Improving Sleep & Managing Anxiety – According to Naturopathy

    Do you struggle with falling asleep at night? Does anxiety keep you awake? There’s a huge correlation between improving sleep cycles and managing our mental health, including anxiety. The quality of our sleep has a direct impact on various body systems, like our brain function, immune system, gut function, and energy levels, to name a few. Sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on our brain function, promoting inflammation markers within the brain.

    When you are chronically stressed, high cortisol levels (our stress hormones) impact our brain chemistry by reducing a brain chemical known as BDNF, or neurotrophic factor, which is responsible for serotonin receptors in our brain (our happy hormones). Low BDNF levels have been associated with symptoms of depression. BDNF is also responsible for regulation of GABA transporters, a neurotransmitter responsible for creating a calm feeling state.

    Other causes of sleep problems can stem from imbalances in the body. Excessive thyroid hormones can create symptoms of anxiety and increased heart rate. For women, an imbalance in the anti-anxiety hormone progesterone can also lead to low mood and anxiety, especially a few days before our menstrual cycle. Poor sleep also makes individuals more prone to reaching for processed sugar foods, which creates blood sugar imbalances. Fortunately, we can tackle our sleep problems and anxiety holistically through incorporating foods (including herbs), nutrients and supplements, and lifestyle practices that will benefit our hormones and brain function.

    9 Dietary Recommendations For Sleep & Anxiety

    1. Omega 3

    Omega 3 fatty acids are in fatty fish like sardines and mackerel, nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, chia, flaxseeds, and hemp, as well as in cold-pressed olive and coconut oils. Incorporate these foods daily in your diet. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory that helps reduce inflammation within the brain and body. It is also responsible for the secretion and production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for quality sleep.

    2. Magnesium rich foods

    Magnesium is responsible for calming the nervous system and reducing stress overall within the body. Natural sources of magnesium include seaweed, almonds, cashews, and green leafy vegetables.

    3. Tryptophan

    Tryptophan is responsible for the production of melatonin and serotonin. This amino acid is in high levels in eggs, cheese, chicken, almonds, and green leafy vegetables. Combining tryptophan-rich foods with complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins, brown rice, and oats, especially at dinner, will help regulate tryptophan levels in the brain and aid in restful sleep.

    4. Beans and legumes

    Beans and legumes are a great plant-based source of quality protein. They are also prebiotic rich foods, which means they help feed the good bacteria in your gut. They are full of fibre and essential nutrients that affect mood and anxiety, such as folate, calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Make sure to soak the beans overnight to remove phytic acid, which will help with better digestion and absorption of the nutrients from these foods. Other plant-based quality protein sources include tofu and tempeh.

    5. Probiotic-rich foods

    We cannot rule out a healthy gut microbiome when it comes to anxiety and sleep. Incorporate probiotic-rich foods with your prebiotic foods, as mentioned above. Some examples include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and coconut yoghurt.

    6. Foods rich in vitamin B

    Vitamin B plays a significant role in both our mood and energy levels. Some food sources include dark leafy green vegetables, seafood, eggs, nuts, legumes, brown rice, almonds, and avocados.

    7. Meals before bedtime

    Avoid eating at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. Opt for lighter meals for dinner, like soups or roasted vegetables. Avoid salty, greasy, and spicy foods, especially in the evening time. Having heavy meals before bedtime means that our body focuses on digesting the foods we eat instead of prepping our body for sleep. This can cause restless sleep and uneasiness within the body.

    8. Avoid stimulants

    Limit stimulants such as coffee, green tea, and cacao in the evening. Instead, opt for herbal teas such as tulsi, chamomile, rooibos, and lavender tea.

    9. Limit alcohol intake

    Alcohol disrupts REM sleep, which is the part of our sleep cycle where the body repairs itself. Alcohol is also a diuretic and high in sugar, which can keep you waking in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and feeling dehydrated.

    4 Herbal Recommendations For Improving Sleep & Managing Anxiety

    1. Passion flower

    This flower is specifically indicated for those with anxiety, especially those with tendencies of looping thoughts leading to restless sleep. Passion flower can be taken in the form of tincture or tablet, 1.5 to 2.5g/day an hour before bedtime.

