Better Sleep

  • Why Circadian Rhythms Matter

    SleepMaskHave trouble falling or staying asleep? Occasional insomnia from stress, injuries or even caffeine is common. But something else could be the cause. Circadian rhythms play a big part in our sleep patterns. Circadian rhythms cause changes in our bodies during a 24-hour cycle and tell our brain’s master clock when to prime us for sleep or wakefulness. The daily flow of these rhythms affects sleep through the release of hormones and highs and lows in blood pressure and body temperature.

    It’s All about Light and Timing

    Light is one of the biggest external triggers that control circadian rhythms and cues us to feel sleepy or alert at different times during the day. When it gets dark our brain releases melatonin, a hormone that prepares our brain for sleep. And when daylight breaks, circadian rhythms raise our body temperature and release cortisol, a hormone that promotes alertness. We actually have two sleep drives, one from 2 to 4 a.m., and another weaker one from 1 to 3 p.m. caused by an afternoon circadian rhythm dip in body temperature that releases melatonin. Harvard researchers say a 20 minute afternoon nap is an ideal pick me up.

    Circadian Rhythms Out of Sync

    When something goes awry with our circadian rhythm clock, due to travel, working the night shift or even just being a certain age we can end up with insomnia and other sleep disorders.

    Jet Lag

    We’ve seen what happens when we cross several time zones; insomnia sets in because our internal clock is different than the new time zone we’ve entered. Travelling eastward is harder since our day is shortened and our natural circadian rhythm cycle is cut short.

    Remedy: Try a homeopathic medicine targeted for travelers like JetZone Jet Lag Prevention to avoid symptoms of sleeplessness, headache and drowsiness.

    Shift Work Disorder

    Working at night and sleeping during the day can cause circadian rhythms disruptions that can lead to poor quality of sleep and leave you exhausted. This is especially true for those who rotate shifts.

    Remedy: Bright light therapy with a light box can help adjust your body clock and timing of sleep. Melatonin supplements taken at bedtime will cue your circadian rhythms to sleep mode.

    Sleep Phase Disorders

    Teens and seniors are susceptible to circadian rhythm troubles. Many teens hitting puberty (researchers say up to 16%) experience Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome where circadian rhythms are off by two or three hours. These night owls have trouble falling asleep at usual times, and are often alert hours after normal bedtime, and usually have trouble waking the next morning.

    Remedy: Experts say sticking to a sleep schedule, especially during weekends and holidays helps, as does avoiding back light from phones, computer screens and TVs a few hours before bedtime.

    Others, especially seniors, may develop a condition that’s just the opposite, known as Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome. These folks can’t stay awake, often going to sleep at 6 or 7 p.m. and waking up in the middle of the night.

    Remedy: Researches say using a light box for an hour at night (between 7 and 9 p.m.) can help adjust your internal body clock, and delay sleep.

  • 10 Healthy Habits For a New Year, New You!

    Woman Doing YogaIt’s been almost four weeks since we’ve made resolutions for better health in 2015. But so often our lofty health aspirations set us up for failure; this year, let’s make the resolution to be easier on ourselves and more accepting of our limitations. Instead of a whole life-overhaul—strict juice cleanses, promising to work out every day, consuming nothing but kale and water—consider a simpler approach: step by step, add in a few healthy habits. By starting small, we can eventually effect dramatic change.

