Natural Remedies for a Better Sleep

If you’re struggling to fall asleep, or can’t stay asleep, here are a few dietary and supplement tips you may want to consider.

Why is sleep so important?

  • Repairs mind & helps to regenerate body tissues
  • Helps to reduce stress
  • Essential for a healthy heart
  • Control body weight issues
  • Improve memory & concentration
  • Reduce occurrence of mood disorders

How does a lack of sleep affect the body?

A lack of sleep can affect more than just your mental health.  If you find it hard to shed those last few kilos, have a think about your sleeping patterns.  Insomnia may cause your leptin levels, the hormone associated with satiety, to decrease, and cause ghrelin levels, the hormone associated with stimulating appetite, to increase.  According to the NIH (2016) a lack of sleep also affects insulin levels, leading to a high blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.

Did know you know that after several nights of sleep deprivation, even just 1-2 hours per night, your ability to function at a normal capacity diminishes as if you haven’t sleep for a full day or two.  Sleep deprivation may also lead to what’s known as microsleep – brief moments of sleep that occur when you’re normally awake.  Maybe you weren’t just daydreaming after all!

Are shift workers at a higher risk?

A study by Charles et al., (2016) found that sleep when sleep quality worsened, the mean measures of total cholesterol and triglyceride levels gradually increased among the female participants (police officers).  Those who reported better sleep quality had lower levels in comparison.

Abbott and Videnovic (2016) state that sleep disturbances are a common early symptom of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

Sleep hygiene tips

  • Unplug 60 minutes before bed: melatonin, the hormone responsible for making us feel sleepy, is disrupted by the light emitted from screens, such as TVs and smart phones. Unwind by getting into a new routine that doesn’t involve gadgets.
  • Set the bedroom at a comfortable temperature (not too hot), listening to relaxing music to ward away your worries, writing troublesome thoughts down on paper to get them out of your head, a hot shower or Epsom salts bath, rubbing a dab of lavender oil on your wrists.
  • Black out curtains or sleeping masks: Essential if your room is bright. Helps to promote the production of melatonin which depends on total darkness.
  • Purchase a white noise machine to block our ambient background noise – especially important for city dwellers.
  • Make sure you invest in a good pillow. There’s nothing worse than waking up with a neck ache!
  • If snoring is the issue, get yourself in to the Elevate sleep clinic for a check-up. If lack of oxygen is waking you up (sleep apnoea) the long-term complications are profound.
  • Natural sleep remedies, such as gentle herbal teas can aid in relaxation and promote sleepiness. Essential oils of some ‘sleepy’ herbs are also a great additive to your bedtime ritual.

Diet changes that may help to improve your sleep:

  • Consuming foods rich in amino acid tryptophan are millet, oats, red/brown rice, turkey, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, figs, dates, eggs, legumes/beans, bananas (also source of Vit B6, the precursor to tryptophan), mulberries, lemons, cottage cheese.
  • Chlorophyll rich foods, also high in magnesium – kale, collards, spinach–all green leafy vegetables]
  • Tart cherries have sedating properties.
  • Avoid caffeine,alcohol, tea, chocolate, spicy foods, refined carbs, additives and preservatives, especially in the evenings. Eating large amounts of meat for dinner can inhibit sleep by blocking synthesis of serotonin, making us feel more alert.
  • Avoid MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) can cause stimulant reaction in some people. It’s found in most Chinese food.
  • Avoid all processed soy products [soy milk/soy yogurt] and do not consume miso/tempeh in the evenings.
  • 1-2 hours before bed, avoid foods rich in the amino acid, tyramine. High amounts of tyramine increase the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant. Foods include bacon, along with other meats, such as sausage, salami, hot dogs, duck liver, smoked fish, caviar, cheese, spinach, tomatoes, alcohol, especially wine, eggplant, potatoes, broad beans, pickles, sauerkraut, olives, avocado. Vietnamese fish sauce and teriyaki sauce also contain tyramine as does chocolate, coffee, & tea (small amounts)

Bedtime snack ideas that won’t keep you awake:

  • Apple with nut/seed butter [2 tablespoons]
  • Small bowl hot oatmeal/millet [1/3 cup] with pumpkin seeds [1 tablespoon] & raw honey, using 1 cup goat, rice, or almond milk
  • Yogurt [1 cup] with almond granola [1/3 cup] on top
  • Yogurt [1 cup] with chopped figs or dates, chopped banana [half], and sunflower seeds/chia seeds [1 tablespoon of each], drizzle with raw honey
  • Whole grain crackers [E.g. oatcakes, buckwheat crackers] with nut/seed butter [1 tablespoon]
  • Kale chips [2 cups]
  • Tart cherries [fresh, 1 cup]

Eating a bedtime snack that is high in complex carbohydrates, plus a small amount of calcium and protein will help your body to increase the amount of sleep-inducing tryptophan in your blood.

Helpful and safe supplement suggestions:

  • Calcium/Magnesium: 1,500-2,000 mg Calcium + 1,000 mg Magnesium, taken in evenings
  • 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan): 200-300 mg before bed
  • B6: 50 mg/day & B5: 100 mg daily (best to take with B-complex which must be taken in the morning)
  • Inositol: 100 mg daily at bedtime

Be sure to consult with a healthcare professional at Elevate’s Sleep Disorders Clinic in CBD Sydney if your sleeping patterns become seriously disrupted.  Book in to see one of our Integrative GPs for a referral for a sleep test in the comfort of your own home.

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