Every morning, when my 4 year old daughter wakes up, I say good morning to her and ask her how she slept. The answers can range from hilarious to serious, but the other morning, she said something that stuck in my head: “I sleep easy”. Of course, I was not sure what she meant by this. What goes on inside the head of a 4 year old kid anyways? So, I asked her to elaborate. “Well daddy, I didn’t wake up the whole night! So I slept easy! “. How had this young human put it so succinctly? As a parent of young children, I dream of nothing more than long blocks of uninterrupted sleep. Other than chocolate, I would pretty much give up anything to get more sleep. I’m sure many would agree here!
Why is sleep so important?
According to the World Health Organization, two thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the advised nightly eight hours. This is a silent epidemic with far reaching consequences. In his amazing book “Why We Sleep”, author Mathew Walker lays out four major consequences to sleep deficit:
- Sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes the immune system, more than doubling the risk of cancer
- Lack of sleep just for one week – disrupts blood sugar levels so much that you would be classified as pre-diabetic
- Sleep disruption contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety and suicide
- Little sleep increases concentration of a hormone that makes you feel hungry while suppressing a companion hormone that otherwise signals food satisfaction
As the author writes, add it all up and “the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span. The old maxim “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is therefore unfortunate”.
What stops us from getting quality sleep?
It is complex and there is a long list of possible causes. But, let’s focus on the things you can control. There are a few obvious ones that stop us from being able to sleep easy. Like, not sleeping in a dark room, too much noise or drinking caffeine too close to bedtime. Others seem harder to manage, like not scrolling through your phone at least an hour before bedtime and trying to go to bed at the same time every night.
Stress and anxiety are big hindrances as, when you put your head on the pillow, your worrying mind keeps whirring and distracting the brain from the restorative part of the sleep function. Make the changes you can in your life, but are there some plant based alternatives that could also help? We look at the evidence for three potential sleep aides.
Aid #1: Lavender
The amazing smell of lavender is recognisable to many for its calming properties and finds itself in many perfumes, shampoos and lotions. People often take lavender orally as a supplement to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia as well as physical pain. It also works as a sedative to increase relaxation and calm. Lavender oil is a popular aromatherapy choice and several studies show using lavender oil for aromatherapy can improve quality by increasing time spent in deep, slow-wave sleep. Experts recommend a lavender dose of 80 mg to 160 mg for an oral supplement and for 30 minutes if administered through aromatherapy.
Aid #2: Myrcene
Myrcene is a terpene and a major component of the essential oil of several plants, including bay, cannabis and hops. But what are terpenes? These are tiny molecules which you can find in plants, fruits and flowers, including lavender, citrus and hops. As mentioned, they are also found in abundance in cannabis and hemp. There are about 20,000 terpenes known to exist and the cannabis plant contains about 200 of these. Research has shown that different terpenes have natural sedative and hypnotic effects. Herbal medicines containing myrcene have a long history of being used as a sleep aid. It is common for Germans, who are the second largest hops growers in the world, to use myrcene-rich hops, for example.
Aid #3: Cannabidiol (CBD)
The linkage between taking CBD and sleep has not yet been well studied, so most of what you will read is anecdotal with not much scientific evidence. We highlight one important study in 2018 which examined the effects of CBD and insomnia. The study looked at 409 patients and found CBD significantly reduced insomnia symptoms. Hopefully, more clinical studies in the future will further establish a scientifically proven link. Furthermore, there does appear to be some connection between CBD and reducing anxiety and stress, and relieving these mental conditions does result in better sleep.
How plant extracts could help you sleep easy
For CBD and the terpene myrcene, try Ayucana drops
Ayucana CBD Oil Drops are hemp-derived and are produced using pharmaceutical standards. They contain the previously mentioned terpene called myrcene, which can help with sleep.
For lavender, try Infinity’s calm stick
Infinity CBD’s Calm Stick is loaded with lavender and other calming botanicals, whether you’re looking to calm the mind or muscle. The entire Infinity range is all natural and plant based.
For chamomile, try Vitality CBD’s bath bomb
Vitality CBD’s Bath Bomb is a must-have for a calm boosting routine before bedtime. The bomb has chamomile, lavender and CBD which elevates bath time to heavenly levels.