Sleep is such a relevant topic right now; it was a big issue even before COVID-19. The lack of a good night’s sleep is one of the most common contributors to potential health concerns, but luckily it is relatively easy to address naturally.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
Not getting enough sleep is actually a very big deal. We see the glorified CEO image along with the “super mom” who is working from home while teaching her kids and running a household. These images of the so-called super human who is able to juggle high pressure and accelerated demands with little to no sleep is false and dangerous. The irony of this messaging is that it is scientifically proven that our ability to perform tasks, stay healthy, and make sound decisions improves exponentially with proper sleep. One of the main foundations of working towards being a “super human”, or a high-functioning person, starts with sleep. Our bodies do an incredible amount in these hours!
There are five cycles of sleep and each serve different purposes. If we sleep eight hours we should go through five or six of these complete cycles. During sleep our brain has the chance to process and integrate all of the information and experiences we have had throughout the day. When I used to teach workshops, I would outline my ideas on paper, but it was during sleep that the whole workshop would materialize. I would wake up knowing exactly what I would teach and in what order.
What’s Really Happening When We Sleep
REM sleep offers a process of “cleaning out” the brain, helping it decide which information to retain and which to remove. This is where long-term memories are created. We also produce a lot of hormones when we sleep. We metabolize food; the pituitary gland produces a “growth hormone” to repair itself; the immune system produces cytokines to fight infections and inflammation; and our pineal gland produces melatonin, which has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-boosting qualities.
When we sleep our pulse and blood pressure lowers, giving our heart a chance to rest. Lack of sleep has been shown to increase cortisol production, which is the same hormone that is produced in our body as a fight or flight stress response. Lack of proper sleep has been shown to contribute to weight gain, unhealthy food cravings, lowered immune functioning, brain fog, diabetes, anxiety, and high blood pressure. Anytime I am moody or notice my brain “glitching,” when I am slow to process information or recall something, I always think of sleep first. A nap or a good night’s sleep will usually reset my emotions as well as my mental clarity.
Interestingly, research shows that too much sleep also has negative consequences. Seven to eight hours of solid sleep seems to be the universal sweet spot.
The Truth About Melatonin
With our busy lifestyles, sleep can be hard for a lot of people to come by; not to mention the added challenges of COVID-19. Having good sleep hygiene (not looking at screens before bed, keeping lights low, keeping your bedroom dark and cool, etc.) is so important.
Our brain produces melatonin, which is a hormone naturally produced in the pineal gland located in the brain. During daylight hours we have very little production of melatonin. It increases steadily at night triggering our body to be tired. Some of the elements that tell our brain that it’s getting closer to bedtime is low lighting, cooler temperatures, and calming activities.
Some people are leery of melatonin. Why? There’s actually several reasons. One is that we live in a culture where we tend to take a lot of something when we find out it works. With melatonin, oftentimes less is more. Again, it is based on the individual, but it’s good to start with lower dosages to see how you react. A small amount of melatonin is oftentimes just as effective as a larger dose without causing drowsiness the next day. If you are waking up groggy, then decrease the amount of melatonin next time. For me, 2.5mg is an ideal amount.
Not all melatonin is created equal; the source of the melatonin you take is crucial. It can come from synthetic, bacterial, or animal sources (obtained from an animal’s pineal gland). These can range from low-quality with very few testing standards, to high-quality and high-purity grades. The lower quality sources can also contain fillers that are not labeled.
The melatonin we use in KAMU Dream comes from a bacterial source. We keep our formulations natural, organic, and vegan, and avoid any purity issues that can result from animal or synthetic sourcing. Utilizing bacteria for human benefit is a revolutionary process. It’s fun to think in terms of bacteria benefitting human survival and thriving during an age when we are hyper-aware of the negative effects of bacteria.
Fostering Good Sleep Hygiene
Prepare your brain for rest before lying down to sleep. Good sleep hygiene and pre-bedtime habits are natural ways to increase the likelihood that you’ll experience a great night’s sleep.
Blue light from screens mimics daylight and sends signals to our brain to stay awake. It’s a really good practice to be disciplined about ending all screen use two hours before bed. I sleep with my phone in a different room so I won’t be tempted. Not only does the blue light wake the brain up, but oftentimes we are reading news, doing work, or flipping through social media; activities that encourage engagement and participation, even if it seems like we are “zoning out.”
Alcohol consumption can also disrupt sleep. Studies show that drinking alcohol before bed can lead to disruptions in REM. KAMU Labs’ Revive helps your body fight the negative effects of alcohol by supporting liver function and reducing GABAa rebound—the main culprit in hangover nasties like nausea and headache.
The goal is to create an environment of calm that prepares our bodies and brains for rest. The comet appearing in the night sky started a new tradition for me this summer of sitting outside and stargazing each night. I set up a hammock with a clear view of the night sky and have made this my evening ritual. It sets the tone for an easy transition into restful sleep.
What About Natural Sleep Supplements?
What if changing your nighttime routine still finds you awake? Are supplements safe to use? There are a lot of natural supplements available. When we use the term “natural,” the key is to identify supplements that are non-habit forming, safe, and have a low risk of unwanted side effects. Natural also implies there’s an intrinsic desire to support the body by setting the optimal environment, looking at underlying causes, and supporting the body in regulating itself. Every body is different and will respond uniquely to different types of supplements.
Melatonin is the most commonly used supplement. I first learned about melatonin when I was traveling to Asia; it was recommended that I use it to mitigate jet lag. CBD, a cannabinoid that supports the nervous system to relax, is also common. Some individuals are very sensitive to THC, which wakes them up, so they need to find a very low THC or Broad-Spectrum nighttime supplement. Some common herbal sleep allies are Reishi mushroom, Skullcap, Passionflower, Chamomile, Valerian, Lavender, Ashwagandha, and my favorites – Lemon Balm and Saffron. These can be taken as teas or tinctures. Again, everyone’s body is different so it's good to experiment with these options and find the ones that give you the best results. Even though these suggestions are all generally safe and gentle, if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications you should always check with your doctor about possible interactions.
What is KAMU Dream?
KAMU Dream remains a foundational piece for supporting people in healthful living. Our Dream formula combines full spectrum CBD, melatonin, lavandin (derived from lavender), Reishi mushroom, 5-HTP, and five botanicals to support the parasympathetic nervous system and promote rest. We utilize a liposomal proprietary technology which creates a creamy and yummy liquid that is fast acting and effective. It’s formulated to give short-term benefits as well as cumulative, long-term body resets.
As you can see, a restful sleep improves brain and body functions, mood, and overall well-being. We are fortunate that there are so many natural ways to improve sleep. From practicing good sleep hygiene to exploring natural supplements, a good night’s sleep is perfectly obtainable. Learn more about how KAMU Dream can contribute to your optimized sleep routine.