Good quality rest is key to our optimal functioning and wellbeing, and it’s hard to feel good when we’re sleep deprived.
But sleep issues are a common symptom of many hormone imbalances, and are specifically impacted by cortisol, estrogen and progesterone. An excess of cortisol, a major stress hormone, is probably the most significant factor that interrupts sleep, but excess estrogen and insufficient progesterone can also contribute, and excess cortisol also throws estrogen and progesterone out of balance, which further complicates things.
Ironically, getting enough sleep is important for helping to balance hormones, because sleep actually reduces cortisol.
Here are suggestions that you can practice yourself when sleep eludes you, as well as modalities that can help. And I am really happy to tell you that these safe and easy things really work.
Reduce stress. Yes, this is in the “duh” category, but it’s a good reminder. Anything you do to reduce stress will improve your cortisol and sleep. Meditation and gentle forms of yoga are helpful, as are spending time in nature, and anything else that helps you feel calmer. Avoid stimulating activities at night (other than sex), and staying up too late. (According to Ayurveda, it is ideal to sleep between 10pm and 8pm.)
And make sure your room is completely dark, as even minimal amounts of light can disrupt sleep; consider a comfortable eye mask if it’s not.
Reduce or avoid caffeine. Another “duh,” but keep in mind that caffeine lurks not only in coffee, but also in green and black tea, dark chocolate, and various OTC remedies.
Highly spiced food can also over-stimulate your nervous and digestive systems, as can eating too late in the evening.
Magnesium is a natural sedative, so eating magnesium-rich foods is a good idea: legumes and seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, almonds, cashews, brewer’s yeast, and whole grains.
As mentioned above, gentle forms of yoga and calming activities such as walking in nature, can all contribute to quality rest. But avoid stimulating forms of exercise, especially late in the day. An excellent yoga posture for improving sleep is Legs Up a Wall.
Deep belly breathing has a very calming effect on the nervous system and can be particularly helpful. A specific yoga breathing technique that is my favorite to help promote sleep is Alternate Nostril Breathing. Here’s a short video that easily demonstrates how to do it, and I recommend a slow, even breath of about 4 counts on each inhalation and exhalation.
Body Care & Aromatherapy
A warm (not hot) bath can be very relaxing, especially with Epsom salts that provide magnesium. You can also add calming essential oils or other bath products such as rose, lavender and vanilla.
This may sound a bit unusual, but here’s my absolute best tip for promoting sleep: massaging your feet with sesame oil. This is another bit if Ayurvedic wisdom, and applying sesame oil to the tops of the feet has an incredibly sedating affect on the nervous system. I’m always amazed at how well this works. (BTW, the sesame oil I’m talking about is regular cooking oil. The Spectrum brand refined sesame oil is ideal because it has no smell.)
Adding some lavender essential oil to the sesame makes it even better, or you can also apply drops of lavender directly to your temples and/or between your brows to calm the mind. If you enjoy the scent of sandalwood, it’s the ideal incense to burn for calming the mind as well.
Herbs & Supplements
Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our sleep, and many people find it to be helpful for sleep issues. It is available at any health food or drug store. The lowest dose of 1 or 3 mg is best, and can be taken shortly before going to bed; be aware that too much melatonin can actually disrupt your sleep cycle.
Herbal supplements that are often used as sleep aids include valerian, chamomile, brahmi, hops, kava, passionflower, lemon balm and ashwaghanda. Consider a calming herbal tea at bedtime, such as vanilla, chamomile, or kava.
Other Healing Modalities
Acupuncture can be very helpful for sleep disorders, and of course relaxing massage is good for just about everything. Chiropractic care can also assist the nervous system in returning to a balanced state. Homeopathic sleep remedies can also be helpful.
And here’s a Feng Shui tip: make sure you don’t have too many mirrors in your bedroom, this creates energy that can interfere with sleep.
If you found these tips to be helpful and you’d like more valuable wellness support, feel free to join my 7 Days to a Juicier You! No-Cost Online Women’s Wellness Challenge, where I’ll be offering more quality information and inspiration!