how to get a good nights sleep

In the summer months, many people might find a cooling fan is essential for a good night’s sleep. However, there are many more reasons than just overheating and being attacked by mosquitoes for sleep to become an issue. Stress is certainly a big factor that can interfere with getting a relaxing, deep sleep, but there are other nutritional deficiencies that can also have an effect. Clinician's naturopath, Jane Cronin, shares with us some key stress support herbs and nutrients for sleep.

‘Adaptogenic’ Herbs

When we get busy or have to deal with life’s pressure, the body adapts by moving us from a ‘rest and digest’ mode into ‘fight or flight’. This is done by producing chemicals that affect functions in the body, for example making us more alert.  Being over alert all the time can be wearing on the body and is not great when it causes us to be wide awake in the night thinking. When looking to support our physiological reaction to stress there are a number of herbs that can be used.  Some herbs are classed as “adaptogens”, which means they help our bodies adapt to stress.  Many species of the ginseng family fall into this category, as well as plants like Withania and Asparagus stem extract.
There are a number of herbs that can be taken at night in order to relax the mind and body. These include herbs such as Passionflower, Skullcap, Lemon balm and Zizyphus.

Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the key nutrients needed for body relaxation and staying asleep. However, many people are lacking as our cells lose magnesium when we are stressed.  Also, for those who work out, magnesium is used up as it is needed for muscle relaxation. Some signs you may be lacking in magnesium include restless fidgeting legs, facial ticks, cramps, tense shoulder muscles and waking in the night.

Calcium

Calcium is another mineral that when low, seems to be associated with difficulty getting to sleep.  This is often seen in children when they go through a growth spurt and their calcium is used for growing bones. Low calcium can also occur with poor diet. Those who consume large amounts of soda, caffeine, and alcohol are also typically more likely to have lower calcium levels due to the way these substances interfere with calcium absorption.

Vitamin B12

Studies have shown that Vitamin B12 is important for sleep cycles. This is due to its role in the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone.  When taken in the day, Vitamin B12 helps us feel alert and then supports melatonin production at night, helping us get to sleep and stay asleep. Those at risk of low Vitamin B12 levels include vegans, vegetarians and those with digestive disorders. We also tend to make less B12 as we age due to declining levels of stomach acid.

TAPS No. PP1963

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