    1. Get an exercise buddy. Accountability is so important. Letting others down doesn’t make us feel good, so committing to an activity with someone else makes us more likely to stick to the plan. Find someone with similar health goals to meet up with for a walk around the park, a class at the gym, or a run around your neighborhood.
    2. Sub a smoothie for a meal. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can get your garden-fresh greens and fresh fruits in a delicious, rich and quick blend of fruits and vegetables to give you all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs. On the go? Fill a Blender Bottle with Vega’s Protein Smoothie or Nutritional Shake powders for a fast, super healthy meal substitute. (Get inspired by a few healthy, green smoothie ideas here.)
    3. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Studies show that you’ll be more likely to choose a healthy snack if it’s within reach. Set a fruit bowl on your desk or kitchen counter, making sure this cornucopia of good health is in your eyeline as a constant reminder of good fuel for your next snack attack.
    4. Get up, stand up. You’ve most likely heard about how too much desk-sitting can cause all kinds of health problems. If you’re a deskworker, considering asking your boss about installing a standing desk, which they may happily subsidize in order to prevent injuries and conditions such as carpal tunnel or chronic back issues. If you have a laptop, using boxes or books to elevate it can work in a pinch. Want to switch it up, but don’t want to stand? Rotating between a fit ball and chair may be just the thing to keep your core engaged and gradually strengthen back muscles.
    5. Fill your feed with healthy food. If you’re like the majority of the world, it’s likely one of the first things you do in the morning is to check your social media and news feeds. Get inspired by cooking magazines such as Cooking Light and EatingWell on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. If you surround yourself with ideas, you’re more likely to keep healthy meal ideas—and their fresh ingredients—in mind when grocery shopping for your next meal. Use your social media feeds to discover new blogs, get out of a cooking rut, or to explore other diets (Check out PaleOMG for paleo suggestions, or fulfill your quest for a Meatless Monday with ideas from vegetarian food blogs such as The Sprouted Kitchen).
    6. Make a meal for the week. A simple meal of quinoa and vegetables makes a filling, healthy lunch, is easy to prepare and stores well in the fridge. Whip up a batch on Sunday night, then separate into 5 to-go containers. By eliminating one decision from your week, life just got a whole lot easier. Similarly, make a healthy breakfast the most important—and most convenient—meal of the day by preparing a big pot of oatmeal and packing containers of healthy toppings (e.g. berries, flaxseed, granola, chopped nuts and toasted seeds) for each morning.
    7. Practice gratitude. The power of a gratitude journal can be surprising and life changing. Something as small as writing down what you are appreciative of can help you keep perspective while encouraging positive thinking, optimism and increased energy throughout the day.
    8. Make sleep a priority. Without enough sleep, productivity and efficiency suffer. Make sure to get 7–8 hours of quality sleep a night by setting a schedule and committing to a bedtime that gives you enough rest. Instead of watching TV or checking your social feeds, take the last hour of your day to prepare for the following day—making a schedule or to-do list, packing a lunch, laying out clothes. Creating a consistent environment is also key to sufficient sleep; for some, white noise helps to drown out distractions. Humidifiers do double-duty – providing both much-needed moisture and soft background noise (we like the aesthetically pleasing Drop Humidifier from Crane).
    9. Meditate. Intimidated by meditation? Don’t be. While deep meditation takes practice, a good beginner routine is as simple as relaxing your brain for 5–10 minutes a day. Similar to resting during periods of exercise, your brain also needs time to recharge after writing an intensive proposal, participating in a meeting or coordinating a day of intricate scheduling.
    10. Stay social, stay smart. When you connect with other people, your brain stays alert and focused through the exchange of ideas. Making new contacts and increasing your social circles also helps to keep the brain synapses firing, opening your mind to new opportunities and creativity. Make it a monthly goal to have lunch with someone outside your immediate network—chances are, you’ll end up happier and more well-connected.

    Do these steps still feel too big? Start small: try to floss your teeth, drink more water and call your mother.

  • Healing Waters: 5 Ideas for Restorative Baths

    WaterLegsSometimes the simplest remedies—the ones that have worked for centuries—are the best. The ancient practice of “taking the waters,” what we now call hydrotherapy, works on two levels: The warm water provides a continuous heat source to our bodies, and gently massages as it circulates. And the addition of therapeutic salts, minerals and botanical oils assist in helping soak ailments away. Take advantage of the benefits of hydrotherapy with a few of our favorite add-ins.

    Repair sore muscles
    Weekend warriors (or really any of us who overwork our muscles) can appreciate the soothing properties of a warm soak. To release knots and ease sore muscles, try Kneipp’s Joint & Muscle Arnica Mineral Bath Salt, filled with thermal salts from a renowned underground sea in Germany, as well as arnica, pine and eucalyptus—essential oils known to reduce pain and inflammation. Another easy fix relies on Epsom salts: Add a cup or two of this magnesium-rich salt to bathwater for an easy do-it-yourself spa treatment for achiness.

    Relieve congestion
    Stuffy noses and clogged sinuses open up with eucalyptus oil and steam in a hot bath (or lukewarm if you have a fever). Pharmaca’s Bath Salts in Eucalyptus use eucalyptus essential oil, known for its anti-inflammatory and decongesting properties, and cineole, a component of eucalyptus oil, to reduce mucus production and loosen phlegm. For kids, try Alaffia’s Babies and Up Everyday Shea Butter Bubble Bath in Eucalyptus Mint for a soothing bubbly soak with eucalyptus and spearmint.

    Revive your spirit
    When exhaustion and stress overwhelm you, Boulder-based Esthetician Camille Capone recommends Little Moon’s Tired Old Ass Bath. Nerve-nourishing essential oils like rosemary, vetiver and eucalyptus, plus salts high in trace minerals and iron, rebalance your body and spirit. And if the name makes you laugh, that’s good, too!

