Siegfried Gursche, MH
"Early to bed, early to rise keeps a man healthy, wealthy and wise
"Early to bed, early to rise keeps a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Benjamin Franklin once said.
Another adage says: "To bed with the chicken, up with the rooster gives bright eyes and clear mind; it's a real health booster."
The lesson to be learned from these old sayings is that healthy, normal sleep patterns are tied in with the rising and setting of the sun. This pattern has been in place since humans populated the earth and our bodies are used to it, so we don't adapt easily to a new pattern at least not without a reaction from the liver.
Breakfast time used to be before 6 am, and the last meal of the day was consumed at 5 pm. That gave the body plenty of time to digest and metabolize food, which is done mostly by the liver. The liver is the most complicated organ in our bodies. It conscientiously starts working in the wee hours, around two o'clock of the morning. By that time, our stomachs have digested the food and put the liver, our metabolizing engine, into gear to sort out all nutrients and send them to the cells wherever needed. At the same time, the detoxification process takes place while we sleep. If the liver doesn't get a chance to do its detoxifying work, we'll feel groggy when we wake up. Likewise, eating too much too late and those midnight snacks before bed puts stress onto our digestive system and hinders metabolism. As a result we stay awake for a long time and don't sleep well at all.
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder affecting one-third of the population and is considered the ailment of the century. Sleeplessness has developed into a chronic condition.
The most common reasons for insomnia are related to a weakened nervous system, which is caused by anxiety or stress, worry, fear or insecurity, anger and depression. The question here is: which came first, the chicken or the egg? If the nervous system has been mistreated nutritionally and with a constant lack of sleep, the mentioned symptoms will be the result. If these conditions aren't treated, they will get worse, resulting in chronic insomnia.
Proper nutrition is of utmost most importance for a strong and well-functioning nerve system. B vitamins feed the nerves and are provided by whole grains, lecithin and phosphatidyl choline from soy beans, egg yolks and cabbage. Nuts and almonds (unroasted) are excellent nerve foods. L-tryptophan is an amino acid found in unpasteurized milk that also helps us to fall asleep.
Nature has provided an abundance of healing herbs for insomnia. Health food stores carry a good selection of sleep-inducing herbal products. Usually they are formulas made from a number of herbs. They come in tinctures, tonics, herbal extract capsules and herbal teas. None contain habit-forming herbs, and best of all, herbal sleeping aids have no side-effects.
De-Stress With Herbs
Valerian root is probably the most scientifically researched herb and clinically proven to be a natural sedative. But don't worry, its calming effect rubs off within hours. You awake refreshed and not drowsy. Valerian is always used first when starting an extended therapeutic herbal treatment, followed by healing herbs such as St John's wort, camomile or borage.
The most common herb prescribed by naturopathic doctors for mild depression is St John's wort, but hardly any one knows the healing properties this medicinal herb has for insomnia, administered after a course of treatment with the calming valerian. Both valerian and St. John's wort are most effective in the form of freshly pressed herbal juice.
Hops is another herb known for its efficacy and safety in treating discomfort due to restlessness or anxiety and sleep disturbances. It has been observed that hop-pickers tire easily, as some hop resin is transferred from their hands to their mouths. Guess why beer, which contains hops, makes you tired? Better than beer, of course, would be drinking a herbal tea containing linden or camomile. Even the most difficult insomnia will respond favourably to consistent use.
When I was in the retail herb business, one of my business associates had trouble sleeping. He suffered from chronic insomnia and took prescription drugs, which did not improve his condition. Two to three hours of sleep was the most he received, and in the morning he always had a headache and heavy eyelids. He got irritated easily and wasn't fun to be with.
I recommended Good Night herbal sleeping tablets and a herbal nerve tonic. "This stuff ain't working," he complained after using the combination for only a few days. I insisted he give the herbs a chance and take them for at least two weeks, which he did. And soon the herbs started to work. He slept longer every night. Instead of tossing and turning, he woke up well rested and had dream-filled nights. Several months thereafter he was completely normal, became productive at his job and was a joyful person, pleasant to be around.
The point is, nature takes time for healing!
Teas, Tinctures or Powders
Because pharmaceutical sleeping pills work on the brain, they are usually taken before bedtime. Since herbs are healing, they are taken throughout the day; liquid herbal sleep aids, tea nerve tonics and tinctures as well as extract capsules are taken before meals, and capsules with dried herb powders are taken with meals.
Finally, these four herbs are commonly used in formulas for sleeplessness: passionflower, balm leaves, rosemary and skullcap. All work synergistically with herbs that have a sedating effect meaning that when herbs are used in combination they support each other and multiply the effectiveness.
When buying herbal teas, be sure they are fresh, protected from light and air, and sealed in cardboard or similar containers so that the volatile oils cannot escape. Herbs left in the open, especially dried blossoms such as hops and camomile, gradually lose their healing power over a period of two to three years. Once in a while check the expiry dates on the packages in your pantry and replace everything that is outdated.
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder affecting one-third of the population.
Food for a Good Sleep
Mothers know that babies sleep better when given a bottle with strained cooked oats before bedtime. Adults (with or without insomnia) will benefit from oats as well.
A green salad made with head or butter lettuce served before dinner helps both digestion and induces sleep.
If the last meal of the day was heavy and fatty, a tablespoon of Swedish bitters in a small glass of water works wonders.