End Sleepless Nights with these Natural Insomnia Therapies
By Sarah Axtell, ND • May 9, 2020
Sleep deprivation or insomnia can lead to:
- Memory and cognitive dysfunction: Your brain cleans itself at night. Think of your brain taking the garbage out. The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) washes in and out in wave-like motions to eliminate accumulated metabolic “trash” in the brain. In order to flush out the waste and thus promote good memory and cognitive function, aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.
- Increased hunger, blood sugar dysregulation, and weight gain, especially in the mid-section.
- Anger, depression, and irritability: our amygdala, our emotion center in the brain, is affected by chronic insomnia.
The goal is 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Here are some ways to optimize your sleep:
- Minimize exposure to light in the evening. I typically recommend avoiding screens at least 60 minutes prior to bedtime. Dim your lights, turn off the tv, invest in some black-out blinds, and read a good old- fashioned book.
- Reduce your consumption of stimulants, notably coffee. There are genetic variants that can alter your metabolism of caffeine. Some people drink coffee at 8 am and it is still in their system at 8 pm. My favorite morning beverage is green tea. It does have caffeine (though smaller amount than coffee), but it also contains L-theanine. L-theanine is a calming amino acid that reduces the stimulatory effect.
- Avoid late-night eating. Ideally, cut yourself off from food at least 3 hours prior to bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol. Save alcohol for special occasions…not nightly as it will inevitably alter your sleep quality. Initially alcohol relaxes you but then it can lead to “rebound insomnia,” where you wake up at 3 am wide-awake. In Chinese medicine, each organ system is associated with a time. Liver time is between 1-3 am. This is why you awake in the middle of the night after imbibing. Sounds familiar, right?
- Optimize the temperature of your bedroom. Keep your bedroom temperature between 65-68 degrees F.
- Balance hormones. Naturopathic doctors are trained to address the underlying cause of your insomnia. Common causes I see are adrenal dysfunction (high cortisol!) and hormone imbalance (notably low progesterone).
Supplements that can help:
- Melatonin-SR: This is sustained-release melatonin, which can help you not only fall asleep but also stay asleep. Melatonin helps reset the circadian rhythm. A typical dose is between 2-6 mg approximately 60 minutes prior to bedtime.
- Seriphos: Seriphos is the active form of phosphorlyated serine. Phosphorlyated serine is an effective way to enhance quality of sleep, balance mood, and optimize brain function. Its mechanism of action is to reduce cortisol.
- Magnesium: I find the best form of magnesium for sleep is magnesium glycinate. A typical dose is 400 mg at bedtime.
- CBD oil (quality matters!)
- Calming herbs: Skullcap, kava, passionflower, lavender, chamomile. My favorite way to consume these is in the form of sleepytime teas in the evening.
- Progesterone if indicated
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.