Green Secrets Holistic Health

Green Secrets Holistic Health

With many of us juggling busy work and home schedules, this modern stressful lifestyle can negatively affect the quality and quantity of our sleep.  Prolonged periods of insomnia can impact our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, however, I am going to share with you some of my favourite safe, natural, quick and easy tips to support better sleeping habits.

My favourite self-care tip that I love to do to support a relaxed mind and body and hence a good night’s sleep is breathwork.  We often don’t realise how shallow our breath becomes when our nervous system is in a perpetually stressed state.  So I often recommend to my clients to make it a habit a couple of times throughout the day (pro tip – set a reminder on your phone), to just stop whatever activity you are currently doing, close your eyes and take some big, deep, slow inhalations and exhalations.  Doing this for even 30 seconds can literally stop the body’s stress response in its tracks!

Speaking of stress, the majority of Australians *(72%) feel that stress impacts their physical and mental health including their sleep patterns, yet very few will ever reach out and seek professional help or even consider supportive therapies to combat this.  However, in my experience, nothing helps an anxious, stressed and overwhelmed mind and body more than the beautiful practice of meditation.

The proven health benefits of meditation cannot be ignored – in fact, a **2019 study found just ten minutes of meditation can be equivalent to an hour of sleep!

If you haven’t tried meditation before, don’t worry as it isn’t difficult and doesn’t require any specialised equipment.  Meditating can be as simple as listening to a guided meditation where all you have to do is close your eyes and listen to a calming voice instructing you to just focus on your breath.

Voila! You are meditating!

I often listen to a short guided meditation myself in the evenings to help switch off whenever I feel as if a million thoughts are running through my mind and I’m having trouble winding down sufficiently to fall asleep…

Another factor that plays a huge role in the quality and quantity of your sleep is the type and timing of the foods and drinks you consume during the day. Drinking copious amounts of coffee for energy to wake up in the morning after a bad night’s sleep, followed by a few glasses of wine in the evenings to wind down creates a negative feedback loop as it makes you feel ‘tired but wired’.  The caffeine in coffee causes a spike in Adrenalin (a major stress hormone) which can raise your blood pressure and heart rate as well as leave your nervous system feeling jittery and ‘on edge’.

Alcohol consumption and liver function can affect your sleep quality also.  According to the Chinese meridian clock, the liver is most active between 1.00 – 3.00am.  Alcohol can help you to feel relaxed and fall asleep initially, but you may find yourself waking up a few hours later as your liver goes into overdrive detoxifying the alcohol on top of any processed foods, chemicals and other waste products in your system.

So what are some beverages known to help promote calm and enhance sleep?

As a herbalist, when I think of calming beverages that may help to soothe a frayed nervous system, I immediately think of herbal teas as a simple, effective and pleasant tasting way of achieving this.  Herbal teas are readily available in grocery stores but are often found in our own backyard!

English lavender, chamomile, lemon balm and passionflower are common varieties that can be fairly easily grown, even in a small outdoor space.

Lemon balm is actually a variety of mint (and it looks very similar) but with a lovely gentle lemon flavour and aroma.  The phytochemicals contained within the leaves act on lowering the stress hormones like Adrenalin that are released when we are feeling anxious, helping us to feel calmer.  Lemon balm is also purported to have sedative properties and hence makes a wonderful evening beverage.

Chamomile contains a compound called Apigenin that helps to promote sleepiness whilst preventing insomnia.

Lavender flowers look, taste and smell divine.  This is due to their high essential oil properties that have a wonderful calming and sedating effect on the nervous system, reducing general feelings of anxiety.

Passionflowers, like lavender, also smell divine with their heady aroma full of compounds that have the ability to slow down the pace of brain activity, inducing a relaxed, calm feeling.  This is a wonderful herb to help overcome sleep difficulties for those of us who have an overactive, racing mind and have trouble ‘switching off’.

Note – never select a herb from the garden to consume if not 100% sure of the plant and its botanical properties.  Ideally, the plant would not be sprayed with any pesticides, herbicides or fungicides either.

You can easily make your own fresh herbal tea using one, two, or even all four herbs listed above as the flavours and properties blend well together.

 

For approximately four cups of tea, place a small handful of fresh lemon balm leaves, 1-2 passion flowers, 4 chamomile flowers and 4 lavender spikes into a large teapot, cover with fresh boiling water and steep for a minimum of 5-7 minutes before serving with a little honey for sweetness if desired.  This tea can be enjoyed hot or cold also.

In summary, watch your caffeine and alcohol consumption, remember to breathe deeply, move and stretch your body, plus practice meditation to support a better night’s sleep and a happier, healthier you in mind, body and spirit!

 

Natasha Zervaas N.P.

Naturopath and Health Coach from the Green Secrets Holistic Health Clinic www.greensecrets.com.au

FREE training: How to stop STRESS in its tracks – in 30 seconds or less! http://bit.ly/3ldohlD

 

Images: Pixabay

References: * https://www.nib.com.au/the-checkup/healthy-living/impact-of-stress-in-australia

** https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/require-less-sleep-with-meditation-460/