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|Sleep is important, it helps our brain function and our emotional well-being. Sleep also helps us make decisions and pay attention. While we sleep our body is busy healing and repairing our heart and blood vessels. Sleep also supports a normal balance of hormones that make us feel hungry and can support normal glucose metabolism. Our immune system also needs sleep to stay healthy. Often we don’t get enough sleep due to busy lifestyles, stress, and sleep issues. Natural sleep remedies can help us fall asleep and stay asleep reaping all of its benefits and leave us ready for the next day.
Insomnia is the most common sleep issue and symptoms can range from trouble falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and having dream-disturbed sleep. In traditional Chinese medicine sleep issues usually occur when someone is experiencing stress, anxiety, or agitation; called “disturbed shen.” Shen is the spirit of a person and their emotional state should exhibit radiance, calm, and balance. When someone has “disturbed shen”, remedies will look to “calm the shen.”
Acupuncture and massage therapy promote relaxation and are often used to help with sleep issues. Meditation is also helpful to reduce stress. In addition, dietary changes such as not eating two or three hours before bedtime and avoiding greasy or sweet foods is important. Cold drinks, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol should be avoided as well.
TCM herbal formulas which help regulate the sleep pattern are often designed to “calm the shen.” Seven Forests Zizyphus 18 is an herbal formula which is an excellent choice for insomnia and resting the shen at night. Suan Zoa Ren Tang Pian is another good choice for insomnia caused by stress and anxiety. Suan Zoa Ren Tang Pian is used to induce normal sleep with the feeling of being refreshed and rejuvenated upon awakening.
Other natural sleep remedies include aromatherapy, such as lavender essential oil which has been shown to aid in sleep and is a natural way to get those zzz’s. Exercise is also an important way to improve sleep, gentle yoga or stretching coupled with meditation can help to relax the mind and body. Eating foods rich in magnesium like almonds and bananas have been shown to promote sleep and muscle relaxation.
Supplements such as magnesium and calcium combined can boost sleep, melatonin supports normal sleep/wake/sleep cycles, and L-theanine, an amino acid from green tea can help boost REM cycles and a deeper sleep at night. The most common herb used for sleep is valerian. Valerian has been shown to support deep sleep, speed falling asleep, relieve emotional stress, and help with the overall quality of sleep.