Podcast 134: Accessible Herbalism for Sleep

We work with herbs for sleep improvement purposes very frequently, because sleep is so critical to good health. During sleep, your body works through a to-do list, including: detoxification, hormone ‘balancing’, wound healing, muscle growth, immune surveillance, fat burning, clearing inflammation, cleaning wastes from the brain, and even mood regulation!

Lots of things in the modern world interfere with sleep, and lots of people have insomnia or sleep disruptions of one kind or another. Since sleep is so important to stay healthy, it’s a big problem when you can’t get enough quality rest. But your body is resilient, and herbs can help!

We’re sharing strategies in two categories:

  • What to do when you can’t fall asleep. A few new bedtime habits and some supportive herbs can we make the transition from waking to sleep easier & smoother.
  • What to do when you can’t get more sleep than you’re already getting. This is about finding other ways to support what the body would normally be doing during sleep time. Herbs can help reduce the sleep time to-do list & make the body more efficient at getting through it. They can also help out as we build resilience to stress – including the stress of sleep debt.

Herbs discussed include: chamomile, wild lettuce, tulsi, peppermint, cinnamon, nettle, dandelion, hibiscus, green/black tea, cayenne.

This is part 6 in our Accessible Herbalism series! We’re sharing strategies for safely improving some of the most common health concerns, especially for marginalized communities. We want to empower people to take action in support of their own health and the health of their neighbors. The safe, accessible tools of holistic herbalism can fill in the gaps left by uneven access and affordability of conventional care. Working with easy-to-find, inexpensive herbs, with low risk of adverse effects and drug interactions, is something anyone can do.

We’re building a community health collective organizing tool out of this material as we go through the series. You can learn more about the project and find all the collected resources here:

Mutual Aid Resources

chamomile bunch

As always, please subscribe, rate, & review our podcast wherever you listen, so others can find it more easily. Thank you!!

Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.


Episode Transcript

Katja (00:00:01):
Hi. I’m Katja.

Ryn (00:00:01):
And I’m Ryn.

Katja (00:00:16):
And we’re here in the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (00:00:17):
And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the internet, basically.

Katja (00:00:26):
All right. Well, this week we are going to talk about sleep and how to get better sleep. This is part six or seven.

Ryn (00:00:36):

Katja (00:00:36):
It’s six.

Ryn (00:00:38):
Part six.

Katja (00:00:38):
Part six in a series of strategies for safely improving some of the most common health concerns, especially the most common health concerns in underserved areas.

Ryn (00:00:48):
Yeah. The purpose of our series here is to offer community herbal information in an accessible and inclusive way so that people can take control of their own health.

Katja (00:00:58):
In many parts of the country, there just simply isn’t accessible healthcare. And in other cases there is, but it’s so understaffed that it’s really difficult to get access to it. So we want to provide some tools and skills that will help to fill this gap. This is not medical advice. It is safe, accessible self-care strategies that will help to improve health outcomes. We believe that all people have a right to accessible and high quality healthcare. And we also want all people to have the tools and skills to care for themselves as well.

Ryn (00:01:33):
So our plan here is to work with a relatively small number of easy to get and inexpensive herbs. So you are going to notice the same plants turning up over and over again in different episodes. There are other plants that can work really well, of course, out there in the world. But the ones that we’ve chosen to highlight here are the ones that we think are the most effective and the most accessible. We’ve also chosen herbs that are generally very safe and don’t have interactions with medications except where we make a note of it. And we’re making an effort to note it every single time.

Katja (00:02:05):
A printable version of this work will also be available at the end of this series, along with information about how to start a community health collective and a lot of other really great tools that we hope will be super helpful for you. We’re making these things available free to all people, because we want everyone to have these skills.

Ryn (00:02:26):
Yeah. So if you want to find out more, or if you want to support this effort, you can do both of those things at commonwealthherbs.com/mutualaid, all one word.

Katja (00:02:36):
And before we jump in to how to help get better sleep, just one more thing here. We want to do our reclaimer and make it really clear that we are not doctors. We’re herbalists and holistic health educator.

Ryn (00:02:51):
The ideas we discuss in our podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States, and these discussions are for educational purposes only. Everyone’s body is different. So the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you, but they will give you some information to think about and some ideas to research further.

Katja (00:03:09):
And we want to remind you that good health is your right and also your own responsibility. So this means that the final decision when you’re considering any course of therapy, whether it’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician, is always yours.

Ryn (00:03:25):
So as promised today, we’re going to talk about sleep. So far in our series here, I think we’ve mentioned sleep as an important factor in every single health issue, in the diabetes, in all the things.

Katja (00:03:40):
In cardiovascular and like every single thing that we’ve talked about actually. Even in pain management, every single thing has involved if you sleep more, this problem will get better.

Ryn (00:03:49):
Yeah. More and better. Right? Deeper. More hours of sleep? Yes. But better quality of sleep. Yeah. Awesome. So in our culture, which is really based around productivity, we think of sleep as a kind of a luxury or as something that’s when you’re doing nothing. That’s just wasted time. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. That’s something that people say a lot. But the thing is that you can’t do that. That doesn’t, that’s not how this works. That’s not how your body works. When we run out of time in this culture, sleep is often the first thing that goes out the window: that and exercise and making healthy food for yourself and taking time to do the things that de-stress you. All of the stuff that’s most important to our health tends to be the first things that we lose track of, or that we push to the side in the service of producing and all of that.

Katja (00:04:43):
In the service of capitalism.

Ryn (00:04:43):
Yeah. Right. So, what we’re talking about, these things that take care of your body and nourish you deeply, it’s like putting gas in your gas tank. It’s not actually optional. If you don’t do it, your body doesn’t run. It doesn’t go anywhere.

Sleep is Productive, Starting with Detoxing

Katja (00:04:59):
Yeah. I think it’s really important for us to reframe the way that we think about sleep. Because in fact, actually, and are you ready? Sleep IS productivity. Whoa. That’s like totally different than anything we’ve ever thought before. Right? So instead of thinking, I have too much to do. I don’t have time to sleep. We need to start thinking, Oh my goodness, I have so much to do. I need to sleep. Because here’s the thing. When we’re sleeping, critical things are happening in our bodies that can’t actually happen while we are awake. And they’re also not optional. Like they are systems level work that if it doesn’t get done, the system will start to break down. It’s like, if you want to go live on Mars or live on the moon or be an astronaut, like any kind of leaving this planet — which I’m thinking about, I guess, because I just read a book about astronauts — you have to have an air filtration unit. If you’re not filtering the air and monitoring how much oxygen there is, then like everybody on the spaceship will die. We need to start thinking about sleep in that same way, because that kind of work is being done while we’re asleep.

Ryn (00:06:19):
Yeah. So let’s go through an abridged list of some things that your body is doing while you’re sleeping that are really critical. One is something that a lot of folks are really interested in, and especially folks who are getting interested in herbalism. Many people reach out to us and say, do you have something good for detox? And sometimes I kind of want to reply back with: “yeah, nine hours of sleep a night will detox you better than anything out on the market, you know?”

Katja (00:06:45):
Yeah. You don’t have to buy a product. Really just more sleep.

