Spring coincides with the awakening of nature, the climate becomes more and more pleasant and the hours of light increase. However, it is this last factor that can cause, in predisposed people, alterations in the circadian rhythm, which is our biological clock that manages the alternation between sleep and wakefulness. So spring can exacerbate sleep disturbances and cause insomnia, disturbed sleep and daytime sleepiness (Bratlid et al, Int J Circumpolar Health, 2003). How can we help ourselves to restore the right balance and improve the quality of sleep, using natural remedies and not drugs? We try to understand this on the basis of scientific research.
Bedtime herbal tea
A calming and relaxing cup of herbal tea drunk before bed can certainly help improve sleep and reduce the time to fall asleep. You can have an infusion prepared in a herbalist's or chemist's shops by mixing, in equal parts, hawthorn, with an anxiolytic action, orange blossom, against anxiety and stress, hops, with a sedative action, and linden, with an anti-stress and anti insomnia action (Franco et al, Acta Physiol Hung, 2012 - Rodriguez Fragoso et al, Toxicol Appl Pharmacol, 2008 - Hajiar et al, Neurophysiology, 2019). Bring a cup of water to a boil, remove from heat and add a teaspoon of herbs, steep for ten minutes, then filter and drink.
Imagination and meditation
Relaxation techniques have been found to be useful in improving the quality of sleep and reducing the time taken to fall asleep. A well known technique is Jacobson's progressive muscle relaxation (IQWiG, 2006). It involves creating tension in a group of muscles for a few seconds and then relaxing them, let's see how. In the supine position, start by contracting your right fist, then relax. Then create a tension in the right arm and then relax, do the same process on the left side. Then, stretch your right foot forward, then relax it, stretch your right leg, then relax it, repeat with the left side of the body. Create a tension in the pelvis, then relax, stretch your neck for a few moments, then release any tension. Grit your teeth and contract your jaw, then relax. Squint your eyes and relax them, finally, wrinkle your forehead and relax it. Try to relax your whole body in this way. Another relaxation technique is imagination (IQWiG, 2006). When you are in bed, waiting to fall asleep, you can try to visualize a pleasant scene full of peace and calm. You can imagine yourself contemplating the expanse of the sea with its waves, which slowly make their way towards the shore and then come back, or you can imagine yourself lying on a meadow, you can feel the scents of the flowers and the warm breeze on your face and so slowly slip into sleep.
Music for better sleep
Listening to music, such as classical music or sounds designed for meditation, has allowed us to improve the quality of sleep. In particular, several benefits have been observed, such as the reduction of the time to fall asleep and the number of nocturnal awakenings, or even an increase in the duration of sleep itself. It is believed that music is able to act on the central nervous system, increasing the action of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system that stimulates relaxation, regulating mood, reducing cortisol levels, which is a stress indicator, and decreasing heart rate. It is important to point out that the music used in the studies that has been shown to improve sleep quality is relaxing unsung music, only played with instruments (Wang et al, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2021).
Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by our body and has the task of regulating the alternation between sleep and wakefulness. In particular, melatonin is released when we are in the dark and promotes rest. On the contrary, light inhibits its production. In spring, with more hours of light it is possible that this balance is altered, thus changing the sleep-wake rhythm. It is therefore possible to resort to melatonin supplements in order to rebalance one's internal biological clock, thus improving the quality of sleep (Fatemeh et al, J Neurol, 2022). Taking melatonin for short periods of time is considered safe. In predisposed people, however, nausea, drowsiness and dizziness can occur. Since no pregnancy and breastfeeding studies are available, avoid taking melatonin in these cases. Long-term use can cause some mild side effects while safety on children and adolescents, in this case, has not yet been tested (Andersen et al, Clin Drug Investig, 2016).