Sleep and Cleansing
Not sleeping much as a badge of honor for productivity has lost a lot of its luster in our society in the past decade. Part of the reason is we’ve learned a lot more about just how bad it is for your health to be burning the candle at both ends. Insufficient sleep impairs immune function, increases inflammation, has adverse effects on insulin and blood sugar balance, increases stress hormones and blood pressure. Pretty much every measure of good health and physical and mental performance is negatively impacted when you sleep poorly or don’t get enough hours in dreamland. Weight gain, depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are all associated with a lack of sleep. You get the picture. These days, we need restorative deep sleep and REM sleep (dreaming) more than ever to keep our immune response healthy and to reduce stress and anxiety and process emotions.
A 2016 CDC study found that 1 in 3 Americans are not getting enough sleep (defined as at least 7 hours per day). Flash forward to 2020, and there is at least one positive thing so far due to the current pandemic: data pooled from 68,000 fitness trackers and wearables have shown that Americans are sleeping more –20% more. This data was combined with a detailed survey. The results also showed, unfortunately, that physical activity has decreased, and anxiety increased. Subjective quality of sleep may have reduced as well in some cases.
Sleep is anabolic. It replenishes our energy stores, allows our bodies to rest, recover, replenish, and rebuild. Sleep also clears our brains of damaging molecules (like beta-amyloid proteins) associated with neurodegeneration. Yes, that’s right –sleep literally cleanses your brain. A plumbing system called the glymphatic system opens up more while we sleep (around 60% more than in daytime), letting fluid flow rapidly through the brain. At night, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain increases dramatically. Studies suggest that toxic molecules involved in neurodegenerative disorders accumulate in the space between brain cells during the day and are cleared at night when sleeping.
So, knowing how important sleep is, if you are having trouble with sleep onset (falling asleep initially) or sleep maintenance (waking up during the night), good sleep “hygiene” can help. While there are entire guides, books, and industries around the topic of sleep hygiene, here are a few basic tips:
Ensure your bedroom is dark –use blackout curtains or a sleep mask if needed.
Avoid blue light from screens in the hour before you’re planning on sleeping. Many phones, tablets, and PCs have ‘night mode’ blue light filters you can turn on (or better yet, put the screen away and read a book or do some relaxing breathing exercises before bed).
Make sure your bedroom is well ventilated with fresh air throughout the day and not too hot or too cold, maybe slightly on the cooler side: 18–22 degrees Celsius (64–69 Fahrenheit) temperature-wise.
Get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise and natural light outdoors during the day.
Do gentle stretching or take a relaxing bath with magnesium salts in the evening to get rid of muscle tension.
Don’t drink coffee or tea or other caffeine-containing beverages in the evening. How quickly you metabolize and clear caffeine and the degree it affects your nervous system can vary from person to person, but for many people, it can impact sleep quality.
Last but not least –turn to some of our plant allies in medicinal herbs that help promote sleep quality
Sleep·Essence is a liquid herbal formula that helps improve time to sleep onset and sleep maintenance. It also relieves anxiety and nervousness.* The formula is based on traditional use and modern studies and is made up of the organic herbs chamomile, lemon balm, passionflower, lavender, skullcap, and linden. This provides a concentrated, ready for use, liquid sleep formula. When time is of the essence for falling asleep, it helps that there’s no need to brew tea or consume cupfuls of liquid or wait for capsules to dissolve. Sleep·Essence makes for a delicious formula to help you relieve insomnia, tension, stress, and anxiety, and, indirectly, supports the whole body cleansing efforts that Flor·Essence stimulates.* Give yourself the gift of deep, restorative sleep and enjoy 15% off Sleep·Essence this week by using code ‘sleep15’ on our website at www.florahealth.com.
Robert Dadd is a Master Herbalist (Dominion Herbal College) with a BA in Communications from Simon Fraser University. His areas of research include adaptogens, probiotics, and essential fatty acids. He is currently the Product Information Supervisor for Flora Manufacturing and Distributing.