Ryn (00:06:49):
Yeah. So what do we mean by this? Well, detox is a real thing that your body does and does every day and does for itself. And it’s not something that only happens when you drink a bunch of fiber and spend a lot of time on the potty. Detox is something that your body does every day. And your liver does a lot of that work. And your liver works best while you’re sleeping. Some of this is actually just to do with gravity, because in order for your liver to do the job, it needs to get the blood into the liver. And all of the blood vessels that feed the liver are — actually not all of them, but most of them, 80% — are coming from below in the body, down in the intestines. And so these are actually just veins. They don’t have a pumping force behind them, but they do move upward from the intestines up to the liver. So when you’re upright, when you’re moving around, there’s not a lot of blood flow happening in that direction. Now, if you’re really moving, if you’re breathing deep, if you’re twisting and stretching and reaching, then that will happen during the day. But for most of us, the majority of blood flow through the liver, the majority of detox in the liver, takes place while we’re sleeping. Because when you sleep, you tend to lay down. And it’s easier for blood to flow sideways then to flow uphill.

Katja (00:08:01):
Also some of the work of clearing waste out of your body really can’t happen when you’re also digesting food or running around in your day. Right? One of the most important things in this process in terms of clearing out the waste of the body is that your liver is breaking down hormones when you’re done with them. In other words, your liver is resetting your hormone levels every single night. And when that’s not happening, you end up with hormone imbalance. This is just like cooking, right? It is really hard to wash dishes and cook at the same time. If you’ve ever been in the kitchen of a restaurant, they’re two different people. One person is doing the cooking and one person is doing the washing because you can’t actually cook and wash at the same time. Even though it would be great because then you wouldn’t have a pile of dishes after you have cooked a great dinner. And so that is the same problem that your liver is having. It can’t do the work that is required as part of digesting food, because your liver is involved in breaking down food. It can’t do that and break down waste products at the same time. It’s just not efficient. It’s not effective. So during the day you’re digesting food, you’re running around, you’re doing your stuff. Your liver is involved in those activities. When you go to sleep, you’re shutting down a lot of activities and sort of you’re just running on life support, right? That’s when the liver can go back and say, great, we’re done with these hormones, break them down, recycle them. And if you don’t have a chance to do that, then you have hormone imbalance, or that’s going to lead to hormone imbalance.

And Hormone Balancing

Ryn (00:09:44):
Yeah. So hormone balancing is a thing that happens while you’re sleeping. And most of the time when we think about hormones, we’re thinking about estrogen, we’re thinking about testosterone. Because those are, I don’t know, the ones that people are most excited about. And they’re like, get me some boosters for my testosterone in here, and make me a real man and all that kind of nonsense.

Katja (00:10:07):
Or like, if you menstruate, we’re often thinking like, Oh, I have hormone imbalance because my PMs is so bad. And okay, that must mean my estrogen is off or my progesterone is off. But actually there’s way more hormones involved in PMS or any of these other things than just the estrogen.

Ryn (00:10:27):
Insulin is a hormone. Cortisol is a hormone. Adrenaline is a hormone. Even melatonin is a hormone. You’ve heard of melatonin, right? That supplement people will take to help them go to sleep. You make your own. You make it right here in your pineal gland in your brain, but it’s a hormone and it helps you sleep. Leptin is a hormone that’s regulating whether or not you feel hungry. There are lots of hormones in the body. They have really important jobs. Many of them are much more critical to survival and to healthy functioning than your estrogen and testosterone are. And so your body will try to prioritize those first. But we can get all of our hormones out of whack with modern living in the year 2020 and lots of years before and all of that. But what happens is when all these hormones get out of whack, your blood sugar has difficulty regulating itself. Stress and inflammation aren’t managed very well. You get sleep disruptions. You’re hungry all the time. It’s hard to lose weight. Whoa! Plus, in the meantime, your estrogen and testosterone are also going to get thrown out of whack. So you might get your PMS problems. You might get flare ups of PCOS symptoms or other kinds of troubles like that, let alone hormonal acne. So, a lot of trouble can happen.

Katja (00:11:42):
It’s like all of your hormones have to line up in a row. And they’re all at different levels, but they have to all line up. You have to get all your ducks in a row, right? Get all your hormones in a row. And if the ones in the beginning are all jumbled up, then the ones at the end, the estrogen, the testosterone, the progesterone, they’re going to be all jumbled up too. They can’t be all nice and neat if the beginning is a big mess. So starting from the beginning point, which is also a lot easier to have a direct impact on with herbs and with holistic strategies, getting all those nice and neat is going to actually cause the whole row to line up in order

Ryn (00:12:22):
Yeah. You bet. So, again, most of that’s happening while you’re sleeping and also repair work.

Katja (00:12:30):
But wait, there’s more.

And Repair Work

Ryn (00:12:30):
Yeah. We’ve got a few more going on. So when you’re asleep, your body can heal damage that happened throughout the day. So maybe you burned yourself while you were cooking. Maybe you got a bruise. Any kind of wound, it’s going to do most of the healing while you’re sleeping. And that makes sense. You can think of it like any other workforce. There’s only so many workers in the body. And during the day they all have one set of jobs. And then during the night they all have another set of jobs. Wait shouldn’t they go to sleep?

Katja (00:12:55):
Maybe it’s two shifts.

Ryn (00:12:55):
Maybe they switch shifts.

Katja (00:12:58):
Yeah. They switch shifts.

Ryn (00:12:59):
Got to let some of your inner workforce go to sleep too. So repair work, recovery. That’s also, by the way, muscle growth if that’s something you’re interested in. We talk about healing, and that’s like wounds and injuries and inflammatory spots and whatever, but it’s also muscle growth.

Katja (00:13:17):
Yeah, if you are working out a lot, either because you like to go to the gym and workout, or because your job involves that. Your job involves using your muscles really intensely. Either way, you’re building muscle. And in order to do that, you have to have that recovery time. Because the heavy work with the muscles, that part is not actually building muscle. That’s, in fact, actually using muscle, like even making micro tears in the muscle. And it’s the recovery time that builds the muscle back up, plus a little stronger. Also in the realm of repair work is immune response. Your liver plays a huge role here, and actually all of the factors involved in sleep play a huge role here. Because you’re not just healing from wounds and injury when you’re asleep, but it’s so much easier for your immune response cells to do their work when you’re asleep as well. You’re basically, again, turning off all the systems that aren’t involved in life support. And that’s actually what immune function is. That is a critical life support function, even when you’re not sick, because here’s the thing. You have pathogens in you, microbes or germs in you all of the time. Even if somebody didn’t sneeze on you today, you’ve been picking up germs all day long. And you’re not sick because when you go to sleep your immune system starts checking all through the body. Looking in every closet, checking under the rug, looking under the bed, the metaphorical bed, looking for any germs and dealing with them right away so that they can’t multiply in your body and get strong and make you sick. So that means if you aren’t getting enough sleep, then your immune system doesn’t have the time to do a really good job of finding all the germs and killing them so that you don’t get sick. And instead, the germs that it didn’t have time to find and kill are going to start to multiply. They’re going to get stronger in your body and you are more likely to get sick from them.

