Advice about how to improve sleep is an everyday part of any Wholistic Health practice, and I’m used to delivering. But, today I am suffering the effects of a wakeful night after not ‘Walking My Talk’. Last night I sat up on the computer until well after midnight when the cold finally drove me to bed, only to then wake repeatedly throughout the night.
Sleep is so important, especially now as the days have shortened and we approach winter. Sufficient sleep allows our body to recover from the day and leads to improved brain function and memory.
But sleep doesn’t always come easily.
Here are some simple ways to create a calm sleep-friendly environment to help you get a great night’s sleep.
De-Clutter and De- Junk
Is your bedroom a soothing sanctuary or is it also a place where you work? It is essential that you establieh and maintain the boundary between work and rest. Your bedroom needs to be a place where you unwind and take ‘you-time’. If the boundaries are unclear you never get a break from the pressure and stress of work.
When you keep your bed for sleeping or other fun bedtime activities, your brain comes to associate bed with only these activites rather than work, which makes it easier for you to nod off.
Clear away the clutter and mess, open the windows to refresh the energy, add fresh flowers, beautiful and meaningful ornaments, a candle or Himalayan Salt Lamp.
Create an EMF-Free Zone
If you are surrounded by electronic devices while you sleep your brain waves are affected throughout the night and quite simply, you will never get good sleep. There is concern that the pulsed frequencies of electronic devices interfere with the body’s own signals, and their electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) affect the emotions, the organs, endocrine (hormone) production and the immune system, which can then lead to poor sleep, as well as many other problems.
Light, from any source including the low levels of light emitted by electronic devices, is known to disrupt circadian rhythms and cause poor sleep
There have also been a number of studies into whether the electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) around electronic devices affect the release of melatonin, the sleep inducing hormone. In 2007 this study showed melatonin production, and therefore sleep quality, may be affected in some people.
Switch off your smartphone, your ipad, your laptop, your TV, e-reader and other devices at the source. If you need an alarm to wake find an alternative to your phone. Sleeping close to an active smartphone (or other device) is absolutely NOT WORTH the wide-reaching adverse effects it has on you. In addition, like Pavlov’s dog, you will not be able to resist reaching for them when they beep or ring.
If you do need to leave any devices switched on, make sure they are well away from your body, at least a metre.
Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields and remove the devices responsible.
If you need entertainment before sleep, place some books or magazines in your room, or perhaps a journal. Not only can journaling help to empty your mind of those annoying thoughts that keep you awake, it has been found to have many health benefits, with research even showing it strengthens the immune system and reduces the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Use your journal to establish Gratitude practices to build your Happiness Bank.
Check the temperature. A moderate temperature, about 20 or 21 degrees Celsius, neither too warm or cold, will support undisturbed sleep.
Darkness helps you sleep and even small amounts of light interrupt the production of the neurotransmitters needed for sound sleep. Use block-out curtains if there are lights outside your window. Don’t turn lights on suddenly during the night as they disrupt the production of the sleep-inducing hormones, melatonin and serotonin. Don’t use white light as a night light, the soft pink glow of a Himalayan Salt Lamp avoids the problem, if you simply must have light in the bedroom. If you can’t block out light wear an eye mask.
Music is a wonderful aid to help you relax. Gentle, music, white noise or relaxation recordings will all help you unwind. The rhythmic sound of the surf washing onto the beach is a very effective way to induce sleepiness.
No TV right before bed! Stop about thirty minutes before retiring and definitely don’t watch it in bed.
Turn your bedroom into a space you look forward to spending time and relaxing in.
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.
For many people an underactive thyroid slows them down and leads to a host of other unpleasant symptoms. Most of those people are never diagnosed with the disorder. Many are never treated. Many fail to make the changes in their diet and lifestyle that can really help ease their symptoms. Most go on living their life in a debilitated state.
The Thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in the middle of the front of your throat. It’s purpose is to release hormones that help in the regulation of many body functions – metabolism, heart rate, maintaining your core temperature, healthy skin, your weight, fertility and more. It slows you down or revs you up to make you more energetic. It also activates your immune system. It plays a part in most of the body’s physiological processes, so when it is out of balance, so are you. In fact every cell in your body has receptors for thyroid hormones.
Sometimes the thyroid does not work as it should and, depending on whether it is pumping out too many hormones or too few, it becomes under- or over-active, what is known as either Hyperthyroidism (too many thyroid hormones in the blood) or Hypothyroidism (too few).