    2. Valerian root

    Valerian root is used specifically for anxiety and insomnia, as well as symptoms of emotional stress excitability, irritability, and panic attacks. It is advised to only take about 2-3 capsules (530 mg per capsule) of valerian 1-2 hours before bedtime. It is not advised to take valerian root if you’ve had symptoms of depression.

    3. California poppy

    Another anxiolytic, California poppy is mild-sedative and analgesic. It is also a hypnotic used for anxiety, emotional stress, and pain management for nerve issues such as headaches and tension. About 20-40ml per week in the liquid form before bedtime is recommended.

    4. Oats seeds/straw

    Oats are considered a nervine tonic and thymoleptic, and is used for those with fatigue, insomnia and mild-depression. About 20-40ml/week of the liquid is recommended, or you can make a tea infusion with oats seeds.   

    4 Supplements For Improving Sleep & Managing Anxiety

    1. Magnesium glycinate

    This specific type of magnesium helps promote restfulness while simultaneously reducing symptoms of anxiety. It also helps to promote the secretion of GABA, a chemical messenger in the brain responsible for promoting restful sleep. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to insomnia, anxiety, and muscle cramps, including restless leg syndrome.

    2. Omega-3 fatty acids with higher DHA than EPA

    Omega-3 influences melatonin production and secretions from the pineal gland. Supplementation with DHA helps to normalize melatonin secretion. Melatonin is a potent antioxidant hormone that helps to facilitate good quality sleep. For plant-based omega-3, opt for algae seaweed oil.  

    3. 5-HTP

    5-HTP is an amino acid derivation of the amino acid tryptophan, which is an immediate precursor for serotonin and the pathway of melatonin production. It can be taken to help enhance sleep quality and reduce symptoms of anxiety. It is not recommended to take 5-HTP if you are currently on antidepressants and/or other sleeping medications.

    4. L-theanine

    L-theanine is another amino acid that boosts serotonin, dopamine, and GABA levels in the brain, playing a significant role in mood and relaxation. The effects of L-theanine promote a relaxing, yet wakeful-feeling state. It can boost our concentration and energy levels, therefore it is recommended to take it only during the daytime. L-theanine is an amino acid naturally found in green tea. It is the best alternative to coffee if you’re prone to anxiety, but need a little bit of energy boost without the jittery effects.

    6 Lifestyle Recommendations For Sleep & Anxiety

    1. Sleep hygiene

    Sleep hygiene is a ritual in which we set the environment and mood to help us get ready for bedtime. This includes:

    • Dimming lights as the sun starts to set. Use warm lights or candles to create a  mood and ambience that makes you feel calm.
    • Taking a warm bath or shower with candle lights and soft music.
    • Self-massage with warm sesame oil after showering, including massaging the scalp with the oil of your choice
    • Avoid blue light by listening to a podcast instead of scrolling on social media or being on the phone.
    • Journaling can ease anxiety by putting your thoughts into writing. Keep a notebook by your bedside and make gratitude lists, plan your days ahead, or just write down all your worries, thoughts, and excitements.
    2. Create a consistent sleep and wake up routine

    Waking up and going to sleep at the same time everyday helps us to prepare ourselves for bedtime with good sleep hygiene practices. For example, if you sleep at 10 p.m., start your sleep hygiene practice at 7:30 p.m. to help you wind down.

    3. Exercise during the daytime

    Exercise boosts our endorphins levels, and reduces the restlessness and anxiety that we can experience during the night time from excess energy.

    4. Direct sunlight 10 minutes per day in the morning to regulate circadian rhythm

    Sunlight in your eyes during the day helps regulate cortisol (your stress hormones), increases serotonin (your happy hormones), and melatonin (hormones responsible for quality sleep).

    5. Go camping every once a while to reset your circadian rhythm.
    6. Essential oils

    Sandalwood, ylang ylang, and lavender are excellent essential oils for bedtime. Use some on your palms, wrist, scalp, and bottoms of the  feet along with your carrier oil.

    To sum this up, sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on various body systems, creating inflammation. Actively implementing both dietary and lifestyle changes to prepare the body for good quality sleep is advised, as our body repairs itself at night. Consider implementing some herbal and supplementation recommendations to help improve your quality of sleep and manage anxiety. Consider this as a lifestyle change rather than a short term fix. No amount of herbs or caffeine can replace how good we feel after quality sleep!

    - Advertisement -spot_img
    - Advertisement -spot_img

    Recommended Articles