Sleep is part of the natural rhythm of our lives, although it doesn’t come easily to all of us.
Adults need an average of 8 hours sleep every night and young children need 12 hours. Throughout the night our sleep progresses through a series of stages in which different brain wave patterns are displayed.
The delta waves manifested during deep sleep allow restoration of the immune system, release anti-ageing hormones, heal the mind and repair the muscles. The heart and breathing rate are slowed and the blood vessels dilate to provide nourishment to all the cells in the body. Cortisol – a hormone released when we are stressed which has damaging effects throughout the body, is reduced during deep sleep. During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep the mind is able to process emotions, memories and consolidate learned information.
Tips for a peaceful night’s sleep
- Eat the last meal of the day at least 3 hours before going to bed. Whilst the digestive system is active your metabolism is high and you cannot truly rest.
- If possible keep your bedroom as a sanctuary of sleep! Don’t work in bed or your brain may come to associate this with a place of activity.
- If worries or plans are keeping you awake, keep a notebook by your bedside so you can write them down and release them before you lay down, free and peaceful.
- Try unwinding for half an hour before bed. Relaxation techniques such as visualisation, alternate nostril breathing or calming music can allow your mind to switch off and your body to relax.
- Exercise during the day can promote a good night’s sleep. Physical activity keeps the circadian rhythm running effectively – at night a slight rise in body temperature is experienced which primes the body to fall asleep easily.
- Listen closely to your body’s signals. Often we reach a point in the evening when we feel naturally tired. This is the best time to retire. If you stay up, you may pass through this and begin to feel more alert.
Valeriana officinalis (Valerian): This grounding herb is valuable for insomnia related to a nervous disposition. It is a gentle sedative with antispasmodic actions, easing cramps and tension.
Tilia europaea (Lime flower): Used to relax a tense nervous system and musculature this herb can be combined with chamomile to make a pleasant and relaxing bedtime tea.
On examination of the iris, dark or light pigment changes may be seen over the location associated with the liver, positioned between 7.30 – 8 in the right iris (when observing another person), in an individual experiencing insomnia.
© Extracted from a weekly radio broadcast 2010
Published in ‘Labyrinth’ magazine in August/September edition, 2011
The Herbal Clinic in Swansea provides natural healthcare with the use of organic herbs, acupuncture and iridology.