Ryn (00:15:34):
Yeah. A big part of the immune response and also the healing response and the muscle growth response is inflammation. And clearing or balancing inflammation is also a big thing that’s happening while we’re sleeping. It’s kind of part detox, work part repair work, you know, because inflammation is your body’s way of signaling that repairs need to be made. So when the signals have done their job and their repairs are happening, then the chemicals that induce that inflammation in the first place, those need to go and get broken down by the liver. And that’s going to then turn off that signal, turn off the inflammation. But both the repair and turning off the inflammation that called for the repair, those things happen while you’re sleeping. So if you’re not sleeping, then the inflammation can’t turn off. And it’s just going to keep increasing and become more painful, more dysfunctional in that area. So that’s going to lead you to chronic inflammatory diseases and also just a lot of discomfort in your body. And sleep is not the only thing that reduces inflammation, but it plays a really big role. And lack of sleep is also itself a big part of how inflammation can snowball in the body, and how we get these runaway inflammatory processes.

And Brain Work

Katja (00:16:53):
Your brain at gets a lot of attention when you’re asleep too. This is when you do your emotional detox, but also the physical cleaning of the brain. So, actually all of that is physical cleaning of the brain, because your emotions are not like some imaginary thing. There are tangible parts of your emotions in your brain, and all of that is maintenanced while you’re asleep. So recently they’ve discovered that your brain has a very specialized lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is throughout the whole body that helps your body to take out the trash. And for a long time, they thought the brain didn’t have one, but actually your brain does. It has its own very specialized trash system, lymphatic system. And it is called the glymphatic system. And that is super important for the physical brain itself, for example, for preventing the plaques that cause Alzheimer’s and dementia. But it’s also really important for emotional health. They’re finding that dreaming is a big part of the way that our brains process experiences that we’ve had in our day and repackage them into memories so that we can put them away. And that dreaming is also a big part of the way that we do the work required to understand the experiences that we’ve had. But here’s the thing. That lymphatic system, that trash clearing system in the brain also functions most effectively, not only when we’re sleeping, but especially during that dream phase of sleep. That phase when your eye muscles are twitching just a little bit. It turns out that that twitch of the eye muscles is actually also serving as part of almost like a pump system to sort of pump or flush out the trash from the brain. So here, like we’re seeing this dream phase cycle is responsible, not just for clearing emotions, processing emotions and clearing them out and put putting them away so that we can get them behind us, but also for clearing out the physical trash in the brain that leads to brain problems like dementia or Alzheimer’s. The thing here is, as we alternate through sleep cycles, like you don’t just dream once a night. In a healthy night of sleep, there are alternating cycles of dreaming where all this movement is happening, and then a deeper sleep where, okay, now we rest and like sort of realign everything. And then you come back up to a dream cycle, and now there’s a lot of movement again, and then a lower rest cycle.

Ryn (00:19:42):
Yeah. And there’s a little bit of a, sort of like, emotional versus physiological divide happening there, where in those REM cycles, that’s where a lot of that emotional regulation function is taking place. And in the deeper phases of sleep, that’s where a lot of immune response and repair work is happening. And this is stuff they’ve learned by having people sleep, but depriving them of those particular deep phases of sleep or REM sleep and see what happens to people over time. But so we want to get both cycles, and that’s about sleep quality, right? That ability to move through the phases of sleep, to come and cycle up and down a few times through the course of the night. That’s about how much time you have to sleep, but also about how rested your body really is, or how well you’ve actually transitioned into the sleep phase of things and are able to generate that state in the body.

Katja (00:20:36):
Your brain needs to go through multiple cycles of the dream cycle, and then the deep rest cycle. And if you just go through one of them, you haven’t done all the processing work yet. So, or even if you just go through two of them, you haven’t done all the processing work yet. So maybe you wake up and you’re still feeling the full weight of negative things that happened yesterday or the day before or whatever. Sometimes you have a good night of sleep and like you feel better in the morning, or we say well, I’ll sleep on it. And that way of speaking comes from our experience with sleep. That after you have had a good night’s sleep, you get some distance from the thing that was upsetting you. But in order to do that, you have to go through the full number of cycles that your brain needs to do that clearing work. And so if we’re sleeping a reduced amount of time, like maybe four, five hours or six hours a night, then you’re not getting enough time to complete all the cycles that you have to complete in order to clear out or fully process all of that emotional activity.

Ryn (00:21:50):
Yeah. So this is the part of the pod that’s about convincing you that sleep is important and worth getting. Because that’s a ton of stuff, right? And it’s not even everything. This is just a partial list. But now you can see why lack of sleep makes you more likely to have a heart attack, why it makes diabetes worse, why it increases the likelihood of dementia or Alzheimer’s, the ways that it can worsen depression and emotional health issues, make you more susceptible to illness, and even make weight management more difficult. So the lack of sleep is going to impact every inflammatory disease as well. If it’s endometriosis, if it’s PCOS, if it’s rheumatoid arthritis, even asthma. Every night that you don’t have a chance to clear out and to reset your inflammation, the problem is going to compound on itself. Scared yet? Stressed out about sleep maybe?

Work with What You’ve Got

Katja (00:22:40):
Ah, I’m so stressed. Especially if you are one of the very many people who work shift work, or you have small children, or you’re caring for elders, or all the other things that happen in life that make getting enough sleep feel pretty much impossible. Then starting to recognize all the things that your body is missing out on can feel super stressful. But here’s the thing. First, it’s important to recognize that the human body is an amazing resilient thing, right? Your car simply won’t run if you don’t put gas in the gas tank. But your body will keep going, and it will keep going, and it will keep going.

Ryn (00:23:26):
It’s the original energize bunny.

Katja (00:23:33):
And it’s important to recognize that, because that helps us to realize that our bodies are going to keep going. Our bodies are trying to do we have to do to keep ourselves going. And they’re willing to work with whatever we can give them. That’s really encouraging because if you’re like, I’m working two jobs and I’m caring for small children and there is no way I can sleep more. Your body’s like, that’s okay, I’ll give it everything it’s got. This might not be graceful, but we are going to get through it. And so recognizing that your body is going to keep going, I think is really encouraging. And it’s going to keep going, even if it keeps going and it’s a mess, it’s just going to keep going. So when we think about it that way we can say, okay, we know there’s a problem. We know there’s not a lot of choice about that problem. But we also know that there’s more than one way to give our bodies what they need. And we know that the body is a willing partner. It is going to keep trying to support us. So even if we can’t get the perfect amount of sleep, maybe there are other things that we can give our body so that we can be an effective team. And in fact, there are. There are other things that we can do to help the body get through the times when we can’t get enough sleep.

Ryn (00:24:58):
Yeah. As well as improving our quality of sleep for the time that we do have. If you’ve only literally got six, seven hours every night. That’s all you can cram in between the job and the other job and the kids care and the making food and everything else, then we better make those six or seven hours as deep and fulfilling as we can. So herbs are going to help a ton there, and some other strategies as well. So as we talk about how about all of this, we’re going to break our overall strategies here into two groups. One is what to do when you can’t fall asleep. How can we make that easier? What can we do to help you to fall asleep more smoothly, more quickly to support the body with what it’s trying to do while you’re asleep. So that’s one thing. And then the other thing is what to do when you can’t get more sleep than you are already getting. So that could be about improving quality of it. But it’s also about how to find other ways to support what the body would be doing during sleep time, so that the sleep time to-do list can be more efficient. That we can get through it faster. And so that we’re strengthening the body to cope with the stress of sleep debt, which is what we say when you’re not getting as much sleep as your body would really like.

