The following is from 4th-year naturopathic student, Julia Friesen. Enjoy!
We can all relate to having a busy lifestyle. Whether you are a mom, an athlete, a teacher, a lawyer, or a student like me, we all get caught up in the go-go-go of everyday life. There are just not enough hours in the day. And people often try to cram everything in at the expense of sleep.
It is natural for our bodies to need sleep. Sleep helps us solidify information, form memories, promote recovery, support cardiovascular health, aid mental clarity and mental health as well as stimulating the ideal body composition. Sleep is so vital, but it seems to be one of the first things we neglect when we are stressed or “need more time in the day”.
Trying to balance it all- class, homework, working out, eating healthy and having a social life, all the while trying to maintain sanity. The struggle is real.
Personally, one of the most important factors in achieving this balance for me is getting enough quality sleep. If I am tired, I don't perform well in the classroom. If I don't perform well in the classroom, I get stressed out. If I get stressed out, my skin breaks out. If my skin breaks out, I get self-conscious about my outward appearance. For me, a lack of sleep really leads to a downward spiral of negative outcomes. As a third year naturopathic student, I’ve learned some quality tips and tricks to help you achieve a good night’s sleep.
1. First, Make Sure Your Bed is Comfy
Naturopathic medicine stresses the importance of therapeutic order, starting with the foundation first. This means removing obstacles to cure so that any intervention we place on top of this foundation will be able to flourish.
Focus on your sleeping environment. The bedroom should be a place for sleep and sex only. Remove anything that could distract you from that.
Watching TV before bed or scrolling through Instagram on your phone can be quite stimulating hindering your ability to fall asleep. Make the bedroom an electronic free zone.
If your office or workspace is in your bedroom and seeing your cluttered desk reminds you of the stress of work, it can hinder your ability to calm down appropriately for bed. It might be worth exploring other arrangements for work/sleep balance.
2. Second, Make Sure You Are Comfy
Once you’ve set the stage, the next step is making sure you are comfy. If you aren’t “comfy”, it can hinder your ability to fall asleep.
3. Third, Take Care of Yourself
So, what else could be keeping you from a good night’s sleep? In today’s society, the typical 9-5 jobs are turning into 8-6 jobs. We never stop working. We take our work home with us. This “brain on overdrive” mentality can hinder your ability to unwind before bedtime. It is important to address these overworked, or exhausted and weakened systems in order to assist your body in its natural functioning.
This can be addressed with some self care, attempting to support your body as it unwinds for bed. Have a bedtime routine. Take your bra off, have a warm bath, de-stress with some journaling, read a book or anything that helps you relax, signalling to your body it is time to calm down. Our brain takes cues from our physical body all the time. Having a routine may aid in calming both your physical and mental body, preparing it for the necessary rest and recovery that is about to come.
It may also be important to address your physical alignment. Going back to my student example, I am constantly in class hunched over on my computer. This tends to lead to poor posture. If you have tight neck muscles from being hunched over your computer all day, they can cause discomfort, even headaches, that may be keeping you up at night. Interventions such as massage, cupping or acupuncture can aid in loosening up these tightened muscles, aiding in your comfort supporting you for a good night’s sleep.
Other ways to Get Your 8 Hours
Building the foundation is key to allow for any upper level interventions to have effectiveness. Adding a bedtime tea to your evening routine that includes herbs like Lavender, Passion flower and Chamomile is simple intervention to incorporate. These herbs are natural relaxants that can help calm the nervous system in preparation for sleep. Some people find that other natural health products like melatonin or 5-HTP can help too.
However, it is unlikely these interventions will work if you have some foundational element hindering you from feeling relaxed in your sleeping environment. If you have a partner who snores, and wakes you up at night, it may be necessary to remove them before considering the addition of the upper level interventions. Just kidding. But in all seriousness, sleep is an essential so make sure you build your foundation for sleep to ensure you get your 8 hours a night!
I'm Julia Lucy Friesen, a fourth year naturopathic medical student intern at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, Ontario. I was born and raised in Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, and will be returning to my hometown to practice naturopathic medicine, upon completion of my clinic internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic. I love red wine, running, yoga, soccer (actually, all sports), my family and coffee. It is my goal to share with you my experiences, recipe tips, fitness tricks and health hacks to help you be your best self!