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  • Writer's pictureMARY LIGHT ND MH LMT

SLEEP is essential for healing

It is said that the Eskimo people have over 50 words for snow. And there are many variations of sleep, in my perspective, as a traditional naturopath in private practice and education. Maybe 50! Here we will explore just a few to begin with.

"Sleep and Rest Dynamics" is the name of a Pillar of Naturopathy in my model of practice and teaching. For myself, and in consulting with many others, I find that if we can get this Pillar in order - and it may take time, as it is not a matter of taking a drug, which doesn't produce natural sleep anyway- we can work more effectively with the overall healing and wellness of any person- or even animal.

Sleep and deep rest, along with the cultivated ability to "let things go", to rest the mind and body, are essential to healing, which is a time when the body regenerates and rejuvenates, promoting optimal function of all body systems, a rest for the adrenals, and overall digestive, nervous and endocrine system balance. "Deep Rest" is a desirable state from which to move through the day as well- calm, lacking in undue tension, balanced emotionally. Believe me, with practice and support, it is ever achievable, although it may require reordering your life, relationships, and habits in some transformational ways.

I draw from several areas of care, initially:

1) Herbs to strengthen and rebuild the nervous system, including adaptogen blends which help shore us up against stress. There are no hangovers, grogginess, or dependency, and it is not necessary to "always be on herbs". Herbs can address pain, spasms, frayed nerves, insommnia, hormonal imblances, tensions internally and externally, and they can nourish on a deep level. What is not to like! We work with at least 4 blended formulas and 15 nervines to help ourselves and others in this regard. Using herbs properly with the guidance of a trained herbalist is recommended.

2) a better sleep environment, which may include looking at your bed itself and the household in general. I have a super good bed, but recently I tossed an 8" memory foam queen futon I was not using, on top of it, and it transformed . At minimum, beds need to be replaced every few years, and as people change, so do their needs in this area. Research and try out beds in mattress stores and make sure any bed frames are up to the job. My favorite has been to put the whole thing on the floor, box spring and mattress (that is how I was able to toss another 8 inches of nesting on the bed). Clients have found that merely getting a new bed opens up a whole new world of quality sleep.

Sleep environment includes quietude, darkness, restricting screen time well before retiring to bed, and avoiding stresses. I never understood the attraction for depressing TV stories or the nightly news- nor can I understand how anyone can really recover well in a noisy hospital with florescent lights. It is advisable to change your environment and habits, including what you take into your consciousness, to better support calm deep sleep.

3) Proper food medicine and dietary habits. It's really best to have finished all eating at least 4 hours before retiring to bed, and to be aware of food sensitivities. Alcohol does not promote deep rest, it actually interferes. All drugs sold for "sleep" actually just drug the body, create dependency, and mess up the nervous system. Herbs can restore a nervous system that has been destroyed by long term ADD/ADHD meds and other factors.

Another insight- we are not all the same, and formulaic sleep recommendations do not apply to all. You may need additional sleep, longer sleep times, or more sleep during certain days when your body is dealing internally with a challenge. You may not be aware of the name of this challenge, and you just feel tired and perhaps weak. These are serious signals from the body as to a need for deep rest. This is the body needing sleep in order to produce positive immune reactions and internal balancing. There is no heroism in avoiding sleep or existing on minimal hours of sleep. Seasonal changes will also bring about changes in your biorhythms - learn to listen to and heed these.

We have explored nightly sleep in this post, and later posts will explore other aspects of the sleep & rest dynamics element in our lives- for the paradox is, if we never feel rested, we may not be able to get to the good nightly sleep!

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