Set a Consistent Bedtime

Katja (00:26:18):
All right. So let’s start with things to do when you can’t fall asleep, right? You went to bed, but your brain won’t turn off. You’re worrying about so many things, or it’s even hard to go to the bed because you’re sitting on the couch and you’re like, I’m not even tired. Why should I get in the bed? I’m just going to lay there and I’m not going to fall asleep. And I’m going to be frustrated. It’s going to make everything worse. So let’s break things down into two categories here. Let’s have actions that you can take for those times when you can’t fall asleep, and then herbs that you can work with to help you fall asleep more easily. So the first action that you can take when you are in that cycle of, I can’t fall asleep, whether it is all the way to insomnia or just I’m going to lay there, and it’s so frustrating. So I’m just not even going to go to bed yet. Believe it or not, setting yourself a consistent bedtime, and saying this is my bedtime. This is when I get in the bed. There’s no excuses. I mean except emergencies. But there’s no Netflix emergency. There’s no excuses. I’m getting in the bed at 10 o’clock at 11 o’clock at whatever time is right for you. Set an alarm on your phone. And don’t just set it for 10 o’clock, because you’ve got to do some stuff before you can get in the bed. You’ve got to brush your teeth. You’ve got to pee. You have to maybe put away your clothes or get your clothes out for the morning. Whatever it is that you have to do before bed, make sure that you leave enough time to do that. So set your bedtime alarm a little bit before actual bedtime. And this alarm is to remind yourself that it is your intention to go to bed. That you have made a choice to support your body. And so when that alarm goes off, you might be like, eh, I don’t want to do it. Because by the time that it’s almost bedtime, you’re like, nah, this movie’s good. I don’t want to go to bed. And so when we set alarms for ourselves, it’s really important to recognize that what we’re doing is we are reminding future me that I had a plan. And I thought it was a good plan and I want to stick to it. So that alarm is my past me saying, Hey, future me, don’t forget. We want to go to bed tonight, right?

Ryn (00:28:41):
Yeah. Cool. So that will help you to start your kind of bedtime routine, your sleep hygiene habits here. So one thing that also helps a lot is to stop eating as soon or as long before bed as you kind of can. At least two hours is going to make a pretty big difference. If your habit has been to eat a snack right before you go to bed, in terms of the quality, the depth of sleep that you can get, if you’re not still processing food while you transition into sleep it helps you to get into a much deeper state of sleep and to recover more. So if you can give at least two hours between last food intake and lights out, head on the pillow, that’s great. If you can make it longer than that, that’s fantastic.

Katja (00:29:28):
I have an alarm on my phone. Okay. Bedtime involves a lot of alarms on my phone. I’m just going to say that right off the bat. But it helps me to make it happen. Okay. So I have an alarm on my phone that says don’t eat past…and so ideally I want to go to bed at 10 o’clock. And I would like to leave three hours between my last meal and bedtime. So I have an alarm at six o’clock that says don’t eat past seven. Which means that if I’m not cooking dinner at six o’clock when that alarm goes off, then I better start making dinner right away. Because I don’t want to eat after seven o’clock. Now, sometimes that’s just not possible. And you might have all kinds of reasons. Maybe you come home from work late, and if you don’t eat right before bed, you’re not going to eat at all. And so if that is the case, then try to eat a much larger lunch and a very small dinner. Try to have a low carb dinner. So like focus mostly on some meat and some vegetables, and try not to have bread or pasta or rice with that dinner. And what we’re trying to do here is give you some food because, okay, you haven’t had any dinner at all yet, but food that is going to be the fastest for your body to process with the least amount of insulin. Because if you have to eat before bed, but we want your body to be finished processing food so that you can easily fall asleep, then let’s eat the foods that process fastest so that that work can get done. And then you can fall asleep, right? If you have a huge pasta dinner or a bunch of pizza right before bed, those things take a long time for your body to process. All the bready foods take a long time to process. So that means you’re going to be processing food for several hours before your body’s able to really shut that process down and actually focus on the sleep work.

Ryn (00:31:32):
When she says process there, she’s thinking beyond just the first phase of digestion, but all the way through the actual absorption and until it becomes sugar in the blood moving around. And then getting put into the individual cells, and like all of those steps takes more time. All right. So we’re trying to leave space between last food and bedtime.

Katja (00:31:53):
Oh. And I would say also that setting your bedtime first is really important, because if I don’t say what time I want to go to bed, then I don’t know what time do I want to have my dinner at. So that’s why the set the bedtime alarm comes first. And then I can walk backwards three hours from that, or two hours, whatever is reasonable for you, and say, okay, well then here’s when my dinner time has to be. It’s okay if it’s earlier than that, but I don’t want it to be later than that. Okay. So I set that alarm.

Adjust Light Exposure

Ryn (00:32:21):
Yeah. When it’s about an hour before bed you may want another alarm here, but what we’re looking to do now is to reduce light exposure. So that means that we’re going to dim the lights or turn out as many lights as we can in your home or in your space that you’re hanging out in. We’re going to be avoiding screens during this time as well. So the point with both of these is to reduce the amount of light coming into your eyes. And the reason is that when light is coming in, then it suppresses the release of melatonin. Remember melatonin comes out of your pineal gland right here behind your third eye. But it only comes out when you’re in a dim or a dark environment. And so naturally out there in the real world if we were camping or whatever, then as the sun goes down and it gets dark, then our bodies make more melatonin and we transition to sleep. So that’s the environment that our physiology evolved in and the sort of expected input there. So now in our world today, it’s easy to stay up until 10, 11, midnight, whatever and have all of the lights in the house turned on and be right in front of a screen or looking right at your phone with the blue light coming off of it. And then you turn everything off, you lay there and you’re like, Oh, I can’t fall asleep. Well, of course not, your body needs some time to adjust, to transition between states. So manipulating light levels in your home this way is a good way to kind of hack your physiology or to give your body that expected signal that says, Oh, it’s getting dim around here. It must be night soon. It must be time to go to bed, because I’m a mammal that’s awake in the daytime. Yeah. Okay. We know what’s up. So you give your body that signal, and then that makes your transition to sleep so much easier.

Katja (00:34:09):
This is a way that we can also reach back for connection with our ancestors, right? Because throughout all of human history, I mean, electric lights are really new. Throughout all of human history we just had maybe campfire or some candles for that time between when the sun went down and when we actually get in the bed. And traditionally this is a time when stories were told. And I think that’s a big part of the reason why we like to watch television at night, because we no longer have storytellers like our ancestors had. And maybe we don’t have elders who live with us who can tell us stories. And so where do we get our stories from? Humans need story. It’s a huge part of who we are as beings. We require story. And so if we don’t have elders right there to tell us the story of who we are and what we should do, what do we turn to? Television, because that’s where we get our stories today. So it’s normal to want a story and we get stories from TV today. So, instead we can use that time, at least an hour before bed, to maybe listen to an audio book or actually tell each other stories. Just start practicing the art of storytelling again. start reclaiming that. Turn off as many lights as you can. Light some candles if you can. Or maybe get some Christmas lights to hang up. They’re dim, but they’re still bright enough that you can move around the room safely and do what you have to do. So just whatever dim light you can have on, and then tell some stories together or listen to some music together. Maybe just talk about your day, whatever kinds of things. This is a really good time to fold laundry, sort of tasks that don’t really need a lot of attention or a lot of light, but also you feel better if you get them done. So all that kind of stuff can happen. Even reading. If maybe you live by yourself. All of that can happen during this low light time. And it’s all also ancestrally appropriate stuff to do.

