Author - Good Health
Winter is coming and while the thought of snuggling up in your bed for a long night’s sleep might sound appealing, it’s just not quite the same if you can’t actually get to sleep.
Sleep is vital to both your physical and mental health. The amount of sleep people require varies (see the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendation for you here), but when you get the sleep you need, you can reap a wide range of health benefits. There are many sleep-aiding nutrients that you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle; these are our top 7 picks…
#1. Vitamin C
Research suggests that people with vitamin C deficiencies are prone to waking up during the night. Add some vitamin C rich foods into your diet, especially green leafy vegetables, capsicum, kiwifruit and citrus fruits to give you a healthy dose of this vitamin, and increases your immunity too.
Serotonin is the precursor for melatonin – the sleep hormone. Although melatonin is only available by prescription from your doctor, you can naturally boost your production of serotonin by eating some carbohydrate rich foods (pasta, brown rice, kumara and potatoes). Carbohydrates enhance the absorption of tryptophan, an amino acid which is converted into serotonin in the brain. Increase your tryptophan levels by eating more eggs, kumara, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, bananas, yoghurt, chicken, and turkey. Alternatively a herb known as Griffonia simplicifolia or 5HTP also increases the production of serotonin.
A common problem for people who suffer from sleep deficiency is not so much getting to sleep but staying asleep; this is known as sleep maintenance. Potassium can help with this, so try drinking coconut water and eating bananas, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, seaweed, molasses, nuts and seeds, which are all rich sources of this nutrient.
Calcium deficiencies have been linked with disturbances in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle, particularly in children. When this cycle is disrupted, it can affect a person’s ability to learn complex tasks, which is why it is so important for early childhood development. You can increase calcium levels with kale, collard greens, mustard greens, sardines and sesame seeds.
#5. Vitamin D
The sunshine vitamin (as vitamin D is so often called) is a great help when it comes to a good night’s sleep. When you don’t have enough, excessive daytime sleepiness can occur, affecting your energy throughout the day and your sleep at night. While you can eat more fish, dairy products, eggs, liver and soy milk to boost your levels, the best thing to do is soak up some natural sunlight. Sometimes this can be more difficult in winter, so utilising a quality supplement for the darker months can be a good way to give your body what it needs.
#6. Vitamin B6
To relax your nervous system and moderate your body’s stress response (both vital for a good night’s sleep), you need vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps convert 5HTP to serotonin and helps with adrenal function due to stress, which also impacts sleep quality. Luckily, vitamin B6 is an easy one to get into your diet. Try eating more bananas, yoghurt, nuts, avocado, tomato, spinach, kumara and eggs to up your B6 levels.
When it comes to relaxing the body, magnesium is one of the best nutrients for the job. Ongoing stress can lead to magnesium deficiencies, affecting your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. The key to giving your body what it needs lies both in what you put into it as well as what you cut out. Regular consumption of coffee, tea and soft drinks (basically anything with caffeine in it) decreases your magnesium levels, because they force your kidneys to release more than what you need, depleting your body’s supply. Try incorporating a quality supplement into your lifestyle, as well as cutting back on the caffeine and see the difference.
So whether you have problems getting to sleep, staying asleep or getting back to sleep, there are some natural ways to support your slumber. Whilst the ultimate goal is to establish the underlying cause of insomnia, sometimes it is as simple as incorporating a few lifestyle changes. Increasing foods that naturally promote decent shut-eye, reducing your intake of caffeine or supplementing with some extra vitamins, minerals or herbs could help. With a good supplement on hand and a host of sleep-aiding nutrients in your diet, you should start sleeping better in no time.