Rooibos could be cure for the insomnia blues
It not only costs the economy billions as a result of lost productivity and vehicle accidents but could also lead to a variety of health complications such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
On average South Africans sleep around six hours a night, based on data collected by a sleep app, called Sleep Cycle. Most cited 6.24am as their rising time but said they found it difficult to go to bed before midnight. The majority only crawled under the covers at 12.20am.
While six hours of sleep might sound adequate, it’s the sleep you clock before midnight that counts the most.
According to sleep experts, the time you go to sleep makes a significant difference in terms of the structure and quality of your sleep.
Your sleep cycle comprises a series of 90-minute cycles during which your brain moves from deep, non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep to REM sleep. As the night progresses, the ratio changes. Non-REM sleep tends to dominate sleep in the early part of the night, but wanes as the new day dawns.
Whether it’s mounting work stress, the Gupta leaks saga, social media or general insomnia - which affects as many as 40% of adults at some stage in their lives - that’s keeping you awake, it’s believed that home-grown rooibos could just be the natural antidote to cure the nation’s sleep crisis.
Ernest du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council, says research done by several academic institutions proves rooibos’s calming effects on the body.
“A study by Stellenbosch University showed that rooibos tea could alleviate stress and anxiety levels, and as a result, aid in a good night’s rest,” he notes.
Du Toit says there are two critical compounds found in rooibos which interfere with the production of the stress hormone cortisol. The lower the levels of cortisol in the body, the higher the likelihood of uninterrupted sleep.
“Rooibos also contains magnesium and calcium, both minerals which play a role in a good night’s sleep. Studies published in the European Neurology Journal confirm that calcium levels spike during deep sleep. The brain uses calcium to manufacture the sleeping hormone melatonin, which enhances the quality of your sleep.
"Other research has shown that magnesium deficiency can also lead to chronic insomnia (inability to sleep). Magnesium is also known as nature’s tranquilliser and has a calming effect on your nervous system, which promotes deep sleep.
“If your children have trouble sleeping, give them a cup of rooibos an hour or two before bedtime to ensure you all get some needed sleep,” recommends Du Toit.
Another potential factor hampering our sleep could be the nation’s addiction to coffee.
Du Toit notes that unlike rooibos, coffee and most other teas contain caffeine - a stimulant that keeps you awake - so limit these beverages to the morning. With rooibos, the opposite is true. The more you drink, the better you will sleep.
“Drinking rooibos tea supplies your body with all the nutrients it needs for a peaceful night’s rest,” concludes Du Toit.
Celebrities who rely on a cup of rooibos just before bedtime include rugby player Courtnall Skosan, actresses Katlego Danke and Carine Rous, along with Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba.