Stop Feeling Tired All The Time With These Natural Fixes To Wake Refreshed
Herb Nerd and The Cusp resident wellbeing expert, REECE CARTER, knows there’s little more frustrating than the odd night of insomnia. Unless, of course, it’s insomnia that just won’t quit. Here are his naturopath-certified fixes for a good night’s sleep.
You know the pattern: you’re tired all day, but then somehow unable to switch off at night, and instead you toss and turn until – you guessed it – you wake again completely unrefreshed. You peel your head reluctantly from the pillow, drag yourself through the day, but then somehow find yourself once again unable to fall asleep at night. And the cycle continues.
To make matters worse, chronic insomnia isn’t just annoying; it’s a serious health risk too. Its consequences include an increased risk of depression and hypertension. And it affects nearly a third of Australians.
So what gives? And how can you get your sleep back on track naturally?
#1 Remove the roadblocks to sleep
First things first: don’t make it harder for your body to fall asleep than it already is. Things like work stress might be unavoidable, but there are other habits that we can control – namely caffeine and alcohol.
Alcohol might come as a surprise, since most of us are familiar with feeling drowsy after a few drinks. But we also know that although alcohol consumption may help us fall to sleep initially, it causes havoc to sleep patterns in the second half of the night.
So even if a glass or two of wine is tempting to unwind after work, it might just be the thing that’s waking you up again at 2am.
Caffeine, on the other hand, is more likely to interrupt the first half of your night’s sleep. One of the major neurotransmitters involved in falling asleep is called adenosine. It builds up throughout the day, making you progressively more tired.
But caffeine blocks its receptors, numbing your brain to adenosine’s effects and keeping you alert. This may be helpful at 9am when you’re trying to fire up those sluggish neurons, but not so much when you’re trying to fall asleep. Considering that caffeine has a half-life of 5-6 hours, that means that one shot from the double-shot latte you had at 3pm is still racing through your system at 9pm.
Instead, enjoy a coffee in the morning and then give it a miss after lunchtime, and lay off alcohol during the week.
#2 Retrain your rhythm
Your body is programmed to associate light with wakefulness and dark with rest. But nobody told our brains to differentiate between sunshine and the glow from our laptops.
Having a bedroom full of screens – including a television or your phone – means that over time you’ll subconsciously associate the room with activity instead of sleep.
Conversely, getting outside in the sunshine and exercising in the morning helps hit reset on your circadian rhythm. We want to retrain our minds to be alert in the morning, and relaxed in the evening, and often need to break years of bad habits that have messed with this pattern.
#3 Try Natural Sleep Aids
There are as many different causes of insomnia as there are remedies for it. The key to finding the right natural fix for poor sleep is to identify which one addresses the most likely cause of your insomnia. Here are a few of my favourites.
Magnesium: If your dietary intake of dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds isn’t what it should be, you may not be getting enough magnesium in your diet. In that case, daily supplementation might just be the help you need to improve your sleep patterns.
Valerian and Hops: While neither of these herbs has convincingly been proven to work in isolation, a combination of the two has proven itself in early trials as a natural sedative. And yep, that’s the same hops that can be found in beer.
Kava: Are anxious thoughts keeping you awake? This traditional medicine from the Pacific Islands might just be the answer. If you live in Western Australia or Northern Territory you’re out of luck, but in all other states it can be bought over the counter.
St John’s Wort: Mood disorders and insomnia go hand in hand, and in these instances St John’s Wort is the most well-researched herbal remedy around.
Of course, it’s always best to check with your doctor if your insomnia exists alongside any kind of suspected mental illness, lasts for more than four weeks, or if you’re on any medication already.
But for the rest of us who just experience transient bouts of insomnia, the natural hacks above might just be enough to reboot our sleep cycle and have us waking up ready to take on the world.
Reece Carter is a qualified Naturopath, herbal medicine expert and Australia’s very own ‘Garden Pharmacist’. From the planter box to the pantry and with a lifelong passion for all things green, this self-professed herb nerd has the answers.