    Relax your mind
    Lavender is one of the go-to essential oils that health practitioners use to induce calm, reduce anxiety and promote a sense of wellbeing. Ahava’s Lavender Bath Salt is Camille’s recommendation, as its highly mineralized Dead Sea salts smooth skin and natural lavender soothes the brain. To calm your mind before bedtime, or if you have trouble falling asleep, try Kneipp’s Deep Sleep Herbal Bath with Valerian and Hops, an aromatherapy treat that promotes drowsiness.

    Re-moisturize your skin
    Dry, flaky and rough skin gets a good dose of silky nourishment from the sweet almond oil found in Kneipp’s Good Health Almond Blossom Soft Skin Herbal Bath. And for a skin-hydrating botanical treatment, Camille recommends Dr. Hauschka’s Rose Nurturing Bath Essence, filled with pure rose extract and a blend of sweet almond, jojoba and avocado oils. The oils turn into a milky moisturizing bath and rose balances sensitive skin.

    Ask a Pharmaca practitioner for recommendations about transforming your next bath into a healing, restorative experience.

  • New Ideas in the Quest for Better Sleep

    NaptimeMultiple times each day I find myself wandering back to the Sleep Aids aisle with Pharmaca customers who are having a difficult time finding rest. Do you have problems falling asleep? Staying asleep? Are you a night owl who needs a siesta each day? There are many reasons why people experience sleeplessness—and pinpointing the true problem can help to find the best solution.

    If you find your best work is done at night but you're sleepy in the morning and throughout the day, you might have what’s called a reverse cortisol curve. Cortisol, the stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands, typically spikes around normal waking times (e.g. 6 or 7 a.m.), and again at around noon. This allows a healthy human to get the day started, with an extra boost at lunchtime. But the stresses of everyday life and the standard American diet can result in a flatline of cortisol during the day and a spike at night—which manifests in evening energy surges and complete fatigue in the morning. To correct this, you can consider using natural supplements like rhodiola in the morning to mimic the normal cortisol patterns, and magnolia bark at night to rapidly decrease cortisol. You can also begin to address blood sugar issues, as these two concerns seem to be closely linked.

    For those who can fall asleep but wake frequently during the night, magnolia bark may also be helpful. This can prevent cortisol spikes from happening at night. Sometimes, eating a high-protein snack before bedtime can also help to regulate blood sugar while you sleep.

    The most common solution for trouble falling asleep is melatonin. This is a natural hormone that our bodies produce when we should be sleeping, and it’s a potent antioxidant in high amounts. Because of this, melatonin loses its sedative qualities with doses higher than 5 mg. When first trying melatonin, the key to success is going “low and slow,” as some side effects can include vivid dreams or nightmares, or a groggy feeling in the morning. Start with the lowest dose possible, typically 1 mg, and work your way up to find the perfect dose for you.

    There are a myriad of ways to address sleeplessness, and a qualified natural health practitioner can help you find solutions tailored to you. Stop in and chat with one of the licensed health experts at Pharmaca to help you rest easy tonight!

  • 5 Reasons to Get Better Sleep

    SleepMaskIf you have trouble getting quality sleep, it can affect more than just your level of fatigue throughout the day. “We think sleeplessness actually accelerates a lot of health issues related to age,” says Dr. Brad Jacobs, chair of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board. It can also affect your endocrine system, carbohydrate metabolism, glucose tolerance, cortisol levels, and the activity of your sympathetic nervous system, he says.

    Here are a few reasons why getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night is essential to good health.

    Sleep improves your mood.
    We all know how we feel after a lousy night’s sleep—irritable, impatient and unable to concentrate. The reason could be that the chemicals involved in the sleep-wake cycle are also in involved in mood and energy concentration. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you enjoy, exacerbating the cycle.

    Sleep can aid in weight loss.
    Too little sleep can increase your levels of a hormone called ghrelin, which increases your appetite and can affect the way we process and store carbohydrates. It can also impair your ability to process glucose and increase your body’s tendency to hold on to fat cells. Experts have even linked these issues to increased rates of diabetes.

    Sleep is good for your skin.
    Our bodies produce proteins while we sleep to restore and repair skin damage that comes from UV light exposure, stress, pollutants and other age-accelerating factors we deal with daily. That means not enough sleep can make it harder to fight off free radicals and speed up our skin’s aging process.

