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BRENDA GILL: Sleep- How to Maximize Rest and Recuperate


Sleep can be elusive for some folks. I always ask about a person’s sleep patterns, because, if you are not sleeping well, it can cause all sorts of imbalances in the body. It is extremely important that you get at least seven to eight hours per night of uninterrupted sleep so the body can recover completely and optimize wellness.

One of the essential steps is to try and go to bed at the same time everyday and get up at the same time everyday. The body really likes to be in a rhythm and therefore minimizes stress on the adrenal glands knowing what to expect.

Secondly, every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight. Again, this has to do with adrenal recovery. The adrenal glands are responsible to handle stressors throughout the day and react to them properly. Due to many people’s lifestyles, I find the adrenal glands are often compromised and/or imbalanced.

The adrenal gland has two major parts. The cortex mostly releases cortisol to handle the stressors of the day. If there are too many stressors on the adrenal glands, the raw materials they utilize to handle them are channelled to make more and more cortisol. Therefore, the other part of the adrenal glands-the medulla does not get what it needs and the result is an imbalance.

The medulla is responsible for releasing DHEA, which is a hormone that helps to establish mood stability/sleep patterns/female hormones during menopause, regulation of stomach acid to break down food, as well as many other functions. So, if the medulla is not getting the raw materials, we start seeing telltale signs.

Often a person has

mood swings/irritability/anger/lows
a hard time coping w stressors
a hard time getting to sleep or wakes at night and has a hard time getting back to sleep

Thirdly, we can utilize herbs and supplements that have been found to help relaxation. I like to have people drink a calming tea during the day instead of coffee. This may include a combination of herbs such as Lemon Balm, Scullcap, Hops, Oat straw and licorice are very gentle herbs & will help settle the body down for sleep. Other herbs which are stronger are Valerian, Rhodiola and Siberian Ginseng. I often use combinations of these herbs in liquid form.

For supplements, I would consider Vitamin C/B’s/5HTP/melatonin and pregnenolone. All of these I use in varying combinations depending on what I think underlies the sleep problems, since each person is unique in their issues.

Fourthly, I try to have people use some type of relaxation technique everyday. Whether that is visualization, mini-holidays, yoga, meditation, prayer or other techniques they have found to be helpful.

Finally, there may be other physical, mental or emotional reasons why sleep is an issue and again these need to have coping strategies to be able to deal with them effectively, so, the body doesn’t get over-whelmed.

This should help you resolve your sleep issues.

Brenda Gill is a naturopath practising in Rossland, BC.