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Nature's botanicals can help you sleep through the night

Dr. Marita Schauch

Special to the Village News

Nighttime awakenings are a real scenario. You are sound asleep, and then you’re not. And many people find it almost impossible to go back to sleep. According to the Journal of Psychiatric Research, in a study of 8,937 people, 23% said they woke up at least once every night and more frequently after age 50.

One of the biggest keys to health is a proper sleep cycle.

The sleep cycle or circadian rhythm is affected by the amount of light people receive throughout the day and night. When they are exposed to natural light during the day, the brain gets the signal to be more alert and awake, and when night falls, the body registers the shifting of light and prepares for sleep by producing melatonin. Melatonin is a natural pineal gland hormone released throughout the night to regulate sleep and deepen rest. Many modern-day factors, however, inhibit this process. Let’s look at aspects that negatively impact deep, sound sleep.

Environmental factors and routines include unnatural lighting, too much external stimulation like blue light exposure, induced inner stimulation like drinking caffeine too late in the day or before going to bed and loud snoring from a partner.

Fluctuating schedules because of shifts in life, such as travel and disorganized or irregular bedtime hours like overnight shift work, can affect the quality of sleep.

Lack of nourishment/hydration affects sleep cycles as well. When the body is lacking proper nourishment via vitamins and minerals as well as proper hydration, it doesn’t have what it needs to regulate its functions. Some important vitamins and minerals for sleep are vitamin D, melatonin, B vitamins, theanine, calcium, and magnesium. Getting enough water is also imperative for good sleep.

Sickness disrupts healthy sleep. Any disease or illness can disrupt natural sleep patterns. When you’re sick, the body needs more energy to battle, causing more fatigue than usual.

Lack of exercise inhibits sleep. When people get in the habit of not moving enough, the body gets used to not expending much energy, which leads to more tiredness when attempting new activities. Introducing a movement practice of any kind will greatly boost good brain chemicals that not only help with energy but also sleep regulation.

What can people do if their bodies are struggling to make melatonin? Look for a tri-layered melatonin that contains additional botanicals to induce sleep and releases them at different times throughout the night, mimicking the cycle that would happen naturally. These could include L-theanine, an amino acid that boosts chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, GABA and serotonin and helps with sleep regulation and brings calm; 5-HTP, this chemical, which is not available in food, helps create more serotonin in the body and is only found in the seeds of the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia and is known for inducing sleep and prolonging the length of sleep; and Valerian root, which increases the amount of GABA in the central nervous system and helps with regulation and benefits mood and sleep.

Two more botanicals that promote sleep include Passionflower, which is also known as passiflora, a flowering type of vine efficient at reducing activity in the CNS, thus increasing feelings of ease in the body and Hops, which is known commonly as an ingredient of beer and the female hops flowers have powerful sedative effects and have been used in herbal medicine for centuries.

Passionflower and valerian are commonly used together as they have very similar and complementary effects.

Dr. Marita Schauch is the author of two books, “Making Sense of Women’s Health” and “Collagen Myths & Misconceptions.” She also co-wrote “The Adrenal Stress Connection.” In addition to her clinical practice, she lectures across North America educating people on positive lifestyle choices.


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