    Sleep keeps your brain and memory strong.
    Not enough sleep limits our time in REM sleep, the cycle that is most closely linked to improved learning and memory. Adequate sleep has been shown to improve our ability to learn tasks, consolidate memories and make good decisions—a good reason to take a night to “sleep on it” when faced with big choices!

    Sleep can reduce your chances of serious disease.
    A number of studies have shown that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk for health problems such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and more. Sleep deprivation can also alter immune function, impair the activity of the body’s killer cells and increase the presence of stress hormones in the body.

    Want better sleep? Learn more about natural strategies and supplements from Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD.

    Ask a practitioner about other helpful sleep supplements and strategies.

  • Why Better Sleep Can Mean Better Skin

    Sleeping Woman

    Sleep is vital for allowing the body to repair and renew itself. And the impact of sleep on our skin is no exception. Our bodies produce proteins while we sleep to restore and repair skin damage occurring from UV light exposure, stress, pollutants and other age-accelerating factors we deal with daily.

    While many adults find it increasingly difficult to maintain healthy sleep habits, the fact remains that getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep is essential for great skin. Here are a few ideas for healthy habits that can benefit your sleep quality, and, in turn, positively impact the health of your skin.

    5 steps to a better night's sleep:

    1. Develop a sleep-wake schedule
      Going to bed and waking up at different times every day confuses the body and disrupts your routine. Determine the best sleep and wake time for your schedule, and try to create consistency in your sleeping pattern.
    2. Create a sleep-conducive environment
      A noisy, crowded bedroom creates stress that disrupts your sleep. Clean up the clutter, hang light-blocking blinds or drapes and get rid of anything that makes noises during the night, such as a loudly ticking clock (or incoming emails on your cell phone).
    3. Establish a pre-bedtime routine
      Adopt a soothing, pre-bedtime routine that tells your body and mind it's almost time for sleep. Take a bath or sip a cup of your favorite decaffeinated tea while reading a book. Avoid stimulating activities like TV or computer time. Boost the effects of sleep on your skin with an age-defying night cream (like this one from Jurlique) before bed to help you wake up with fresher, younger-looking skin.
    4. Nix the nightcap
      Forgo drinking alcohol right before bed. A recent article in the Huffington Post talks about the ways alcohol can be devastating to your complexion, especially right before bed. A nightcap can also lead to wakefulness in the middle of the night, reducing sleep quality.
    5. Plan for bouts of sleeplessness
      Don't feel discouraged if there are nights when you still can't sleep. Avoid turning on the television, and opt for soothing music or a book. Resist the urge to look at the clock as it fuels the fire of sleeplessness.

    Healthy sleep habits are developed in a similar way to other healthy lifestyle changes. Be patient as you make changes, and realize that new habits take at least six weeks to become a natural part of your routine. As you endeavor to follow through on your new sleep routine, you'll reap the benefits of younger, healthier skin due to cell regeneration—and enjoy the added bonus of an increase in energy!

  • Sleep: Essential to Good Health

    Want better sleep? Here are Dr. Brad Jacobs' expert recommendations for techniques and supplements that can give you the most restful sleep and set you on the path to good overall health.

    This video is part of a series of educational videos we’ll be posting from members of our Integrative Health Advisory Board.

  • Finding Inner Peace During the Holidays

    If the fast pace of the holiday season leaves you feeling more like a zombie than an elf, turn to Pharmaca for ways to help calm your nerves and relax your mind. We’ve even put some of our favorite stress and sleep products on sale this month to make getting help that much easier.

    Stress Less

    Holiday stress and anxiety can peak during this time of year due to a range of triggers that are present, from financial strain to family conflicts. Our practitioners often recommend these products to help alleviate the body’s reaction to stress.

    WishGarden Herbal Remedies Deep Stress

    Relying on the traditional stress relieving properties of herbs like Ginseng, Motherwort and Nettles, this formula helps reduce both acute and chronic stress. Simply add 2-4 drops to water and drink your relief.

    Pharmaca Bath Salts

    Take some time for a therapeutic soak combining the mineral benefits of natural salts from the Dead Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Utah. Pharmaca’s fine-grained aromatherapeutic bath salts use only the purest ingredients so you can relax a little easier as your troubles melt away.

    New Chapter Stress Take Care

    This formula incorporates the anti-inflammatory properties of Curcuma xanthorrhiza with 9 other traditional herbals and powerful adaptogens to alleviate symptoms associated with stress. Just take 2 soft gels with food whenever you feel the need to take care.