Ryn (00:36:37):
Yeah. Okay. So you’ve done that for a little while. And also during this time you may be working with some herbs. So we’re going to talk about those in just a moment. But when it’s really time for lights out, head on the pillow, then we do want it to be as dark as possible. So you want to be blocking out the curtains or blocking out the window with some nice curtains. Those little plastic shades that all the landlords install, it doesn’t do the job if you have a street light right outside your window.

Katja (00:37:05):
Yeah, it still comes in.

Ryn (00:37:05):
So tack up a blanket if you need to, tinfoil, whatever you have to do, but just to get that light blocked out in your sleeping space, in your bedroom.

Katja (00:37:14):
Towels work really well. If you don’t have curtains, towels are like a thick enough fabric that that they will block the light out really well too. And you needed to hang your towel up anyway. So just have some tacks and hang your towel over the window. Whatever you need to do. It doesn’t have to be the most beautiful solution ever. Just to get it dark in the room.

Ryn (00:37:36):
Yeah. That makes a real big difference in sleep quality. Maybe earplugs would help out, right? If you have a noisy environment, other people in the building or in the apartment that aren’t on your schedule, then earplugs could be really helpful here as well. And then hopefully you sleep well. And then there’s one other thing I want to mention that can help you to fall asleep at night, but this takes place during the day. And this is to get outside, get some sunlight, get some activity, physical activity and exercise and movement, in the daytime. Whenever this is possible this will help you sleep that night. We talked about how melatonin is produced only when you’re in a dim or a dark environment. Well, we actually do want to suppress melatonin during the daytime when we’re supposed to be feeling awake. And the best way to do that is to be outside under the sun in the sky, because it’s brighter than any light you’re going to have inside your house or your job or anywhere else.

Katja (00:38:36):
Sort of giving your body that very clear contrast. Your body’s expecting sometime when it’s really bright and sometime when it’s really dark. So if we can give your body both extremes, then that makes it easier. You’re sort of getting into a cycle of like, Oh, I had my bright extreme today, so I’m expecting my darkness extreme. All of this stuff is going to help a lot, but it might take a few days. So stick with it. I have found in all of our students we give them a sleep project where they practice doing all these different things. And turning out the lights an hour or even two hours before bed, I’ve had students who say there’s no way I can go to bed before one in the morning. Or even one in the morning would be early for me, you know, all kinds of stuff. And they’re like, I’m not going to be able to do this project, because I’m not gonna be able to fall asleep. And they start turning the lights out at eight o’clock, and the next day they come in and they’re like I was asleep by 10. I couldn’t believe it. So, if you can only do one of them, then I would say, turn the lights out. And turn them out early. Give yourself an hour, give yourself even two hours before bed to turn those lights out. It’s best if you can do all these things, but at least get the lights low, start to get it dim, and give yourself a week. Give yourself a little bit of patience for your body to make a shift, because everything here that we’re doing, we’re trying to support melatonin in your body. And hormones shift slowly. So it might not happen the very first time you do it. Your body might need a couple of days to get into a new rhythm, a new pattern, but definitely try as many of these things as you can.

Chamomile & Wild Lettuce

Ryn (00:40:32):
All right. And we can take some herbs while we’re at it. And the way that we prefer to take herbs to help us to go to sleep is to take them in distributed doses in that hour before bedtime. So rather than waiting right before, you’re going to turn the light out and go to sleep, you want to start taking your bedtime herbs about an hour before you want to be asleep. So you can take a dose then. You can take another dose a half hour before the bedtime. Take a third one, right before lights out. That procedure, that works a lot better than waiting right until the last moment, even if you take the same total amount. If you take one dropperful at 9, one dropperful at 9:30, and one dropperful at 10, that’s better than taking three droppersful right at 10. So you’ve got to let these things come into your body. It’s the same thing as dimming the lights, right? Giving your body that signal. Beginning that transition, letting that have some time to take place. And then completing that and transitioning into good sleep. So there’s tons of herbs that can help out here. Any herb that helps you to feel calm and relaxed and loose in the body is going to be helpful for you in this time. And so if you’ve already got friends that do that, bring them into your evening, right? One that we could highlight today would be chamomile.

Katja (00:41:48):
Oh my goodness, yes. One of my favorite combinations or one of my favorite things to drink before bed is chamomile, or sometimes chamomile and ginger together. And the reason is because this chamomile and ginger both are going to relax the muscles in the body, release tension. And a lot of times I’m tired, but I’m very tense. And I have like all my muscles tensed up. And it’s really hard to move out of the stress of the day and into the rest of the night if you are holding all of that tension in your muscles. And so chamomile all by itself, actually ginger all by itself, or both of them together will really help you to release the tension in your muscles. Chamomile also really helps you to release tension in your nerves. Now chamomile doesn’t make you tired. You could drink chamomile all day long, and if you weren’t already tired, it’s not going to make you tired. But it is because chamomile allows you to release the tension of the day, and relax, not just your muscles, but also your nerves, that suddenly your body says, great. I have a process and it is actually bedtime now. And I’m able to act on that instead of I’m so tense that I can’t move myself into the next phase of this.

Ryn (00:43:16):
Yeah. So you’ve got options for how to take your chamomile in this time. Teabags are pretty easy to find. Most grocery stores, even some corner stores, you’ll find them in there. So that’s a fine way to do it. If you’re going to make chamomile tea, put in at least two teabags per mug that you’re going to make and drink. And that’ll make it a bit stronger for you and more effective for these purposes we have in mind,

Katja (00:43:41):
You know, also that’s going to make it more bitter, and that bitterness is actually going to help to move any food through the system. So if you did have to eat too close to bedtime, the bitterness from a strong cup of chamomile is going to help that process go faster. And if you did manage to eat your dinner long enough before bed, it still is just like the cleanup crew. Like, okay, let’s just make sure everything is finished before we get into bed. So even though making the chamomile tea strong will make it be bitter, it’s not an unpleasant bitter. Definitely try it and see if you can do it. If you can’t, put a smudge of honey in there. But that bitterness is serving you. So if you can tolerate it, it’s good to leave it that way.

Ryn (00:44:29):
Yeah, for sure. You can work with chamomile in other forms. You can work with it as a tincture. You can work with it as an electuary even before bedtime. That’s all fine. With something like a tincture or a liquid extract of it, that’s where, especially you’re going to want to have that multiple dosing in that hour before bed, right? So like 9, 9:30, 10, or whatever your bedtime hour is there. That’s the way to go with that one. And this would apply too to another herb that we want to highlight here called wild lettuce. So wild lettuce is one that you’re not going to make into a tea unless you’re very brave or just really into the bitter flavor, because it’s a strong bitter. It’s not the most palatable herb in that regard, but it is extremely effective for sleep. And so working with tincture is a really fantastic option for wild lettuce. This is a plant that grows really widely. Really, I don’t know, ubiquitous, but pretty close. It’s a common herb. It grows in places where people live. It follows humans around and has spread with humans and migrated.

