I’ve certainly had my share of sleep-deprived nights. For me, it’s usually not a matter of having trouble falling asleep, but waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get BACK to sleep.
Anyway, if you’re looking for some natural ways to help you get a better night’s rest, then I hope you find the following information helpful. I haven’t tried all the things listed here, but the ones I’ve used so far that seem to make a difference are magnesium and tart cherries, either freeze-dried or in juice concentrate form (be sure you buy organic, since cherries are one of the most pesticide-laden crops around). FYI, 8 oz of Montmorency tart cherry juice has 4 times the melatonin of other kinds of cherries, so that’s what I always look for. I keep meaning to try kiwis, since I really like them, but usually eat them in the morning, so I want to see what happens if I eat them before bed.
High sleep index foods
You’ve probably heard of tryptophan, the amino acid that many people blame for their lethargy after Thanksgiving dinner. The body converts tryptophan into neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and melatonin, that help us relax. As a result, tryptophan-rich foods help us feel sleepy. Turkey, hummus, lentils and kelp are naturally high in tryptophan and contain many other beneficial nutrients.
*Bananas are also a great “sleep index” food: They contain tryptophan, potassium and magnesium, all of which are natural muscle relaxants. Cherries are a good source of melatonin, which can help us get more restful, reparative sleep.
And did you know that in one study, people who ate two kiwi fruits (see end of post for more about this) for more before bed got an extra hour of sleep at night? They woke up later and took less time to fall asleep.
Carbohydrate-rich foods are often excellent at promoting better sleep. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high-glycemic carbohydrates, which increase sugar levels rapidly, encourage sleep when eaten about four hours before bedtime. Jasmine rice, potatoes, carrots, corn and honey are healthy options.
Calcium helps the brain use tryptophan to create melatonin. Specific food combinations, such as whole grain cereals and milk, peanut butter sandwiches, or cheese and crackers contain balanced amounts of calcium and carbohydrates. Calcium is also a natural muscle relaxant.
When to eat
Eating high sleep index foods calms the nervous system and triggers sleep-inducing hormones. But timing is everything. A large meal right before bedtime can interfere with sleep. Tryptophan takes at least an hour to reach the brain, so plan meals accordingly.
Avoid rich, high-fat foods close to bedtime. They require a lot of work to digest and may cause stomach trouble and heartburn. Also, moderate your beverages. Too many fluids will cause frequent trips to the bathroom during the night. In particular, caffeinated beverages stimulate the body and act as diuretics, a double whammy when trying to sleep.
Natural sleep aids
As noted, there is no shortage of sleep aids, either over the counter or by prescription. While these aids generally work in the short term, they come with a long list of detrimental side effects and can become habit-forming. In addition, these powerful drugs are known to interfere with a number of critical biological mechanisms. Remember, they’re not meant to be gentle, but rather to put you out like a light.
I recommend a combination of relaxing, non-habit-forming herbs: lemon balm, passionflower, vitamin B6 and small doses of melatonin, about 500 mcg, can be very helpful.
When taken together 15 minutes before bed, these herbs and nutrients help to promote a gentle state of relaxation and drowsiness. Even better, they help optimize the body’s natural repair processes during sleep. They also work to support numerous other areas of health and longevity as well.
One of the shortcomings of modern society is that every problem requires maximum response. But when it comes to healthy relaxation and restful sleep, you should take a softer, gentler approach.
High sleep index foods, together with calming supplements can help you relax, enjoy a restful sleep and wake feeling refreshed. Other excellent sleep-supportive measures include mindful relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing.
Getting a good night’s rest is one of the best things you can do for health and well-being. When you support your natural sleep rhythms and cycles with the right foods, supplements and healthy relaxation measures, you reap significant and noticeable benefits. In addition to greater physical energy, mental clarity and emotional balance, getting quality sleep each night results in stronger vitality and better overall health, naturally.
More details on kiwis…..
Kiwis — an Alternative to Tart Cherry Juice?
Kiwis are another fruit to add to your insomnia-fighting arsenal. In a study at Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University, scientists recruited volunteers to eat two kiwifruit one hour before bedtime. After four weeks, their quality of sleep improved significantly.
- The amount of time it took to fall asleep decreased by 35.4 percent.
- The amount of time spent lying awake after initially falling asleep reduced by 28.9 percent.
- Sleep quality improved by 42.4 percent.
- Sleep time increased by 13.4 percent.
Turmeric milk, also called golden milk, before bedtime is used by many people as a sleep aid (also see the link later in this post to the Self-help **blog on golden milk that includes a version where you don’t have to make a paste beforehand)……
**Also see this Self-help Health post on golden milk.
One of my favorite relaxation and sleep aids is lavender essential oil….rubbing a couple of drops on my hands and then inhaling, or dabbing on my wrists, temples or soles of my feed. Also, warm epsom salt soaks, and being careful of the amount of blue light I get at night by turning off the computer an hour or two before bedtime. I’ve also read where oranges, pineapples and passion flower tea are helpful. Chamomile tea is well-known for its relaxing, sleep-inducing quality, and the Mediterranean diet and olive oil are supposedly good for sleep, as well. And I read that most sleep disorders are connected to hormonal toxicity, so that’s something some people may need to address.
*And the peel of a banana apparently has 3 times as much magnesium as the fruit itself, which is probably why someone came up with a recipe for using “Banana Tea” as a sleep aid. All you do is wash a banana (be sure it’s organic), cut in half w/ peel on; cut off tips and boil 3 to 4 minutes in filtered/structured water, steep and drink the liquid. You can refrigerate the fruit for use the next day in a smoothie (the peel is totally edible and high in nutrition, so you may try tossing that in, too), yogurt, oatmeal, or some other way.
And here’s some info about using magnolia tree bark as a remedy for stress and deeper sleep:
Want more info? Here’s a in-depth post by Dr Joseph Mercola about sleep, the ramifications of not getting enough of it, best sleeping positions, and 50 ways to improve it, including eliminating EMFs, using 5-HTP and/or magnesium, going back to using incandescent bulbs, and more.
And apparently using “reverse psychology can also be a way of getting to sleep:
Related Self-help Heath posts:
Stay tuned for a post on how raising the head of your bed a few inches can promote better sleep, as well as help with varicose veins, detox the brain, and more!
p.s. Be sure to subscribe to Self-help Health so you don’t miss any future posts, and tell your friends to do the same. Also check out my website’s To Your Health page and Evolution Made Easier blog for more helpful health tips, tools and information.
Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.