Wake up better
We’ve all woken up tired from time to time. A little bit of poor sleep can make us irritable, fatigued and unfocussed in the short term. A lot of poor sleep can have longer term effects on our physical and mental health.
So, how do we turn the tables on poor sleep and wake up feeling fresh? We asked our herbalist, Pamela.
What are some of the common complaints people make about waking up in the morning?
Many people just can’t face getting up. They may feel like they’ve only just got to sleep. Their body may feel heavy and the temptation is just to pull the covers over their heads and stay put.
Others might find themselves so agitated about sleep that actually staying in bed can feel like torture and so they are likely to get up in the night and spend time on the sofa.
Why is it hard to wake up in the morning?
Well, it shouldn’t be. We have an innate body clock called our Circadian Rhythm that is programmed to help us maintain a good sleep routine. This rhythm responds to light levels; when blue light drops below a certain level in the evening (provided our stress hormone, cortisol, has dropped too), then it triggers the release of our sleep hormone, melatonin.
This is why we should avoid getting too much blue light screen time in the evening (i.e. phone, tv, computer). If your brain is receiving too much blue light, it may fail to trigger the melatonin release you need to wind down for sleep. Similarly, if your cortisol levels remain high because you are stressed, the result is the same.
Then, in the morning, melatonin release stops and cortisol begins to rise. But, if you haven’t slept enough (or if you’ve been stressed over a very long period of time), and the cortisol doesn’t rise enough, you don’t get that oomph you need to get out of bed.
Can we fix these problems with coffee and naps?
Instead of resting, we tend to seek out quick boosts to get us through the day. In the drive to be productive and focused, a lot of people turn to sugar and caffeine to get the energy and concentration they need.
However, caffeine stimulates your stress hormones, making it harder for them to lower to the necessary levels in the evening. Sugar causes a big spike in your blood sugar, which is inevitably followed by a big dip. When this dip happens, your body has to get your adrenals to release adrenaline (another stress hormone) to bring you back up again.
As for naps, the danger is in the disruption to our routine. Our Circadian Rhythms respond to routine, and napping or sleeping in disrupts this routine, making it more difficult for your body to manage and maintain this rhythm.
These cycles of boosting and crashing are band aid solutions, and they’re not sustainable.
How can sleep tea support a sleep routine?
Routine is the key word here. The body responds so well to routine. There has been a lot written about sleep hygiene – a term that simply means clearing out any habits that are not conducive to sleep. Paying attention to how late you consume caffeine, how late you eat, how you relax in the evening, cutting out (or at least down) on blue light so that the sleep hormone can be released at the right time.
Adding a sleep tea to this routine is a great way to signal to the body that it’s time to wind down. But the really clever thing about sleep tea (and herbal tea in general) is its ability to affect the body beyond just the routine. Drinking an infusion made with herbs traditionally used to promote good sleep goes a step beyond just keeping a routine or avoiding caffeine – you are actually putting something into your body that can help you to relax and get ready for sleep.
What happens when sleep improves?
Many of us don’t realise just how crucial sleep is to all systems of the body. So, when our sleep improves, we might find that any system that has been underperforming may also improve.
With good sleep, we might see improved moods; more positivity, more energy, improved concentration, memory and focus. Hair, skin and nails may improve, as well as digestion.
We might also see improved blood pressure and more stable blood sugars. Getting enough sleep can also support our immune systems meaning better defence against colds!