Katja (00:45:40):
Literally even just within our block, there are so many wild lettuce plants that are just growing in between the sidewalk and the curb. Like just in the cracks. It’s amazing. Now I would prefer not to harvest the wild lettuce that’s growing in the pavement or growing right next to the street, because it’s not going to be very clean. But it’s so common all throughout the city that it’s pretty easy to also find the edge of a park somewhere or someplace where it’s a little bit cleaner to harvest some.

Ryn (00:46:13):
Yeah. It’s a relatively easy herb to learn to identify. Once you start to see it and to look at it closely, to look at the leaf shape and the way the leaves attach to the stem, it’s quite distinctive

Katja (00:46:25):
Basically looks like a dandelion that grew very, very tall. And it has leaves all the way up the stalk. Dandelions don’t normally have a stalk. The leaves stay on the ground and the flower sort of comes up from the ground. But wild lettuce, the leaves look a lot like dandelion, but it has a stalk and it gets tall and the flowers are at the top. They also look a lot like small dandelion flowers.

Ryn (00:46:52):
Yeah. And the stalk can get quite thick, which is handy because unusually for herbs, we do want to include stalk in our tinctures or the remedies we make from wild lettuce. So what we might do is to gather one plant, everything above the ground. Bring that home and chop the whole thing up really good, or even run it through the blender with a little extra liquid alcohol. And then get that in a jar, pour in some vodka will do just fine, and let it macerate in there for two weeks to a month. Strain it out. And now that liquid is your tincture. Now that’s got the wild lettuce medicine in it.

Katja (00:47:30):
This is going to be super effective, not just to help release tension in the body to allow you to sleep, but even it will make you drowsy. If you were to take a lot of wild lettuce during the day, it would make you feel like you need a nap.

Ryn (00:47:46):
Please do not operate heavy machinery while under the influence of wild lettuce.

Katja (00:47:50):
Right. And another super helpful thing with wild lettuce is that it is very helpful for pain and discomfort. And so if pain, especially like maybe back pain or any kind of structural pain, you did something to your hip, whatever. If it’s hard for you to sleep because you can’t get comfortable, because you’re achy and things just hurt, then wild lettuce is going to help with that as well, because it’s going to relax your muscles. It’s going to make you tired. And it has aspects that will also start to dull that pain. So all the way around this is an herb that is really, really helpful.

Ryn (00:48:31):
Yeah. Right on. And again, you know, with that tincture you make, start out with one dropperful. Take it an hour before, a half hour before, and at bedtime. See how that does for you. Some folks need a bit more than that. Some folks would get a fine effect from less. But that’s a good place to begin, and then you can adjust as you need.

Katja (00:48:50):
Yeah. Experiment with your body. If it’s me and my back is really hurting, I might take two droppersful or even three droppersful three times before bed. So I might have a total of six droppersful before I get in the bed. That’s okay. Just find what’s right for your body. If you take too much, you can be a little groggy in the morning. So you do kind of want to find that Goldilocks amount. But just experiment a little bit. If one dropperful doesn’t do it, the next night try two, the next night try three, and see how that works for you.

Ryn (00:49:27):
There you go. Okay. What else?

Caffeine & Alternatives

Katja (00:49:30):
Well, another strategy to help you fall asleep earlier, to help you fall asleep more effectively, to help you avoid that situation where you lay in the bed and nothing is happening is going to happen actually during the day. So caffeine, coffee, whatever, it’s a handy tool. It really helps us to get through the day when we’re exhausted. But here’s the thing. It can take your body 10 hours or more to break down the caffeine, which means that if you have caffeine at noon, at 10:00 PM your body might still be dealing with that caffeine. Now the effect that you really want maybe wore off. Maybe you’re tired again, but your body is still dealing with it. So it’s going to be really hard to get to sleep.

Ryn (00:50:23):
Yeah. The feeling of discernible or palpable stimulation that we get from caffeine, it fades away long before the effect that caffeine has on maintaining wakefulness fades away. So, so many people are out there being like, no, no, I, I drank my coffee at four. I don’t feel it anymore. I should be fine, but still having trouble falling asleep at night.

Katja (00:50:46):
So that might be devastating news, but there’s help. Don’t worry. So count backwards from your bedtime, at least 10 hours, maybe even 12 hours. And say, okay, whatever time that is. It’s noon, it’s 10 in the morning, whatever time it is, not having any coffee past that time. So I’ll have my coffee in the morning and I’m done with that. No more after that. But then you’re thinking, all right, I’m ready to commit to that. But how am I going to get through the rest of the day? Here’s where herbs can help you. Of course you could bring in green tea or black tea. They have caffeine, but it’s a lower level of caffeine, and it’s a little easier to process. But herbs like tulsi and peppermint are really effective also to help keep you alert without giving you the caffeine buzz. There’s no caffeine in tulsi. It’s also called holy basil. And there’s no caffeine in peppermint. But it does move blood up into the brain, which means it’s moving oxygen up into the brain. And so you are feeling stimulation. It’s clearing out the brain fog. It is helping you to feel more awake. And you can drink as much of that as you want to. Tulsi is also helping to, well, peppermint is going to help with this as well, helping to clear out all of the extra crud in the brain, because it is stimulating movement. So if you are carrying around some extra trash, because you didn’t have enough time to have all of your trash cleared out of your brain last night. You didn’t get enough sleep. Then tulsi and peppermint are not just helping to keep you alert, but they are also helping to stimulate movement and clear out a little bit of that trash even during the day, because they are stimulating so much flow to the brain.

What if You Don’t Have Time for More Sleep?

Ryn (00:52:44):
Yeah. And then again, tulsi is also helping to modulate your stress responses. And the more we can keep our stress responses in a nice narrow band, not too extreme, during our daytime hours, the less we kind of have to shake off when we’re trying to transition into sleep. Yeah. So let’s kind of switch gears a little bit and talk about some strategies for when your schedule, your commitments, the things that you need to do have got you kind of squeezed in on both sides and you can’t actually get more sleep into your days. So the first thing to look at here is going to be let’s try and eat better. And anything you can do will help, right? So if that’s more veggies, more protein, better quality fats into your system. The idea here is real simple. It’s to give your body all the tools, all the nutrients, the building blocks that it needs to do the jobs that have to get done. If you have those right tools, if everything’s provided, then your body can work faster, it can work more efficiently, and there’s less kind of processing work that needs to take place that might impinge on sleep time.

Katja (00:53:52):
And here too, you know, protein is a really important factor. But I’m not thinking about tofu or plant based protein here. I’m actually specifically thinking about animal protein. And not just that, but specifically beef, actually. Or if you don’t eat those, than oysters. And the reason I’m singling these out is because of their iron levels. So it’s really common to get a little bit anemic, to have low iron levels. And that also makes you feel exhausted.

