One of the most common complaints I hear from clients is that they are not sleeping well. What many people don’t realize is that there are many types of poor sleep patterns that we can experience. Identifying your specific sleep struggles can be a valuable tool when determining the best nutritional support to get you back on track. Depending on your sleep patterns, specific nutritional approaches will be more appropriate than others. In my experience as a holistic nutritionist in Vancouver, I have seen a few recurring categories that most people tend to fall into.
Trouble Falling Asleep
Unexplained tossing and turning can suggest an imbalance of the liver (and/or the gallbladder). The liver is a central hub of vital activity in the body. If it is struggling or sluggish, many aspects of your health can suffer, including sleep.
Of course, difficulty falling asleep can be related to other issues. For example, a racing mind will often prevent us from drifting into a nice sleep. When a client has a restless mind, I often consider adrenal support to help manage stress levels.
Trouble Staying Asleep
Night time urination is often a concern for some people, especially as we begin to age. Most people are aware that if they drink a significant amount of fluid before bed, they will likely need to get up in the middle of the night. There are some nutritional techniques to help ensure the body will absorb the fluid efficiently rather than simply flushing it straight through. This can help with the need to pee at night.
Interestingly, if you find yourself waking regularly throughout the night for no particular reason, this can suggest a kidney imbalance, even if the need to urinate is not present. Nutrition can help to bring balance back and subsequently improve your sleep.
It is also becoming more common to hear clients who indicate they are waking up at 2:00-3:00am every morning, like clockwork. They seem to sleep fine the rest of the night, but for some reason they become wide awake at the same time each morning. I have seen some great improvements with this when I help to support blood sugar and cortisol levels using nutrition. When our blood sugar drops to low, cortisol can be released causing us to have a surge and wake us from a dead sleep.
Awaken in the Morning Feeling Unrested
Some people feel that they sleep well (fall asleep easily, stay asleep through the night), but do not wake up feeling rested. This seems to be a more frequent occurrence in a place like Vancouver with our long, dark winter months. This can be related to various imbalances. I would suggest exploring the pineal gland, which is responsible for our circadian rhythm and sleep cycles. This can be supported through nutrition, as well as some lifestyle adjustments. For example, sleeping in complete darkness is very important. Living in a city can make it difficult to shut out all the lights from adjacent buildings. The light will affect how our pineal gland functions.
Allergies and sensitivities can also play a role in our sleep patterns. Although most people hold the belief that allergies are forever, this is simply not true. Once in balance, allergies can be alleviated and your quality of sleep can greatly improve.
The issues listed above are not inclusive. These simply tend to be some of the more common scenarios. When exploring sleep, Traditional Chinese Medicine would also explore possible imbalances with the lungs, heart and spleen. These are all areas that can be supported and improved through appropriate nutrition. There can be several pieces to the ‘sleep puzzle’. Regardless of the type of sleep pattern you currently have (or lack thereof), nutrition is one aspect that simply cannot be ignored. Fortunately it’s never too late to make changes.