Alkymia Blog

Alkymia Blog



How to Relax your Brain for Sleep

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Are your thoughts racing as you try to fall asleep?

We've all been there from time to time, right? If we've had a really busy day at work or an emotionally charged day, we just can't shut off our thoughts before bedtime. That's a normal response. Discover how to connect to calm and fall asleep easily.

Why are our brains busy with thoughts at night?

One of the most frequent causes of being unable to shut off our thoughts at night is because we've got our smart devices on before bedtime. Not only does this disrupt your sleep/wake cycle, it also tells your brain to wake up.

Whether we're reading work emails, watching a crime video or the evening news, or even just trolling social media - pinning, tweeting, liking things - you're activating your brain and language and emotion centres to stay awake and start running a marathon.

Do you have a busy brain?
When we are in the ‘busy brain’ state, we can find ourselves overthinking, and in the situation of, "I can't shut my thoughts off at night."

The Fight-or-Flight Response
Dr. Selye was the first person to identify the fight-or-flight response, this response is a natural survival mechanism since cave man days. Humans needed a way of quickly responding to danger. Our bodies developed a process of diverting energy from storage sites throughout the body to the muscles so we could fight or flee.

When this mechanism kicks in, those bodily processes unessential for emergency survival (such as digestion, reproduction, and the immune system) are inhibited, and the emergency survival mechanisms (such as circulation and respiration) are stimulated. The heart and lungs speed up to provide more oxygen to the body. The blood vessels constrict to move the blood more quickly.

When we perceive any kind of threat to our survival or even to our sense of well-being or homeostasis (balance), it is registered in the midbrain—first the amygdala and then the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus in turn activates two systems: the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal-cortical system. The sympathetic nervous system uses the nerve pathways to initiate reactions in the body; the adrenal-cortical system initiates reactions using the bloodstream. The combined reactions are the fight-or-flight response.

Dr. Bruce Lipton says that stress makes us think less clearly, and he explains why. When we experience stress, our blood supply gets fed to the hind-brain, which gets the body to speed up the reflexes of fight or flight. But with less blood supply, the fore-brain, which houses logic, gets compromised, making us less logical and more reactive.

Stress hits our cells just as it does our whole bodies. Like the whole body, each cell also goes into the survival mode of fight or flight. This means they move out of a state of growth and reproduction into the fight-or-flight mode. If this state becomes chronic through a lack of regular stress relief, they become unable to function properly. This sets us up for chronic disease.

What a beautiful built-in survival technique in the initial stages! But if the fight-or-flight mechanism becomes a habit, stress becomes chronic. This is when it can become detrimental to our health if we don’t employ stress management techniques.

Nightly digital detox
The first step is a digital detox; removing the distractions.  Digital devices create a busy brain from the blue light emitted from phones and computers, the worry we feel about emails, and the electromagnetic frequencies given off from devices.

Exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders. Exposure to electronic stimuli and disrupted sleep are scientifically linked, and sleep problems have many more negative consequences than many might realize, by suppressing melatonin.

Lack of sleep creates chronic stress, and it can lead to many chronic diseases, it’s been clinically linked to weight gain, depression, increased anxiety, heart disease and a whole host of other medical problems. Sleep deprivation also has been documented as a cause of car accidents, work-site injuries and poor job performance.
Sleep is sacred, and it is essential for health — mind, body, and spirit.

Bust up the busy brain
Introduce the cognitive behavioural therapy exercise of writing down your to-do lists. Use a pen and paper, its important to write it, not just on the computer, but on paper. Create your to do list, tasks, ideas and schedules.
After that, typically if the brain is still wired, it's a sign that maybe the cortisol levels and other markers of inflammation are elevated in the brain.

Calming supplements to improve sleep

Melatonin

It's in these ‘busy brain’ cases, melatonin is beneficial, started at a dose, of three milligrams. I Melatonin is effective in the following situations:

1. resetting the biological clock to fall asleep earlier in the evening.
2. help prevent symptoms of jet-lag
3. help with middle of the night awakening


Magnesium

When you’ve been sweating, are dehydrated, or if you have any alcohol in the evening, your magnesium levels are depleted.  A magnesium deficiency can occur with levels dropping, and this is a mineral which affects chemical reactions in the brain negatively.  With low levels of chronic magnesium due to nutritional deficiencies or depletion occurs, as a drop in serotonin level occurs in the brain.

