I used to often find it difficult to fall into a deep, restorative sleep, and also remain rested all through the night.
Just the thought of going to bed could bring on mild anxiety as I knew I would likely lie awake for hours drifting in and out of light sleep, but rarely reaching the highly sought after delta state. I would regularly wake up during the night alerted, often from high-stimuli dreams that just added to my anxious state.
Sleepless nights would be particularly common if I was enduring a stressful or anxious period, as even if I entered sleep, I would wake through the night and feel the adrenalin circulating through my body, without knowing why. I would then struggle to rebalance my hormone levels enough to drift back into a sleep.
I decided to research a little further and came a across a few biological and physiological reasons that explained why this was happening.
Disturbances in sleep are most often linked to biochemical reactions due to a high level of stress hormones that flush through our system between approximately 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. The spike in our hormones dramatically affects our ability to remain calm, which is why it interrupts our sleep.
I also found that I was lacking in sodium. I had believed that I should be consuming a low sodium diet, so I had reduced my salt intake at every opportunity. I didn’t realise that I was actually ingesting the wrong salts. I rectified this by reducing my intake of processed food which contain high table salt levels, and instead switched to natural unrefined salts, which I add to fresh-food meals during preparation.
Dr. Vitiello, director of the University of Washington in Seattle, carried out research that found low levels of sodium cause blood volume to decrease and the sympathetic nervous system responds by activating to compensate. The sympathetic nervous system activates adrenalin and triggers the fight or flight response that then makes it difficult to get to sleep, and also remain asleep.
Sleep had long been a nemesis of mine, that was until I started to make up a magical therapeutic little potion which consisted simply of honey and salt.
I now mix together one teaspoon of pink Himalayan rock salt, which contains around 80 minerals and elements that aide our bodies with recovery, added with five teaspoons of organic raw honey that supplies the cells in our bodies with energy. I keep the mixture in a small glass jar by the side of my bed.
Approximately 20 minutes before I want to enter sleep I put a small amount of the mixture underneath my tongue and allow it dissolve naturally.
The mixture of honey and salt allows the body and mind to de-stress naturally by regulating our hormones, so that by the time we are ready to sleep we are already in a peaceful, harmonious and restful state. They also both work to sustain the body so that we do not wake up hungry during the night.
Honey provides a stable amount of liver glycogen to the brain, which aids healthy sleeping. If we do not have enough liver glycogen stored, our adrenal glands are triggered to respond by pumping out adrenalin and cortisol, which are both stress hormones.
Honey is believed to be a remedy that has been used to promote sleep for thousands of years. The reason honey is so beneficial is that it contains tryptophan which produces serotonin, which promotes relaxation. When we are in the dark serotonin converts to melatonin, which promotes restorative sleep.
Melatonin assists with our sleep/wake cycle as it works in schedule with darkness and light. When our melatonin levels are balanced we will fall into sleep easily and stay asleep naturally during the dark and wake when light gradually enters the room.
There is also no known proof that eating late at night causes weight gain, which is one reason many of us are deterred from consuming a bedtime snack.
Although many of us believe that salt isn’t good for us, the right salt and a healthy balance of it provides us with a vital nutrient that stabilizes our metabolism. Our metabolism needs to be healthy to ensure that it is able to absorb fuel and transform it to energy. Salt has anti-stress and anti-excitatory qualities, therefore a healthy supply of salt helps us to remain calm and balanced as it reduces our stress levels.
We often crave salt without realising that it eases anxiety and promotes our overall well-being, though unfortunately we reach out for processed quick fix products that contain table salts which offer little or adverse health benefits. When we replace refined salts with unrefined salts such as Himalayan, Celtic or Real salt, we will immediately notice an increase in energy levels, a reduction in stress levels and a clearer emotional and mental state.
Evidence also shows that a late night snack helps us to remain asleep as when we are hungry our brain activates the adrenal stress hormones, which can then put us on a high state of alert, known as fight or flight.
Matt Stone explains in his book Eat For Heat:
“The salt and sugar mixture is an absolute must for nighttime stress events. For wakeups between 2-4 a.m., accompanied by a feeling of excess adrenaline circulating through your system (adrenaline peaks at this time), salt and sugar under the tongue is the only way to go. You don’t want to be chewing anything, wandering around the house looking for food, opening the fridge and looking at bright lights when hoping to fall back asleep, and so forth. You want to remain as unstimulated as possible. Keep the sugar/salt mixture by the bedside for easy and thoughtless access until you stop having middle-of-the-night wake-ups.”
Since I have been consuming honey and salt at bedtime, sleep deprivation has become a thing of the past. I now sleep straight through the night, waking up refreshed and energized and I am less likely to have a dip in energy throughout the day. Most of all, though, I look forward to bedtime knowing that within moments I will very quickly drift and remain in a smooth, sound sleep. Now, not only do I sleep longer, but the quality of the sleep I am getting has dramatically improved.
As an added precaution I also have a Himalayan salt bedside table lamp which removes the negative ions from the environment and replaces them with positive ones. This removes the electric smog that is caused by electronic devices such as laptops and mobile phones, so the air is clear and therefore, improves air circulation and promotes healthier, fuller breathing.
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Travis May