It’s been a week since our clocks sprung forward by an hour. How are you feeling? If you are sluggish and having trouble adjusting, it’s more common than most realize. One hour doesn’t seem like a big change, but to our bodies it’s a big deal, so don’t ignore sleep troubles.
For most people, the spring time change is harder than in the fall. It’s harder to go to sleep earlier and you may awake soon after falling asleep. It’s the same reason our body has a harder time traveling east than west on an airplane. And while we will eventually benefit from more daylight at the end of the day in the spring and summer, this shift resets our circadian rhythm, or our body’s internal 24-hour clock. When we set our clocks forward or back, our internal clock is very suddenly out of sync.
First, it is important to understand that sleep is critical to overall good health. Before you say that only a few hours of sleep are enough for you, our bodies need between six-to-ten hours. But as Catherine Darley, ND, explains in the video below, each person is different. Dr. Darley is a naturopathic doctor, sleep expert and founder of The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine. Some people can function on six hours, others need eight-to-ten hours of sleep. How do you know? A naturopathic doctor can help you establish your ideal sleep times based on your personalized health needs, family history and health status.
Naturopathic Sleep Support
Dr. Darley advocates for changes in school hours that better coincide with children and teen’s internal clocks for better mental health and school performance. She also helps nurses, doctors, firefighters, police and other essential shift workers find ways to get better sleep. The science of sleep shows that night shift work is a risk factor for cancer. The World Health Organization classifies night shift work as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” particularly cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, and rectum.
There is so much evidence showing that when sleep is lacking, health will suffer, including weakened immunity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes and mental health issues and our emotional well being. “As naturopathic physicians, there are a couple ways we work with patients that are unique. For one, we aim to treat the cause of the disease. This helps get us to cure, rather than simply masking symptoms. Another piece of the naturopathic approach is “docere” which means to teach. In naturopathic medicine we help people understand what’s going on with their health, so they understand and are empowered to care for themselves better over time. Part of my mission is to lift the sleep health of the nation over the course of my career. Giving people sleep skills is a great way to do that, because once you know how to sleep well, you can pass that on to your friends and family. It’s a win-win-win,” says Dr. Darley.
The video below with Dr. Darley reviews what is known about sleep problems and when to get help. She recommends not waiting any longer than a month to see a doctor if you are having sleep troubles. She emphasizes that it takes only about three days for the body to be negatively affected by too little sleep.
“Each time a person has acute insomnia, it increases the likelihood of having insomnia in the future. So even when it’s understandable that we’re having an episode of insomnia due to a life event, it’s still important to get back to sleeping well soon. The other reason it’s important to address a sleep problem soon after it arises is that our sleep impacts every other organ system in the body. So not only is your sleep poor, but it will cause other conditions to worsen,” she says.
Dr Darley on Why You Should Not Wait to Get Help with Sleep Troubles
What Can You Do to Sleep Better?
As a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Darley uses naturopathic medicine to show people how to get better sleep. It’s never just one thing, better sleep requires a whole-person approach. Oftentimes doctors give a patient handout and send them on their way. Naturopathic doctors do things differently.
“The thing I love most is the way in which each person’s sleepless story is unique, even if each one is coming in for what appears to be the same ‘insomnia’ complaint. Taking the time in the first appointment to really understand how the sleep problem developed, how it impacts their quality of life, and the individual lifestyle makes all the difference in making an individual treatment plan that works,” she writes in her blog.
When you see a naturopathic doctor for sleep problems, this is what the appointments will include:
- Two-hour assessment to establish a baseline of health;
- A review of your diet and nutrition habits;
- Whether you smoke, drink alcohol, use prescribed drugs or other drugs;
- Apprising the state of your microbiome and gut health;
- Inquire how your home or work environment may affect your sleep;
- Measuring your hormones for potential imbalances;
- Considerations of psychological wellness to improve mental health.
Naturopathic doctors are trained to know how sleep problems may be associated with other health issues. Since naturopathic medicine looks at the whole person and addresses underlying causes and supports your body’s self-healing capacity, naturopathic doctors are the ideal physician to help you with sleep problems.
Editor’s Note: If you need help with getting a consistent good night’s rest, Dr. Darley is offering classes in the near future. Sign up on her website for a free Seven Step Sleep Guide, and she will let you know about upcoming classes.
We all need a good night’s rest to power our day. Some of us struggle to get that needed rest, yet we don’t all need to see the doctor. There is so much going on in our lives, in our homes, that our sleep health can suffer. Sleeping well is a skill, and like any skill it’s best learned and practiced over time, and best taught by an expert. With Dr. Darley you will learn the seven essential steps to sleep well. Each step is taught through short videos, with exercises and step-by-step tasks or worksheets that make it easy to implement. These tools help you transform from tired, unable to enjoy your day or your loved ones, to someone who feels at the top of your game and is loving life! Get the Seven Step Sleep Guide Here.
Read more: How do Naturopathic Doctors Treat Insomnia and Other Sleep Problems?
This article is provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:
- Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
- Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
- Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine
Kimberly Lord Stewart is the content and marketing director of the Institute for Natural Medicine. She gets eight hours of sleep per night and believes strongly that a good night’s sleep is important for good mental and physical health.
Stewart is an award-winning editor, food and health journalist and best-selling author of Eating Between the Lines, the supermarket shopper's guide to the truth behind food labels (St. Martin's Press).