Mood, energy, motivation, immune system, emotional response, memory recall, and quality of life: these are all at the mercy of how much we sleep and how well we sleep. Unfortunately, sometimes just knowing all of that is riding on our sleep schedule is enough to stress out our mental state to the point of restlessness. What a paradox!
But let's take a deep breath and remember that we are in control. There are many resources, practices, supplements, and herbs that can ease our minds and bodies into restful and restorative slumber.
Morning Calm for Nighttime Peace
Believe it or not, setting yourself up for a good night's sleep starts in the morning. A lot of us are unknowingly stressing our nervous systems the moment we wake up. Reaching for your phone as soon as you open your eyes is a habit worth changing. Once you turn off your alarm (hopefully a soothing sounding one), put your phone down. Instagram can wait, and checking emails is a post-coffee practice.
Instead of jumping right into the matrix, try waking more slowly. Stretch, breathe, set a daily intention, sip some water. Gift yourself at least a few minutes of calm, stillness, and presence each morning.
Mid-day Mindfulness to Relieve Stress
Now the key is maintaining this calmness throughout the day, even in the midst of madness. There are many nutrients and herbs that can support us with that, but we'll get into those later. Let us first try to master the mind!
Whenever I start to stress, I tell myself three things: drop your shoulders, relax your jaw, and breeeeathe. The more we can pinpoint the very moment our nervous systems become tense, the more mind/body connection we have. We can thoughtfully or verbally communicate with our bodies to calm down. There is difference between feeling emotion and releasing it and holding it in our bodies. Taking a walk or exercising is a healthy way to release built-up energy and tension and help clear the mind. Mindfulness takes time and practice, but it's worth the effort, and your future self will thank you.
Nighttime Nutrients for Restful Sleep
Nourished and hydrated bodies are more likely to sleep better at night. I want to highlight three imperative nutrients that will nurture your nights: magnesium, vitamin D, and essential fatty acids. These nutrients don't have to be taken right before bed either — they may offer support all day long.
- Magnesium: This mineral plays several critically important roles in our body. In terms of sleep, magnesium helps to balance the calming neurotransmitters, supports the regulation and production of melatonin, calms the nervous system, relaxes muscles and nerves, and supports a healthy heart rhythm. You can purchase magnesium supplements at your local health food store, and it is also found in foods and herbs like nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, Cacao, Oat straw, Nettle leaf, and Parsley.
- Vitamin D: One of my favorite facts about vitamin D is that every single cell in our bodies has a receptor for it. That means that every organ and bodily system needs vitamin D. We physically cannot live without it! Vitamin D supports our production of serotonin and melatonin and has an affinity for the nervous and immune systems. I suggest taking it in a supplement form, as most people do not get enough of it in their diets. But of course, we may absorb it through our skin from the sunshine. Be sure to ask your doctor what an appropriate dose of vitamin D is for you.
- Essential Fatty Acids: This type of fatty acid cannot be synthesized by the body, meaning it's vital that you get it from your diet. Essential fatty acids include omegas 3, 6, and 9; EPA; and DHA. What makes them essential for sleep is that they are nutritive to our brains. Healthy levels of DHA support melatonin production. (Seeing a theme here?) And omegas support our heart and our nervous system. Great sources are high-quality fish, nuts and seeds, avocados, hemp oil, flaxseed oil, and fish oils.
4 Dreamy Herbals
Now for my favorite way to support a restful sleep: herbs! I have had sleep issues since I was young, and herbs have always been a go-to when I'm having trouble falling or staying asleep. I also rely on them to keep my nervous system calm and stable during the day so I can combat any tension long before nightfall.
Herbs that support sleep usually fall under the category of nervine herbs. Nervine herbs directly nourish and relax the nervous system, making them a perfect addition to your nighttime ritual. My favorites are Lemon Balm, Scullcap, Passionflower, and Hops.
- Lemon Balm: What a sweet and gentle plant with a dreamy aroma. Lemon Balm softly soothes the nervous system and calms the muscles and is gentle enough for children at proper doses. It may be drunk as a tea or taken as an herbal extract.
- Scullcap: A pretty blue-and-purple flowered herb that calms the mind and promotes rest, Scullcap nourishes the heart system, restores the nervous system, and relaxes the mind and body. It is most commonly used as an herbal extract.
- Passionflower: If nothing else, Passionflower is just plain cool. It's an alien-looking flower that is breathtakingly beautiful. Beyond that, it helps to relieve muscle tension, support us during times of irritability, and encourages restful sleep. Passionflower can be drunk as a tea or taken as an herbal extract.
- Hops: The main ingredient in beer, Hops is an aromatic plant in the same family as Cannabis. But you don't need to live in a "420-friendly" state to reap the benefits! Hops has a very calming effect on our emotions, minds, hearts, and bodies, with absolutely no THC. It's a perfect nighttime addition to help soothe a chattering mind. Hops has a strong flavor but may be drunk as a tea (although it's better in beer IMHO!). It may also be taken as an herbal extract.
You can find three out of four of these dreamy herbs (Hops, Passionflower, and Scullcap) in WishGarden's Sleepy Nights & Fresh Mornings formula. WishGarden also offers Sleepy Nights formulas that are safe for children and pregnant women.
This formula has a permanent home on my bedside table, because not only does it work, but it also doesn't make it tough to wake up in the morning. Even if you have to take a dose of it at 3:00 a.m. (You know that moment when you calculate exactly how many hours you could sleep if you fell asleep right now?) Restful sleep without the grogginess — it's a dream come true!
Rebecca Younger aspires to spark an interest in herbs within her community through education and incorporating herbs into everyday life in exciting and innovative ways. She studied Herbal Medicine at Herbalism Roots in Denver. She is a customer journey representative at WishGarden Herbs.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.