You might have noticed that your normal sleeping pattern has altered of late. Lockdown and periods of self-isolation have played havoc with many of our daily routines, including when you retire, wake up, and how much sleep you’re getting.
If you’ve been confined to the house for longer periods than you’ve been used to, you might even have found yourself napping at times you never have before. That may mean you’re not managing the holy grail of sleep – eight hours a night.
Our bodies are highly tuned to the natural circadian rhythm that regulates our internal alarm clock. It manages hormones, body temperature, and the digestive system to control periods of wakefulness and sleep.
What is insomnia, and what causes it?
Many people use the term insomnia to refer to any night when sleeping is difficult. The following four criteria can be used to define insomnia as an insomnia disorder:
- Inability to fall asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or getting nonrestorative sleep
- When you are able to sleep and the conditions are ideal, you still have trouble sleeping
- Sleep deprivation impairs your ability to function during the day
- For at least one month, at least three sleep disturbances per week have occurred
Exercise, exposing yourself to both natural light and darkness, and cutting down on caffeine will slowly reset our body clock. However, sometimes, our circadian rhythm needs a little help to reestablish natural routines. These products and supplements can help you drift off quicker for a more restful night so you can be more productive during the day.
Herbal remedies for sleep
Lavender, valerian, chamomile and passionflower extract are natural remedies that have been extolled for their sleep-inducing virtues. The results may not be startling, at least at first, but try each and see which works for you.
Valerian is a plant that people have used for its medicinal properties since ancient times. Valerian root is a common ingredient in herbal supplements that people use to improve sleep, relieve anxiety, and support relaxation.
Lavender is a popular choice for sleep and relaxation too. Lavender oil is widely used in aromatherapy to improve sleep quality. It may also be beneficial for people who suffer from insomnia, depression and anxiety. It is thought that lavender may also improve ailments such as restless leg syndrome and menstrual issues that can impact sleep. Research also suggests that lavender oil may also increase time spent in deep sleep.
Chamomile is commonly regarded as a herb that induces sleep. Chamomile is often consumed in tea form. Its calming effects may be related to the antioxidant, apigenin, which is found in abundance in chamomile. Apigenin acts on certain receptors in the brain to decrease anxiety and help us nod off.
Some research has suggested that passionflower supplements may help with anxiety, sleep problems, and certain types of pain. This is because it may increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical the brain produces to help regulate mood and sleep, and calm pain impulses in the nervous system.
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleeping and waking routines. Some research suggests that melatonin supplements can ease issues like jet lag and trouble falling or staying asleep. When it starts to get dark in the evening, the brain produces melatonin. This regulates the sleep-wake cycle by instructing our bodies and brains that it’s time for bed. Some sleeping aids contain melatonin. They are often used by people who have been identified as having disorders that interrupt their circadian rhythm. Melatonin is only available on prescription in the UK, so consult your GP if you believe this may help.
Magnesium is thought to promote feelings of calm and relaxation by activating responses in the parasympathetic nervous system. Magnesium also has a role in the brain’s processes for regulating melatonin and it binds to GABA receptors which quieten nerve activity. Try adding foods that are high in magnesium to your diet, such as kale or spinach. You can also take magnesium supplements for that extra boost.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound extracted from hemp plants. It doesn’t get you high as cannabis would, but it can help you nod off. Research suggests that CBD oil can help with anxiety and stress as well as physical pain – all factors that inhibit sleep. The calming and soothing effects of CBD help us wind down and settle down before bed.
CBD oil is available in various strengths, with something to suit everyone. To find the oil that is right for you, take a look at CBD Hemporium’s extensive range.
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a compound that our bodies use to make melatonin and serotonin, the hormone that has a big effect on our mood. We consume 5-HTP from certain foods, but not in sufficient quantities to make that much difference. 5-HTP supplements made from plant seeds may help you to get to sleep and stay asleep for longer.
Glycine is an amino acid that is thought to have an impact on sleep. Glycine is usually absorbed from protein sources in our diet, but it is also available in supplement form. Glycine is used all over the body, but what’s relevant to sleep is its effect on the brain. Glycine is involved with the transmission of chemicals across the brain, and research is ongoing as to its effectiveness for people with schizophrenia. It’s believed that Glycine can induce calmness, helping people fall asleep but also feel more awake come the morning.
Few people in the Western world truly appreciate Magnolia bark, but the plant supplement has been used in traditional medicines for thousands of years. Magnolia is a flowering tree grown extensively throughout the world. Its bark contains several bioactive compounds that have a range of health benefits. Two of the most studied are honokiol and magnolol that have anxiolytic properties which can reduce the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. Magnolia bark is thought to have sedative qualities and supplements containing it can help with sleep.
We all have periods where lack of sleep or poor sleep quality impacts many areas of our lives. It can make us feel grumpy, exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety and affects how well we cope with stress. We’ve all been through a period of disruption. Our lives were upended by the societal effects of COVID-19. By starting to address sleep issues now, the compounded effects will help us to re-establish routines. Not many of us can take a gradual approach to achieve this. You can try some of these products to see what helps you and get back into the swing of daily life a little quicker.