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Insomnia, which is defined as difficulty falling or staying asleep, can have major impacts on health and quality of life. Insomnia can negatively impact your mood and energy, as well as performance at work and school. Poor quality sleep can also increase your chances of developing hypertension, diabetes, depression, and anxiety.i Luckily, naturopathic medicine offers many options for treating insomnia. Here are five natural ways to improve your sleep quality:
- Melatonin is a popular supplement for treating insomnia, but you can support your body’s ability to create melatonin--a hormone that promotes sleep--by including foods high in the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is used by the body to make melatonin [ii], and is found in nuts, seeds, beans, poultry, eggs, and dairy.[iii]
- Avoid screens for at least an hour before bed as the light from TV, computers, and phones can disrupt the release of melatonin into your bloodstream, making it harder to fall asleep.[ii]
- If you find yourself frequently waking in the middle of the night, try eating a small snack such as a handful of nuts before bed. Drops in blood sugar can cause a spike in cortisol, a hormone that stimulates the nervous system in times of stress, causing you to wake up.[iv] Avoid eating too much, though, as a heavy meal before bed can also lead to poor sleep.
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool. Even a small amount of light in the bedroom such as from an electronic alarm clock can disrupt melatonin release.
- If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed waiting to fall asleep, get up! You want your bed to be associated with sleep, so lying awake in bed trains your mind to associate your bed with wakefulness. Get out of bed and do something you find relaxing and slightly boring until you get sleepy again, such as folding clothes.
If you still find yourself struggling with insomnia after trying the above tips, schedule an appointment with Dr. Jennifer Green at Bastyr Center for Natural Health by calling 206-834-4100.
Jennifer Green, ND, is a licensed naturopathic physician practicing at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle, Wash. Her clinical interests include family medicine, women’s health, digestive disorders and autoimmune disease.