Thyroid conditions can be quite common and it is estimated that about 20-25% of the female population may suffer from hypothyroidism. An estimated 30% more of people over the age of 35 may suffer from “subclinical” hypothyroidism, where they either have no obvious symptoms, or their test results are within the ‘normal’ range but they have mild symptoms of low thyroid function.
Many people live with the symptoms of low thyroid function often for years, where their thyroid gland works sluggishly without them even realizing it. With too few thyroid hormones in the blood the body processes start slowing down, and so do they.
However, there are some telltale signs to look out for. Here are some of them, although there are many more:
Fluid retention or swelling in the legs, feet, arms or face
Cold hands or feet, poor circulation and intolerance of cold
High cholesterol/ triglycerides, palpitations, high or very low blood pressure
Illnesses where symptoms seem vague or scattered could actually be providing warning signs that you have a problem with your thyroid. Diseases and syndromes such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, menopausal symptoms, muscle and joint pains, IBS, PMS, heart disease or depression, which all have a wide variance in the symptoms they present with, may be improved when underlying thyroid issues are redressed. Sometimes an underactive thyroid can be due to an autoimmune disease, Hasimoto’s disease.
However, low thyroid function may actually not be the root of the problem. There is a strong relationship between your adrenal and thyroid glands and it is very common for adrenal fatigue to go hand-in-hand with hypothyroidism. In many cases the adrenal glands become weakened, leading to a malfunctioning thyroid gland. If treatment is only directed towards the thyroid gland and the adrenal issues are not addressed then the person’s health will simply not improve. It’s important to reduce stress in your life as both the adrenals and the thyroid are very sensitive to stress. Practicing meditation, yoga, qi gong, or relaxation techniques will go a long way to reducing the stress response and support the action of these glands.
Two hormones, T4 and T3 are produced by the thyroid. T3 is the active form of thyroid and is the one that does the vast majority of work in the body. When levels are low enough the traditional approach is to use synthetic hormone, but they only contain T4 and the problem with this is that most people have difficulty converting T4 into T3.
Thyroid hormone levels can be tested with a blood test. If symptoms are vague and do not point directly to a disorder, testing will probably be done alongside other blood tests.
The normal range for tests is 0.5 to 5.5 IU/ml.
The problem for many people is that they suffer symptoms of low thyroid function when their measured levels of the hormone are between 2.0 IU/ml and 5.5IU/ml – levels that are considered to show ‘normal’ thyroid function. They are told their levels are normal and left with no explanation or treatment for their symptoms. When it comes to thyroid hormones setting the boundaries of ‘normal’ for thyroid levels is very misleading as there really isn’t any ‘normal’ level…the levels change depending on factors such as age or health.
All the different hormones of the body work together in a delicate dance and when one is not working all the others are affected also. Many reproductive hormone-related symptoms may be experienced when thyroid hormones are low. PMS, infertility, fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, heavy bleeding, menopause symptoms, fibrocystic breasts or even post-natal depression may all result.
Low thyroid function can easily be confused with the symptoms of menopause. While symptoms such as hot flushes, period irregularities, weight gain, night sweats and insomnia are often experienced during peri-menopause or menopause, night sweats and insomnia in particular, may also be key symptoms of low thyroid function. Using hormone replacement to deal with these symptoms simply makes the problem worse, as the oestrogen in the medications interferes with the thyroid hormones further, impairing the thyroid function even more. This in turn slows down metabolism and leads to weight gain. It is a vicious circle.
As usual it is easy to point the finger at poor diet and lifestyle as contributing factors to thyroid dysfunction and sugar, processed foods, stress, lack of exercise or toxic environments all play their part.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Low thyroid function can be addressed in a number of more natural ways.
I treat many people (mainly women) for low thyroid function with huge success using carefully selected Homeopathic remedies, reversing their debilitating symptoms and allowing them to live a normal life. But with this being a complicated chronic issue it is not one that can be self-treated and requires prescribing by a fully-trained professional Homeopath.
But luckily there are a number of things that you can do as a first-line defense for hypothyroidism, and using natural methods avoids the side effects of medications.
A well balanced diet that is made up of unprocessed, unrefined whole foods, with organic or biodynamic vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy, is the best way to combat hypothyroidism, if you also include the following guidelines.
It’s so important that you stay away from sugar and caffeine which simply cause thyroid burn-out. If going ‘cold-turkey’ is too hard then cut back more gradually. Cut out refined and processed carbohydrates as well as they behave just like sugar when they are metabolized in your body.
Make sure to eat protein as it transports thyroid hormone into your cells. Include nuts, nut butters, legumes, quinoa, and less frequently and in smaller quantities eggs, meats, fish and dairy.
