy Upton, RH, executive director, American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Scotts Valley, California suggests that we:

•   Support adrenals with adaptogens. When you are sleep deprived, the adrenal glands’ stress response produces the hormone adrenaline, leading to nervous energy and lack of focus. Adaptogenic supplements help pacify adrenaline so you can regain mental equilibrium. Take 1–3 grams of dried powdered reishi per day or 1 gram of high-quality Asian ginseng as tea, extract or powder between meals to increase long-lasting energy. Results may take up to a week.

•   Ditch coffee. It’s easy to reach for coffee when you haven’t gotten enough sleep, but stimulants can make you distracted and jittery. Instead, choose nervines, herbs used to calm nerves, support the nervous system, and provide sustained, relaxed energy. Taking 2–4 ml of avena extract (from fresh fruiting wild oat) per day can improve mental performance and increase stress resistance.

•   Elevate heart rate. Exercise increases circulation and speeds up your ability to process and eliminate adrenaline. Morning is best for exercising because it prepares your body’s metabolism for the day, improving efficiency, digestion and respiratory function. Aim for at least 20 minutes of heart rate–boosting exercise daily.

Meditiation Instructor—Janet Solyntjes, cofounder, Center for Courageous Living, Boulder, Colorado recommends that we should:

•   Pause your work. Inactivity stagnates energy, especially when you’re behind a computer. Mindful movement and energy awareness help synchronize your mind with your body, reawakening natural energy. Reach arms above your head and stretch deeply. Take a break from opening emails. For more relaxation, place hands at the base of your head and gently stretch your neck.

•   Stimulate the senses. When you miss sleep, artificial light from computers, televisions or fluorescent office tubes can be draining, interrupting circadian rhythm—physical, mental and behavioral changes from light and darkness. Being outside is valuable because you are exposed to sunlight and can engage your senses with the natural world. Go for a 20-minute walk and focus on what you see, smell, and hear.

•   Enhance sleep you do get. When you’re exhausted, there can be a disconnect between mind and body. Try gentle yoga, at-home stretching, or a body scan—devoting moment-to-moment attention to your body as it is. Focus on calm breaths and stretches, rather than challenging poses. Breathe deeply before bed, noticing where you feel tension.

Sleep Researcher—Edward Bixler, PhD, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, has some suggestions too,

•   Understand your sleep needs. Six to eight hours of sleep per night is an average figure. Some people need more; others perform optimally with less. Figuring out how much sleep you need is the first step to handling sleep deprivation. Ask yourself your probability of falling asleep after lunch, while riding as a passenger in a car, reading a book, or watching television. If the likelihood is high, you’re not meeting your sleep requirements.

•   Boost immunity. Lack of sleep can impair your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and flus and even more tired. To prevent sickness, eat smart. Choose unprocessed foods as much as possible, including vitamin C–rich fruits and vegetables like strawberries and broccoli.

•  Develop a pattern. Some studies suggest people, especially women, can replenish lost sleep. For example, if you sleep six hours per night during the week but need more, make up some of the hours over the weekend. Developing regular wake and sleep schedules helps your body adapt to the rhythm of snoozing less during the week and more on the weekend. This can increase mental performance and reduce long-term stress.”

So, as I try to initiate the advice from the experts, there are a couple of things that I have found useful:

•  Rescue Sleep. A homeopathic remedy (a sleep version of the popular Rescue Remedy). I find it helps still my thoughts so I can drift off easily

•  Homeostasis Labs-Seep Relief. Another homeopathic remedy that helps me go to sleep

•  Relaxzen. A herbal shot that really works well, but I do feel a little foggy the next day

•  Keeping cool. One of the reasons I wake up during the night is because I still get hot flashes. I wake up burning hot. I have found that lighter sleepwear and bedding while keeping the bedroom cool—even cold—can really help!

•   Mastering your thoughts. A quote I read in the book The Secret really holds a secret for me. I may be misquoting, but the line I remember is “You are the master of your thoughts”. When thoughts are flying around my head as I try to sleep, I banish them by silently repeating the quote over and over until…remarkably, I fall asleep.


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