Whether you have a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep or both, you’re probably wondering if there’s anything you can do about it. When we don’t get enough hours of sleep or when the quality of the sleep is lacking, our energy will be compromised. It’s very frustrating when you wake up at the same time every night or when you keep staring at the clock because you can’t fall back asleep.
When falling asleep is an issue, it’s usually because the mind can’t shut up. You’re thinking about all the things you have to get done, or you’re rehearsing in your head what has gone on during the day.
One thing I tell my patients is to make a to-do list before bed. This allows for all of your planning thoughts to be put on paper and thus it won’t be in your head. You don’t have to worry that you’ll forget something. Another technique that is very effective is meditation and deep belly breathing before bed. I know this is hard to do but practice makes perfect. When the body is breathing deeply it goes into the “rest and digest” state, which lowers cortisol, our stress hormone and allows the body to fall asleep.
Did you know that if you wake up between 1am and 3am it is considered Liver time in Chinese medicine. This organ is associated with the emotions of anger, frustration and irritability. Waking up between 3 and 5am is Lung time and is associated with the emotions of grief and sadness. Often times subconscious emotions and stress will affect our sleep quality and should not be neglected.
Waking up in the middle of the night for no reason, can be due to hormone imbalances. Women who are in perimenopause or menopause are often low in progesterone. Progesterone is a calming hormone and helps with sleep. There are many ways to improve the progesterone status. One way is to help the liver metabolize the hormones better by using herbs or homeopathics. The other way is to include bio-identical hormones. I usually use hormones as a last resort.
Another hormone that many of us are deficient in, especially as we get older, is melatonin. Melatonin is made by a gland in the brain called the pineal gland. Melatonin is a hormone that is produced at night when it’s dark. If you have electronic devices in your room that emit some light or if you don’t have dark blinds on your windows, this can inhibit proper secretion of melatonin by the body. Melatonin deficiency has also been linked to breast cancer. Make sure your room is dark when you sleep.
In order to measure your hormones properly, a salivary test can be conducted. Salivary hormone testing is more accurate than blood testing as it reflects what is going in the tissues. It’s not a cheap test, but if you are struggling to know where your imbalances lie, it’s a good investment.
Herbs and nutrients that can help both falling asleep and staying asleep are passion flower, l-theanine, GABA, valerian and lemon balm. Making sure your adrenals are well balanced will also help with improving your sleep.
If you would like to get your sleep assessed further, do not hesitate to click here and book in with Dr. Cecilia de Martino, ND.