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Sleep Well for Good Mental Health

Impaired mental health and sleep disorders are overlapping conditions. When sleep is reduced we see mental health deteriorate, in addition to other health symptoms such as impaired memory & concentration, altered food cravings & weight gain, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and compromised immunity.

Almost half of Australian adults report poor sleep quality, and 20% of Australians regularly suffer from insomnia. Given that insomnia is a predictor of depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse, if we’re to be serious about improving mental health we need to be dedicated to improving the length and quality of our shut-eye time.

The reasons for insomnia are wildly varied and range from imbalances in hormones such as melatonin and cortisol, to pain, to a lack of sleep pressure (the things that makes us naturally tired) and really much more. Naturopathy looks at finding and addressing the underlying causes for sleep issues to help you get a good night’s rest.

Things to avoid

· Avoid stimulants prior to sleep (this includes coffee, sugar, artificial sweeteners and vigorous exercise).

· Blue light from tablets, lap tops and mobile phones, can delay the release of melatonin (needed for sleep) for up to 3 hours. Avoid blue light for at least two hours before your bedtime.

· Alcohol - which may also increase sleep apnoea, often a contributor to poor quality sleep

· Large and/or heavy (high fat) meals within two hours of going to bed

· Food intolerance may be interfering with your ability to fall asleep. Talk to your naturopath if you think this may be a factor for you.

Create good sleep health patterns

· Prioritise sleep and allocate enough time in your schedule for it (for most of us, this means about 8-8.5 hours, plus time to drop off)

· Try not to wildly vary the time you go to sleep and the time you get up each day

· Avoid phone use and tv use for the hour before bed and spend that last hour meditating or reading to unwind.

· Create a bedroom environment that's conducive to sleep (around 18 degrees, fairly quiet and as dark as possible)

· Have a wind-down routine before you go to bed (such as a cup of herbal tea or warm milk/soy milk or a hot bath). Passionflower, Chamomile & Lemon Balm are all good herbal tea options

· Put a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pjs or near your bed to inhale as you’re drifting to sleep.

· Form a positive association between the bed and sleeping by not doing other activities in bed such as working or using your phone

· Balance blood sugar levels by ensuring adequate protein throughout the day. Herbs, nutrients and amino acids from you naturopath can also assist in stabilising your blood sugar balance

Using herbal medicine and nutrients can help break the cycle of insomnia without the addictive nature of some pharmaceuticals. Written by local Naturopath Susan Lintott, all enquiries welcome.

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