    Bach Rescue Remedy Drops

    One of our best-selling products, this formula relies on a unique combination of flower essences to help the body restore balance after traumatic situations. Not only is it easy to take, it is also safe for adults, pets and kids. 20 ml


    Sleep Easy

    Enzymatic Therapy Sleep Tonight

    Clinical studies have shown Sleep Tonight to be effective at reducing stress hormones in the body. This valerian-free formula encourages relaxation, is non-habit forming and helps promote a positive mood through more restful sleep.

    Natural Factors Tranquil Sleep

    This safe, fast-acting formula contains the amino acid 5-HTP, the hormone melatonin and green tea’s stress reliever L-Theanine to help support restful sleep. Each dose comes in a tasty, fruit-flavored chewable tablet.

    Our practitioners can recommend other stress and sleep-oriented products specific to your needs. Take comfort in knowing that finding support is as easy as going to your local Pharmaca.

  • Cloud B Products and Better Sleep for Baby

    Proper sleep is essential for a healthy, developing child. Discover Cloud B’s soothing products, which are specially designed to help children sleep better.

    Created in conjunction with a certified board of pediatricians, Cloud B’s products help soothe the senses by creating a peaceful environment and ease a child’s fear of the dark—perfect companions for your child’s bedside.

    Older children will love Twilight Turtle and Twilight Ladybug, plush toys that project a starry night sky on your child’s bedroom ceiling. Just switch it on and walls are covered with eight actual constellations, which children can learn how to identify with the accompanying illustrated Storybook and Star Guide. Fun for children of all ages!

    To create the most calming sound environment for infants, choose Sleep Sheep On The Go, which can play one of four unique sounds, including gentle stream, spring showers, ocean waves or whale songs. It’s compact enough to take with you whether you’re strolling in the park or on vacation, and ideal to help children get to sleep when they’re in unfamiliar environments.

    Cloud B’s multi-award winning products have become leaders in helping children sleep, allowing both parents and their children to have a good night’s rest.

  • How to Catch More Zzzzs

    Everyone’s got advice on how to fall asleep quicker. But what if you’ve tried the warm milk, the boring book and the comfy mattress? When sleep problems are keeping you from waking up fresh faced, take comfort in sleep solutions from Pharmaca. Here are a few common sleep problems, addressed by Kate Brainard, ND.

    I fall asleep fine, but wake up at 2am sharp. Is there a supplement to help me stay asleep all night?

    My first recommendation would be to take melatonin before bed-it’s a natural sleep hormone that we make in our bodies, so supplementing what we do make can help us stay asleep longer. You can take it either in its individual form like in Source Naturals Melatonin, which is timed-release to keep it working throughout the night, or in combination with other herbal formulas. One product I like is Pharmaca Sleep, which includes 3 mg of melatonin and a blend of relaxing and calming herbs. One thing with melatonin, if you take too much, it can be hard to snap out of it the next day. Start with a lower dose and work your way up.

    For a completely herbal approach, I would try Deep Sleep by Herbs, Etc. It’s a blend of California poppy, valerian, passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm, oat seed and orange peel, all of which promote restful sleep. But you do have to take it for a few days before you’ll see the right effects.

    Sometimes my mind just won’t stop racing. What can I take to calm my thoughts so I can fall asleep more quickly?

    Skullcap is a great herb for calming ruminating thoughts. Herb Pharm and Gaia Herbs both offer Skullcap Extract, but you can find blends that include skullcap and other stress-reducing herbs that can be really beneficial.

    GABA is another supplement commonly used for people who can’t get their brain to slow down. It’s a neurotransmitter inhibitor—it slows down the synapses that keep firing, usually because you have too much stress. Again, GABA can be taken on its own or in combination, like in the formula NightRest by Source Naturals that includes GABA, melatonin, skullcap and other relaxing herbs.

    I seem to sleep fine most of the night, but I usually wake up around 4 or 5am and just lay there until I have to get up. Anything I can take to fall back asleep for just a little while without causing a “sleep hangover”?

    My suggestions would be more gentle, I would never recommend melatonin at this time. Instead, I like Calms Forte Sleep Aid, a non-drowsy homeopathic remedy that’s also non-habit forming, which is important to a lot of people. It has a blend of different homeopathics, ingredients that you’ll see in a lot of sleep remedies. For example, passionflower helps with restlessness from exhaustion, and oat seed is good for stress and nervousness.

    Another good one is Bach’s Rescue Sleep. You can just spritz a few sprays in your mouth and it should be enough to get you back to sleep for just a little while.

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