Good fats help to create hormone balance (including thyroid hormones) – avocados (one of my favourite good fat sources), coconuts and coconut milk and oil, olives and olive oil, raw nuts and nut butters, organic butter and yoghurt, organic egg yolks, flax seeds. Avoid trans fats.
Make sure you are getting enough Vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin A, Vitamin D, the Vitamin B’s, iodine, selenium, zinc, copper, iron and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Organic produce will be higher in vitamins and minerals as long as it isn’t old and wilting.
Thyroid hormone production is just another of the many functions of Vitamin D which is produced in the body from sunlight. This is yet another reason to have levels of this crucial vitamin tested and maintained, and you may actually need to supplement this.
Cut out gluten especially if you have Hashimoto’s as the gluten mimics thyroid tissue and aggravates the autoimmune response
Watch out for foods that interfere with thyroid function especially those containing goitrogens and don’t eat them unless they are cooked – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, turnips, spinach, strawberries, peanuts, millet
Get tested for food sensitivities, especially if you find there is a food or food group that you crave, as eating these foods sets up an autoimmune response in the body.
The thyroid gland requires iodine to make thyroid hormones so iodine deficiency may be a contributing factor to hypothyroidism. Many people are deficient in iodine so include more sources of iodine in your diet like seaweed (kelp, dulce, nori), shellfish, saltwater fish, eggs, yoghurt, mozzarella cheese
Supplement with probiotics as good thyroid function depends on healthy gut flora
Add vitamins and minerals particularly if you are not getting adequate amounts in your diet.
Other supplements that help thyroid activity and the manufacture of thyroid hormones are Tyrosine, Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), magnesium citrate and Potassium iodide. Look for these in a combined thyroid supplement.
Ashwaganda is a herb that can help to improve the level of T4 hormone and guggal Commiphora wightii to convert the T4 into the active T3. Guggal has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and is now difficult to source due to its scarcity after overuse – you may want to reconsider using this herb for this reason.
Exercise lowers insulin levels and increases thyroid function. Work out or walk for 40 minutes three times a week, and make sure you get out of breath.
My sister is lucky and has a beautiful bathroom with a big, deep bath in it, and so this week I ordered her a bulk order of Epsom Salts for her long, deep bath soaks. She knows, like most people, that they are a great way to relieve tired and aching muscles and bring on a great sleep. But what she doesn’t know is that Epsom salts are rich in magnesium, a mineral that can be poorly absorbed internally.
Magnesium is often deficient in our diets but soaking in a bath containing Epsom salts can be a way to boost your magnesium levels, because it is absorbed very easily through the skin.
Most of the population does not get enough magnesium. In 2000 the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (in USA) found that the figure of deficiency was as high as 80% of adults, a figure most likely mirrored here in Australia. This figure is significant because the mineral magnesium plays a part in thousands of functions in your body, and it is also one that is easily depleted. Also, deficiency is often not detected because it manifests differently in each individual.
The mineral magnesium, plays a vital role in building and maintaining good health, working in conjunction with many other nutrients, particularly calcium and Vitamin D.
Most people know that they need calcium. And there is also growing awareness of the importance of Vitamin D. But the third side of this triangle is perhaps not so widely known about. Magnesium also plays a part in this picture, and while magnesium deficiency is quite widespread due to deficient intake, it is frequently not addressed with diet or supplementation in the way that calcium is.
Magnesium, calcium and vitamin D work in unison in the body. All three require the others to actually do their job, and it does not matter if you are getting adequate amounts of one of them, without all three it will not be able to do its job. Which means taking calcium supplements without adequate magnesium is not much use. Your body needs about twice as much calcium as magnesium, but many people actually have much, much more calcium and many times less magnesium.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant element in your body. It helps to regulate over three hundred enzymes, it plays a vital role in muscle control, in sending electrical impulses along the nerves, in energy production and also it assists in the elimination of toxins.
Many common diseases of our modern life can be rooted in a magnesium deficiency, and it can lead to heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, arthritis and joint pain, digestive disorders, chronic fatigue, or illnesses resulting from stress. Magnesium deficiency has also been shown to contribute to SIDS. Long term chronic magnesium deficiency damage can even be fatal.
When we talk of muscles everyone usually thinks of those in the legs or back, and most people have experienced muscle cramps at some time, often in the legs or feet. But how many think of their heart as also being a muscle? Low magnesium levels can affect the efficient working of your heart, in the same way that they can lead to cramping of your leg muscles.
Here are some early symptoms of a magnesium deficiency:
Muscle cramps, tremors & twitches
Restless or fidgety legs
Pain in the feet
Some other indicators of a possible magnesium deficiency:
All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site.