Sleep & Holistic Remedies

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for our health and well-being. The foundation to this is having a supportive and comfortable bed. It is also of growing interest the natural remedies that are available to help enhance sleep. We spoke to Helen Ridge, founder of Alive Natural Health, a qualified Naturopath and Nutritionist, to get her insights into sleep and some tips on how to get a good night’s rest. Helen develops health and wellness programmes; she takes a modern approach to a healthy lifestyle, infusing evidence-based practices with traditional therapies.

When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, you don’t typically think of your body’s hormones. Sleep allows many of our hormones to replenish so we can enjoy the benefits of optimal energy, along with boosted immunity, a balanced appetite and an increased ability to adapt to stress. Hormones also control many of the body’s processes including: growth, development, reproduction, stress response, metabolism and energy balance; so replenishing our hormones is important for a healthier life.

Understanding the connection between hormones and sleep may help improve our sleep and overall well-being. For example, when we are stressed, we release the hormone cortisol, which makes us feel alert and ready for action. It’s been found that this hormone tends to be higher in people with insomnia. If we get less sleep than normal, our levels of prolactin may also get out of balance and we can wake up with a faded immune system, difficulty concentrating and carbohydrate cravings.

There are many reasons people have trouble sleeping – from poor sleep hygiene (eg, poor choice of pillow, an old or unsupportive mattress, or a room that is too cold or warm) to shift work, from caffeine to anxiety, medical conditions and breathing disorders (such as sleep apnoea).

Whatever your reason to want to improve your sleep, below are some tips for ensuring peaceful and restorative sleep.

Sleep disturbances caused by hormone imbalances can be tested using functional pathology. These test the pattern and metabolism of cortisol, as well as your melatonin levels and your sleep profile. Understanding the connections between hormones and sleep may help improve your sleep and well-being.

Abbot, J. Chemical Messengers: how hormones help us sleep. The Conversation. 2015 Sept.
Burkhardt S, et al. Detection and quantification of the antioxidant melatonin in Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries (Prunus cerasus). J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Oct;49(10):4898-902.
Howatson G, et al. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Dec;51(8):909-16. doi: 10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7. Epub 2011 Oct 30.
Leone V, et al. Effects of diurnal variation of gut microbes and high-fat feeding on host circadian clock function and metabolism. Cell Host & Microbe. 2015; 17:681-689

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