Chronic magnesium deficiencies cause symptoms in the entire body, and in the brain leads to:
1. migraine headaches
2. worsening PMS symptoms
3. anxiety and mood disorders
4. insomnia
5. worsening depression


Herbs for Stress
The tonic herbs are super-nutrients, improving physiological functioning, calming, restorative, and a sense of well-being and energy boost.

Chamomile

A common herb which is consumed in the form of a tea, Chamomile exerts its calming effects in a couple of ways. It is a nervine relaxant, acting to calm and soothe the activity of the nervous system which is overactive in time of stress and anxiety.

Accompanying anxiety in the mind is nervous tension in the body. Chamomile is an antispasmodic, which means it relaxes any tension that is being held within the muscles. It is especially effective at reducing tension of the digestive system. This helps facilitate digestion and alleviates discomfort.

The gut and the brain connect on an axis, and easing digestive tension can calm our mental state. Chamomile also exerts anti-inflammatory effects, particularity in the digestive tract.

Lavender

An aromatic flower, Lavender and its strong, relaxing scent brings peace and calm when smelled or eaten. Like Chamomile, lavender has effects as a nervine relaxant and an antispasmodic. These reduce stress and tension mentally and physically.

Lavender relieves stress related headaches and promotes a natural, deep and restorative sleep. It can help take the edge off in the evenings and provides temporary relief whilst you work on your respective cause of anxiety.

Use Lavender in the form of an essential oil on your pillow at bedtime or you can drink it in the form of a tea.
A Lavender extract proved just as effective as Lorazapam at alleviating anxiety in adults with general anxiety disorder.

Reishi

Dubbed as the ‘Mushroom of Immortality’, the Reishi mushroom is another adaptogen. Reishi enhances the bodies resistance to internal and external stressors.

Reishi, used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, promotes health and longevity. It is also identified as a tonic as it exerts non – specific restorative and invigorating actions throughout the body.

Like the action of Ashwagandgha, Reishi gives us protection against the stress response and its baggage. These include high blood pressure and fluctuations in blood sugar.

In addition to its role as an Adaptogen, it also acts as an immunomodulator. It regulates the responsiveness of the immune system. In some of us the immune system can become overactive due to exposure to antigens from our diet, environment and stress. Reishi also exerts anti – inflammatory effects which provides a protective environment against anxiety.

Amongst a calm mind, Reishi can also provide sharper thinking as well as energy in times of mental and physical fatigue.

Siberian Ginseng

Siberian Ginseng. SG is an effective defender against various types of stress. It also acts to restore, tone and invigorate systems in the body to promote general health and well-being.

As an Adaptogen, SG is effective at protecting us against periods of ongoing and prolonged stress. When exhaustion starts to become apparent, Siberian ginseng can help keep you alert and energised in the face of perceived adversity. SG achieves this wonder by increasing the oxygenation of cells, enhancing cognitive performance and sustained mental activity.

SG also combats neuroses when in the heat of the stress response. When stressed, it also normalises blood pressure and blood sugar balance, both of which shift out of balance in times of stress.

SG demonstrates use in the short or long term to increase mental stamina and performance. This is especially important as these start to fade when faced with anxiety. This could be an especially useful tool whilst studying for an exam, project at work or giving a presentation.

Siberian Ginseng has stress protective effects increasing tolerance to stress and lifespan extension

Skullcap

Skullcap is often referred to as the golden root. It shows effects as a neuroprotective with cognitive enhancing benefits.

Skullcap is particularly useful for those with restlessness and nervous excitability.  We know these as anxiety. The ‘Golden root’ renews the central nervous system by acting as a nervine tonic, soothing nervous tension.
Skullcap was seen as an effective anxiolytic, that which breaks down anxiety. It also exerts this effect through acting upon our GABA receptors, helping us to stay chill.

Valerian

This one you may like. Valerian is also known as natures Valium. The effects it exerts are similar to the relaxing feelings of floating with valium.

In terms of herbal medicine, Valerian is a nervine relaxant, an antispasmodic and a hypnotic. These 3 actions compliment one another, providing psychological and physical relief across the body and the mind.

It is an especially useful herb for deep restorative sleep and does not interfere with the REM stages of sleep. REM is an important factor in the restoration we experience during sleep.

Most noteworthy is its use for nervousness, restlessness, insomnia and a nervous stomach. Like Valium, Valerian acts on our GABA receptors producing a tranquillising sensation. The good news is there are no side effects that come with its use that there are with valium.

Hold the intention for peaceful sleep

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