As we head into the fall season and the leaves begin to change, it provokes feelings of transition and transformation. This is the time of year when we settle in and routines become more established, the kids go back to school and the summer holidays are over. September is a great time to set clear intentions for the rest of the year and adjust parts of ourselves that may have veered off track during the summer months. Each month of the year has a lesson to teach us, and this September we are focusing on resetting our systems and establishing a routine that encourages proper sleep hygiene that sets us up for success for the rest of the year.
Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Not getting enough sleep or having low quality sleep affects your psychological state and mental health, and those with existing mental health problems such as PTSD are more likely to have insomnia and other sleep disorders (Harvard Medical School, 2019).
The first step in improving sleep is to look at removing things that may negatively affect sleep such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, food, drugs (talk to your doctor first), blue lights (television/cell phone screens etc.), and taking a look at medical conditions that may cause insomnia. Examples of medical conditions that can contribute to insomnia include nasal/sinus allergies, GI problems (reflux), endocrine problems, arthritis, asthma, neurological conditions, chronic pain, and lower back pain (National Sleep Foundation, 2019).
We always recommend looking for the root cause of what may be causing your insomnia, and the confounding factors such as lifestyle and stress. Typically sleep disturbances are caused by a myriad of things, with the underlying cause being a body and mind that are not in optimal health. Sometimes a lifestyle revamp is needed to truly make a lasting difference in the quality of your sleep and your life.
A few natural methods of treating insomnia and chronic lack of sleep include:
Meditation and Relaxation Techniques
Helpful by promoting slower breathing and reducing stress hormone levels. Meditation is a technique that involves consciously directing one's attention to an object of focus (such as breathing or a sound or word) in order to increase awareness, relax the body, and calm the mind. Some types of meditation include guided meditation, vipassana meditation, yoga nidra, or body scan (Wong, 2019).
It’s no secret being physically tired helps us get a better sleep, most of the time. Pushing yourself to commit to a fitness routine has huge benefits for your sleep, mental health, and physical health. Even going for a 30 minute walk every day counts! Movement is vital in your journey to recovering, studies even show that exercise can treat moderate depression as effectively as an antidepressant medication – without any negative side effects! As one example, a recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26% (Robinson, Segal, Smith, 2019).
Using red light and near-infrared technology has also been clinically proven to enhance natural melatonin production, which is preferable to taking a synthetic melatonin hormone but can also be used in conjunction (Joovv). Red light therapy mimics the morning sun/candle flame/moonlight/sunrise and sunset in terms of colour temperature measured in Kelvin (K). Humans aren’t getting enough red light as we spend too much time indoors, which negatively affects our general wellbeing and sleep. In 2014, a study on the cognitive function of people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) found that participants not only significantly improved cognitive function and saw decreased episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they also reported improved sleep (Journal of Neurotrauma, 2014).
Wishing you a restful September!
Dr. Tina Rochford & the team at OSR
Naeser MA, Zafonte R, et al. “Significant improvements in cognitive performance post-transcranial, red/near-infrared light-emitting diode treatments in chronic, mild traumatic brain injury: open-protocol study.” Journal of Neurotrauma. 2014 Jun 1;31(11):1008-17.