SLEEPyoung Woman-sleeping orange blanket

© Leela Holland Naturopath 

During my Adrenal Fatigue Workshops, many of you may recall me talking about your natural Circadian Rhythms.

Our human biology is affected by the rise and fall of the sun, which tells our biological clock it’s time to get up, or time to start winding down for the evening – just like for the many other life forms we share the planet with.

Two major hormones are required to keep this pattern ticking over nicely. One is melatonin – the start-to-wind-down for the night hormone.

The other is serotonin – it’s-morning-time-to-get-up hormone. Serotonin also has been dubbed the ‘feel good’ hormone.

Here is the core geeky part for interested readers. It is important to try and understand this because then you may take more action to fix your symptoms.
1.  Your Melatonin is Triggered by Light Affecting Your Eyes. leaky gut image cycle
2. Your Serotonin is Affected by your Stress Response and Gut Health.

Up until only a decade ago, most serotonin was thought to be produced in your brain. That’s not correct – approx. 20% of serotonin is produced in your brain from tryptophan, while a whopping 80% is made in our digestive tract!

Low serotonin levels result in sleep disruption and sleep disorders, including insomnia. Stress is a common cause of low serotonin levels, resulting in a snowballing feedback cycle of disrupted sleep, depression, anxiety and fatigue during the day.

As well, your serotonin has to make its way into your brain – and the transport truck to get it there is the mineral lithium. However lithium is knocked out by excess sodium and potassium, which is the result of your cortisol levels from your Adrenal Glands affecting your kidneys.

So see how this circuit keeps recurring? One of he best way I have found to detect what is happening at this deep level is Advanced Hair Mineral Analysis, but that is for another blog post.

So yet another reason why gut health is so important and is fundamental to Naturopathic health care.

You can see how modern life is impacting both these crucial functions of melatonin and serotonin production by technological impact on daily routines, and processed or unsuitable foods, along with hectic routines and stress affecting gut health.


Tips for improving your quality of sleep.sleep technology computer insomnia

One way to help reduce the impact is to reduce electronics exposure, especially towards the later part of the day.

Therefore reduce TV and computer use right before bed.  Even lying in bed watching internet on your phone emits frequencies that interfere with your body’s response to natural night-time light.

The no-technology-late-in-the-evening has become one the modern day addictions we all struggle with.

Some people try to block this light with special glasses, screen covers, and computer programs. All of these things help, but let’s keep in mind that they are only mitigating the deleterious effects—not removing them.

There are foods we can eat to help these natural processes.
For some people it can be helpful to increase their intake of the amino acid Tryptophan. The unique thing about tryptophan, is that it is one of the primary nutrients used to produce melatonin.

Tryptophan is one of the eight essential amino acids found in the human diet. Essential amino acids are defined as those that cannot be made in the body and therefore must be obtained from food or supplements. (A ninth amino acid, histidine, is sometimes considered essential for children.)

So, when we consume a lot of tryptophan-rich foods – IF it is a food YOUR body can digest and metabolise properly – your body can then make melatonin, which helps keep your natural body clock functioning.

But if you have digestive problems, or your underlying biochemistry is not kicking in properly, your body will not be able to use the tryptophan you think you are consuming.
Can you see why digestive function impacts every health condition?

Here is a list of tryptophan rich foods and you can start to experiment yourself:    foods rich in tryptophan

High tryptophan foods include nuts, seeds, tofu, cheesered meatchicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs. The recommended daily intake for tryptophan is 4mg per kilogram of body weight

Tryptophan is one of the eight essential amino acids found in the human diet. Essential amino acids are defined as those that cannot be made in the body and therefore must be obtained from food or supplements. (A ninth amino acid, histidine, is sometimes considered essential for children.)
Address Your Stress

For many people their Adrenal Glands are so over-stimulated, they need much more melatonin than the usual needs of the body. This is when professional supplementation sleepytea herbal teacomes in.

Be wary that there are different stages of Adrenal Fatigue, and different supplements are appropriate at different stages of the cycle.

If you are already in overdrive (wired but tired) it’s not appropriate to take herbs that will boost your energy. Even if you are feeling tired or exhausted, this can be the worst time to take these products which are often labelled as stress support. It’s like a flogging an exhausted race horse to get it over the finish line. Sometimes what may be better for you is a sleepy tea to help you wind down and actually sleep, rather than stimulants to keep you pumping through your day and into the night.

Be aware of what foods and drinks you are consuming later in the day which may over stimulate you when you need to go to bed. Included in this category are really healthy foods which are not actually right for your metabolism and biochemistry.

If you are working too hard you need to confront why this is so and what you are going to do differently. Some people just need a holiday, or to work less, others need to do a whole lifestyle overhaul and prioritise what is most important to them.  Of course if you take time out or go away – a healthy approach is what is needed. Not burning yourself to a crisp by the pool and consuming heaps of treat food and alcohol!

So there are many things we can do to help our natural Sleep Cycles
prayer hands sunrise
1. Get your routine and body clock aligned with Nature – get up earlier and to bed earlier.

  1. Ditch the technology after dinner – tv, computers etc
  2. Eat a natural food diet. Include tryptophan rich foods
  3. Address your stress and gut issues.

6. Be happy! Happiness begets happiness.


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