Ryn (00:54:26):
Particularly folks who menstruate.

Katja (00:54:29):
Yes. So if you are saying, okay, I don’t have enough time to sleep. I feel very depleted. How can I improve my food to give my body more strength, more tools to work with. Have some vegetables, even frozen vegetables. That’s great. Have some ground beef and have an avocado with it if you can get an avocado, or a little bit of olive oil, something like that. And that way you’re getting the important tools that your body needs to function. You know that you’re getting enough iron because you had some ground beef in there. You know that you’re getting the anti inflammatory action of those vegetables. The more that you can reduce inflammation, the less work your body has to do sort of once you get to sleep. So you are helping your body to do the work that it’s going to need to do while you’re sleeping and giving your body all the tools it needs to do it as efficiently, as quickly as possible.

Ryn (00:55:32):
There we go. So while we’re at it, we’re going to try and reduce sugar because, Hey, that’s good for literally everything in the human in our world today, right? So the idea here is like this: the lack of sleep is already contributing to inflammation, to trouble with weight management, to a lowered immune response. When we eat sugar, it actually knocks our immunity down. But sugar also contributes to all of those same things. With the sugar, with the lack of sleep, they’re both inducing the same set of problems. So sugar is just piling on. It’s making everything worse. So if we’re not getting enough sleep and we know it, then removing the sugar at least means that we’re taking that part of the puzzle out or that part of the equation. So the thing is when you’re tired, your body craves sugar. It calls out to you. It says, give me some available fuel. So if you’re tired and craving sugar, you’re not a bad person. You’re not wrong. This is what your body thinks it’s supposed to do because sugar is a fast fuel. It’s not a good fuel. It’s not like high quality, you know, octane or whatever that is, but it’s fast fuel. It’s easy to get from your mouth to your blood, to your cells. Your body’s making a trade. It says, I have to cut some corners. So I’m going to go with sugar. I’m going to trigger those cravings that make you want that sugar. This was a good trade to make when we didn’t really have so much sugar available. When the definition of sweetness was berries, maybe some honey sometimes, potatoes if you prepared them right. Potatoes and rice don’t taste sweet to us anymore, but you ask somebody a thousand years ago, it goes in that category. So, now there’s literally sugar everywhere. Turn around and spit, you’ll probably hit something with sugar on it. So the body thinks it’s making a manageable trade there based on the environment that it sort of evolved in. But now this is not what we were expecting. The ability to kind of just reach here, wander in to any random store, and be surrounded with a ton of sugary things.

Katja (00:57:31):
An actual ton.

Ryn (00:57:31):
A literal ton. That’s a real different environment.

Katja (00:57:37):
Yeah. You know, if you know ahead of time that sugar can make your problem worse. All the things that lack of sleep is going to make happen, sugar also makes happen. So if you know ahead of time that sugar is just going to literally double the problem. And you know that your body is going to crave it. Then you can come up with strategies to help you get through. For example, maybe you could say, I’ll have an apple instead of some cake. It’s still something sweet, but it’s going to help my body. Or maybe let’s say you really need cake to get through a stressful situation. And if that is the case, let me tell you I’ve been there. That happens all the time. And you can actually make cake that has less sugar in it. I have recipes on the website. If you go to commonwealthherbs.com and just put cake in the search bar, you will find recipes that are made with honey and made with crushed nuts instead of with flour. So that overall it’s just very low sugar. And that way you can say, okay, I know that cake is my crutch, or muffins, or whatever. You could make anything with this recipe. And I also know that I want to have less sugar. So I’m going to harm-reduce my cake. And I’m going to make it so that there’s as little sugar in it as possible. So that emotionally I have the support of my comfort food, but I’m not putting more weight on my body, more load on my body.

Ryn (00:59:15):
Yeah. Maybe while you’re at it, you make a gluten free version too. Just because that can pro-inflammatory and contribute to lots of issues. So there’s lots of things that you can do especially when you’re making your own. Sometimes just having that knowledge of what the craving is, what the craving really is. To say, Hmm, I’m having a craving. What does this mean? And you don’t need to know all the answers or have a giant dictionary of what your cravings mean. But you can say, what is my body trying to tell me? And if you’re craving for sugar, you can say, Oh, my body’s looking for a way to cut corners. That can be motivating. You can think, I know my body needs to take some shortcuts or is doing the best it can because I’m tired. And I know that if I eat more sugar, I’m actually making more work for my body, because it’s going to have to clear out all of that sugar and the insulin that comes with it and the inflammation that it can induce. So instead I’m going to get some chicken and some avocado and that’s not going to make my problem worse. I’m going to eat a handful of berries because that’s actually going to help my blood sugar regulation. So these are better ways to kind of cut those corners than just flooding your system with more sugar.

Katja (01:00:26):
You know, and when you do it that way. When you think through the logic, then you also don’t necessarily feel like you’re depriving yourself, because you made a choice. You said, Oh, I hear the message that my body is sending, and I know how to interpret that. And I have chosen that this is how I’m going to respond to it. That’s a lot better than just I’m on a diet. I can’t have cake. You know, like you have thought through the logic of it. It makes sense to you. It gives you the power of a choice. And that feels a lot better than just hey man, no cake.

Ryn (01:01:05):
I’m not allowed.

Katja (01:01:05):

Cinnamon & Tulsi, Nettle & Dandelion, Hibiscus

Ryn (01:01:06):
And herbs can help. They can help with this part, and they can help with some other aspects of what’s going on when you can’t actually get more sleep in your life. So around the sugar thing, if you heard our episode on diabetes accessible herbalism, we talked a lot there about cinnamon and about tulsi. And so if you want to dive in with it, kind of go back to that episode and listen to that portion again. But just briefly here, we’ll say that both cinnamon and tulsi can really improve blood sugar regulation. And with cinnamon, it happens with pretty small amounts. If you’re consuming a teaspoon or two of cinnamon powder in your day, that can have a quite strong effects on your body’s ability to self regulate its blood sugar levels. So especially on those days when something sweet does get into there, or if that’s just what you need to get through, then find that cinnamon. Get some cinnamon into your body on that same day and a couple extra days as well. Or just make this part of your habit, you know?

Katja (01:02:05):
Yeah. Cinnamon is pretty delicious. Tulsi is also pretty tasty. So if you want to have cinnamon, a spoonful in some apple sauce, however you get it into you, it’s totally fine. You can make it into tea. If you want to do that, take some cinnamon chips, maybe a tablespoon. Put it in a quart size mason jar. Fill it all the way up and then drink that whole jar of tea through the day. The same with tulsi. If you want to work with that, make a whole quart of the tea. Make it good and strong, and then drink that all day long. Now both of these also will help reduce the sugar cravings. And that’s my favorite part. And you can mix them together if you want to. It’s actually quite delicious. The key here, though, that is important to remember, is that if you have diabetes and you are taking medication for diabetes, then you must test your blood. Because cinnamon and tulsi are both so effective at glucose regulation, that they can actually change what kind of a dose you require of your medication if you’re working with them consistently. This is why it’s very important to test your blood glucose level every day if you are medicated. Because if you really want to work with these herbs consistently, after a week or two, you’re going to need to talk to your doctor. And tell them what your new blood glucose level is, so that they can make any adjustments that are required. So that’s actually fantastic news. It means that these things are so effective that you can start to see results that quickly. But it just means that you do need, if you’re taking medication, you do need to check your glucose levels every day.

