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Why Your Sleep Needs Change With the Seasons

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By Jeremiah Johnson

ReadyNutrition Readers, the holidays are in full swing.  As such, there is a mountain of tasks to be accomplished: the ever-present workday, the kids going to school, doctor’s appointments, travel plans, and continuous shopping and planning for the holidays.  As most of you are well aware, we’re in the winter months where the days and the daylight periods are shorter.  December 25 is the shortest day of the year, and for the most part we have darkness for about 14 hours or more.  Whether we realize it or not, this affects us in an extremely negative manner that sometimes calls for a little bit of naturopathic help to get us through it.

Bodies Slow Down in Winter

In the winter months (as is the case for most mammals, of which human beings are classified), the metabolism slows down.  In man’s past, the summer and fall were the times to gather in the winter supplies, such as food and fuel.  Even though man does not hibernate, with the advent of increasing periods of darkness he does slow down.  The amount of work (especially outdoors) that can be accomplished during the wintertime is significantly lessened or abated completely.

In addition to this, man still requires a high caloric intake and a greater need to stay warm during the winter.  We were designed to not continue so frenetically through the winter months.  Yet in these modern times we do.  We are continuously bathed in artificial light and follow after man-made patterns and rhythms, not the natural circadian rhythms that have governed man’s existence for millennia.  In this artificial environment, it is small wonder that people have a hard time keeping up the pace of their existence.

What happens is that with the advent of darkness, your body naturally produces chemical messengers that tell it that the time to rest approaches.  The problem is that most people work a 9- to 12-hour workday, and now (in the winter months) they leave the house when it is dark and return home when it is dark.  The tasks do not stop.  The treadmill is ever-present and we seem to never be able to leave it.  As a consequence of the pressures of work and holiday requirements, many people are operating with a disturbed rhythm and (this time of the year) experience sleeplessness and/or difficulty in getting a good night’s rest.  There are some natural foods available to help you in this time of the year.

Get a Better Night’s Sleep with Natural Remedies

Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) is a really great herb that helps you to relax and obtain the rest that you need.  It is classified as a nervine in herbalism; that is, it directly affects the nerves and helps a person to relax.  It isn’t an herb that “puts” you to sleep; rather, it enables you to rest and enter your sleep-period more effectively.  It is extremely affordable: a bottle of it is available in Wal-Mart for about $5.  The brand I suggest is Spring Valley, with 100 capsules, a serving being 3 capsules that give you 500 mg of the Valerian.

There are no contraindications, except is will make you drowsy. Also, if you are using any kind of tranquilizers, sedatives, or anything that is considered a depressant (remember, cold medicines have alcohol in them a lot of times), the Valerian can potentiate it, adding to its effects.  It should not be taken by pregnant women or nursing mothers. It is best taken about half an hour before bedtime; don’t take it if you have to drive anywhere: make sure you’re home first.

Another aid is Melatonin, which is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the human body.  It is a hormone that functions as a sedative and is used to treat sleep disorders and other things such as jet lag.  Melatonin is also available at Wal-Mart in 5 mg tablets with 120 tablets per bottle that costs about $6 on average.  It is contraindicated with both pregnant women and nursing mothers, and should not be taken by anyone with autoimmune disorders or depression.  Once again, you don’t want to be driving or operating any kind of machinery or heavy equipment, as it will bring on drowsiness.  Melatonin needs about an hour to kick in before you retire for the evening.


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