September for a lot of us means the end of summer holidays and a shift back to regular routine. This can be a difficult transition time for some of us but our bodies thrive on routine so staying on the same sleep/wake cycle as much as possible is the best thing for your health. Our immune system and hormonal regulation revolve around our sleep/wake pattern so to optimize these systems getting a consistent good night sleep is key.
If you are seeing patients who are struggling with their sleep or getting back into routine, there are several options that you can try with patients to help improve their sleep.
1. Ensure patients are going to bed and waking around the same time everyday
2. Avoid screen time for at least an hour before bedtime – research has shown that using backlit electronics up to 3 hours before bed can have a negative impact on melatonin secretion
3. Recommend the patient make their room completely dark – use room darkening blinds and avoid nightlights etc
Supplements and botanicals that can support healthy sleep
1. Melatonin: For lots of patients especially as they age the natural production of melatonin begins to decrease. Melatonin regulates our sleep-wake cycle. If a patient presents with difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep it could be a concern with melatonin. Typically dosing of melatonin is 3mg before but this can go up or down depending on the individual. It is also available in both immediate and sustained release forms so if the patient has a concern falling asleep the immediate release is optimal where if it is a concern with staying asleep the sustained release may be preferred.
2. Magnesium: Magnesium is known as a calming mineral and can be helpful for sleep in particular if a patient complains of muscle stiffness/soreness or of restless let at bedtime. A typical dose of magnesium is between 150-300 elemental magnesium and to support sleep usually in a bisglycinate form.
3. Lavender: The essential oil of lavender has a long history of use nighttime calming. More recently there have been multiple studies published looking at oral use of a specific lavender extract showing significant improvements in sleep and generalized anxiety. So, for your patients who have a hard time turning off their mind or are anxious either falling asleep or when they wake in the night this can be a great option. Standard dosing of Lavender is between 80-160 mg before bed.
4. Valerian: Valerian is great herb to improve sleep quality. It has been shown to improve the length of time it takes to fall asleep as well as the longevity of sleep. Dosing of valerian will depend on the type of extract being used. Some people will experience drowsiness and stomach upset with valerian so it generally recommended to start with a lower dose and work up if you aren’t seeing benefit. Valerian will have a cumulative effect so needs to be taken for a few weeks regularly for optimal results.
5. Gaba or Theanine: Both of these nutrients work on a similar pathway to improve gaba wave activity in the brain. Gabba waves are predominate when we are calm and during sleep. This combination can work extremely well for anxious sleepers.