Why sleep matters
Sleep is the time the body takes for regeneration – without sleep our body can’t do its job properly. Sleep literally affects everything in our bodies, in particular other essential functions such as the digestive system and the immune system.
In fact, consistent good sleep is essential for a strong immune system, which feels like an important thing to discuss in the middle of a global pandemic. It’s hard to rely on any system in the body if you don’t get good sleep; it’s the #1 prerequisite for good health.
A whopping 35% of adults don’t get enough sleep and I’ve discovered that it’s the most common problem brought up in conversation with friends and clients, which surprised me as I’m lucky to be a good sleeper, although age does seem to be impacting this.
Since getting a handle on my anxiety I’ve not had problems falling asleep, which is a pretty common issue. It can be caused by depression, anxiety, young children, stress, chronic pain and it’s an issue that must be addressed.
The four best herbs for sleep
Now of course there are medications you can get to help with sleep, and they can be great as short term solutions. The issue with pharmaceutical sleeping aids is that they tend to create dependency and the effects wear off over time, meaning you have to increase the dosage.
The good news is that there are natural aids for having better sleep. Some of the best herbs for sleep are common ones that you’re probably familiar with – household names that we perhaps underestimate as medicines.
- Lavender: A great herb for relaxation. If you’re someone who struggles with stress and anxiety, lavender is ideal. It can be consumed in infusions or used as an essential oil – you can get it as a spray and diffuse it in the room or on your pillow, put some on your pulse points or in a bath. This herb helps your system relax, so it’s great for help with winding down.
- Chamomile: A wonderful calming herb, fabulous in infusions (it’s in my sleepy blend, NUIT that everyone raves about putting them to sleep). Again this one can be used as an essential oil, and blended with others in tea.
- Valerian: We use the root of this herb and it has a very strong smell and taste. It’s also in my NUIT blend, but proportioned in a way that it’s not overbearing. It’s also available as an essential oil and is a fantastic herb for sleep. In Germany it’s recognised as a natural anesthetic, which is rare for natural remedies. It calms the nervous system and is probably the most powerful herb for sleep. Bear in mind that valerian has some interactions with certain medications so speak with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re taking other medications.
- Tilia / Lime Flower: Also present in my NUIT blend and a personal favourite, this herb is great for the digestive system and will also bring you calm and peace. The reason I included it in my nighttime blend is that digestive processes can have a big impact on sleep quality.
The importance of a bedtime routine
Having a bedtime routine is key if you want to improve your sleep quality. It doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming – it can just be a few tweaks that can make a big difference – but it does require some changes.
The key thing you should consider if you’re struggling with sleep is turning off your screens at least half an hour, preferably an hour before bedtime. All screens emit blue light, which messes with our circadian rhythm because it interferes with melatonin production (melatonin being the hormone that makes us feel sleepy).
Dim the lights, read a book, avoid any mental stimulation, flashing lights or blue lights (even if you have blue light glasses). Give yourself that time before bed to get into sleep mode, especially if you have a very active mind, or have had a busy day or are stressed out.
You’ll need to make that conscious choice to put your body and your sleep first. I now leave my phone in another room and no longer look at it first thing in the morning or last thing at night anymore – this has changed my life.
These changes, paired with the benefits of herbs, can really improve your sleep quality. I’d love to hear how you do – connect with me on social media and let me know!
P.S. Join me for my upcoming Tea Alchemy Workshop to learn about tea, 11 different herbs and how you can benefit from them on a daily basis. Let’s tune in to what our body really needs, and begin your tea blending journey together!