Ryn (01:03:55):
Yeah, that’s what, okay. And then there are some herbs that are like super foods, but they’re also having medicinal influences on the system and targeting areas of function in the body that are really important for a lot of the same things that sleep helps you do. So that would include some of that liver activation, some kidney function to do some, again, filtration or cleansing of the blood. And also just to help to balance out some of the blood parameters a little better. We’re thinking here about nettle and about dandelion, which are both mineral rich, nutritive herbs that also support kidney health and help to drain excess fluid from your system. And then thinking also about hibiscus. Hibiscus is a nice cooling herb. It’s a great anti-inflammatory for the cardiovascular system in particular. So if you were hearing us talk about how sleep debt or lack of sleep makes heart disease more likely or makes your cholesterol levels go up or anything like that, hibiscus could be a really good herb for you to introduce in your life. Because that helps quite a lot with those problems.

Katja (01:05:04):
If you make a good, strong quart of this tea every day, put in one or two tablespoons of dried nettle leaf, one or two of dried dandelion leaf, and a tablespoon of hibiscus flowers, dried hibiscus flowers, let it sit overnight. Put those in the quart jar. Fill up the quart jar with boiling water before you go to bed. In the morning, it’s going to be ready for you. It’s going to be very strong. This is like elixir. It is like replacing the things that your body needs when you’re not getting enough sleep. And especially with that kidney function support. It’s like, if you don’t get enough sleep, we call that sleep debt. Kind of like credit card debt except this is sleep debt. And it is like having a hole in your body. There’s just a hole where not everything is where it should be. And this blend, the nettle, the dandelion, the hibiscus, is like filling that hole. It’s like, okay, there’s stuff that I don’t have because I wasn’t able to sleep enough, but I can get that through this tea. Not every single thin. It doesn’t have any caffeine. It’s not going to make you feel like a jolt awake. It is that deep, deep support that gives you the fuel to keep going. Even if maybe you still feel kind of tired, but you don’t feel tired and empty.

Ryn (01:06:38):
Now with nettle and dandelion, and to a lesser extent with hibiscus, you do need to have some caution if the person, or if you, are taking pharmaceutical blood thinners or drugs to thin out the blood. In that case we would need to investigate the individual situation. But in a lot of cases we’re going to just need to not work with nettle or dandelion leaf there, because they can interfere with the way the blood thinner drug works.

non-Coffee Pick Me Ups

Katja (01:07:07):
Okay. Well, those herbs, cinnamon, tulsi, nettle, dandelion, hibiscus, they’re all going to help you get through the day, but they’re not going to make you feel less tired. They’re going to make you feel like you have more reserves, more fuel to burn. So maybe a few herbs that can also help you feel a little less tired.

Ryn (01:07:29):
Yeah. So, in the mornings it may be good to try out green or black tea and see how that does for you. So green and black tea, depending on how you make it and everything, they can provide just as much caffeine as coffee. Most of the time when we make it, though, they tend to have substantially less caffeine than coffee. Usually a cup of green tea, if it’s one teabag, it could be like 20 or 30 milligrams. Whereas a standard cup of coffee is like a hundred. So it’s a bit different there. However, most folks who take this will still find that it’s enough to keep them awake in the morning and give them the energy that they’re looking for. The nice thing about green tea is that in comparison to coffee, it causes less overt stimulation, less over stimulation, which can happen sometimes. And for a lot of folks what will show up with coffee is like shakiness in the hands, maybe some rumbling in the guts. And the difference here is that with coffee, there’s not just caffeine in it. There’s some other chemicals in there. And they actually make your body process the caffeine in such a way that it hits you faster, and then stays with you longer than would happen if you take green or black tea. And green tea, especially — it’s still there in black tea, but mostly in green tea — on the other hand, there’s a different chemical that comes next to the caffeine. And this one actually helps you to stay calm. So the effect with green tea is like, I’m energized, but I’m present. I’m focused. I’m right here. Whereas with coffee, it’s much more like I’m ready to go, let’s do the thing. And so, I usually tell people if you’re about to have an intense workout, coffee’s a pretty appropriate herb. If you’re going to do some focus work and be present and be emotionally available to those around you, green tea is probably a better choice.

Katja (01:09:22):
Right. I find that if I’m short on sleep, I’m already jittery. I already am a little shaky. And my own version of that is also more likely to cry or get upset. And then caffeine on top of it just pushes me more in that direction of like now I’m even more jittery and more likely to be upset. But the green tea, even though it has caffeine in it, it does not give me that shaky feeling, which I don’t need any more of because I’m already not getting enough sleep.

Ryn (01:09:54):
Yeah. And in addition, it’s worth saying that green tea, black tea as well, these are some of the most powerful anti-inflammatory herbs that we’ve identified on this planet. They’re pretty amazing in that way. So they are helping out with some of those underlying things that we’re trying to resolve during sleep and may not be getting enough sleep to really accomplish.

Katja (01:10:18):
All right. Well, two other things that you can work with. Peppermint comes in this category, peppermint and tulsi into this category. Again, there’s no caffeine there, but they are moving more oxygen to the brain and stimulating blood flow through the brain. So that is maybe a great thing for the afternoon when you don’t want to even have green tea anymore, because you don’t want to have too much caffeine. Then tulsi or peppermint could be helpful there. And if you really need a little boost, then you could try cayenne. This can be in many different ways. You can take a hot chili pepper, like a slice of hot chili pepper, put it right on your tongue. You could, if you have one of those jars of hot chili, like jalapeno slices. And it has like a vinegar in it, and that vinegar is spicy hot from the jalapeno. You could just put a drop of that on your tongue. Or you can make tincture out of cayenne pepper and then have a drop of that on your tongue. Whichever one of these you choose, I want to be clear. It’s going to be hot. It’s going to be spicy on your tongue. But that’s actually what we’re going for here., Because that sends a call out to the body. Almost like a wake up call through your whole body. It’s going to stimulate the blood throughout the body. Get your blood moving everywhere and give you a feeling of being much more.

Ryn (01:11:48):
Heat is wakefulness. It’s harder to sleep in the middle of a hot humid summertime evening. And that’s actually worth considering when you’re thinking about your sleep environment, and making it dark in there and all of that. Make sure it’s not too hot as well, because that really will interfere with sleep depth. But yeah, raising heat in the body with fiery cayenne peppers, that also does raise your alertness and your awareness. Okay. Well, so that’s what we’ve got for today. We hope that was helpful for you all and that it got some ideas rolling in your minds. Whether it’s these herbs or similar herbs that you know in your area or that you’re familiar with in your culture. There’s a lot that can be done to improve sleep with some habits in the evening and in the daytime, and then with some herbs as well. So take that and run with it and let us know how it goes for you.

Katja (01:12:45):
Next week, we’re going to talk about wound care. So I’m really excited about that. And until then take care of each other.

Ryn (01:12:54):
Take care of yourselves and drink some tea.

Katja (01:12:57):
Drink some tea.

Ryn (01:12:57):
Yeah. We’ll see you next time.


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