Naturopath and Holistic Health Expert
Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you find yourself lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, watching the time go by and your mind full of never ending thoughts?
When we don’t get enough sleep we end up feeling pretty poor the next day. Fatigue, poor concentration and general cognitive dysfunction are just a few symptoms we may experience. A strong cup of coffee will remedy these temporarily, but chronic sleep deprivation can lead to many more serious signs and symptoms.
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Sleep is essential for health just like sunlight, oxygen, food, hydration, and movement. The quality and quantity of sleep may be affected by imbalances in all of these human essentials as well as the consumption of stimulants, exposure to bright lights, noise, and aromas, changes in temperature, stress, anxiety, and fear. In two previous posts, Set Your Body Clock and How To Treat Insomnia, I addressed the possible underlying causes of insomnia and poor sleep quality.
According the National Sleep Foundation, we need at least eight hours sleep to leave our bodies and minds rejuvenated for the next day.
As we begin to fall asleep, we enter NREM (Non-rapid eye movement) sleep, which is composed of 3 stages:
Happens between being awake and falling asleep.
Is the onset of sleep. We become disengaged from our surroundings; our breathing and heart rate are regular and our body temperature drops.
Is the deepest and most restorative sleep, where:
– Blood pressure drops
– Breathing becomes slower
– Muscles are relaxed
– Blood supply to muscles increases
– Tissue growth and repair occurs
– Energy is restored
– Hormones are released, such as: Growth hormone, essential for growth and development, including muscle development
REM, first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and recurs about every 90 minutes, getting longer later in the night. This is when:
– Energy is provided to the brain and body
– Brain becomes active and dreams occur
– Body becomes immobile and relaxed, as muscles are turned off
– Daytime performance is supported
So what foods can help you sleep?
Tryptophan is well-known for inducing a good’s night sleep. It is an essential amino acid, one of the building blocks of protein. Tryptophan converts to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, appetite and sleep. Serotonin in turn converts to melatonin. The pineal gland, found in the brain, secretes melatonin in response to levels of light and dark, regulating sleep and wakefulness.
The ingestion of protein (rich in tryptophan) with a carbohydrate triggers the release of insulin. Insulin in turn stimulates the uptake of large neutral branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s), but not tryptophan, into muscle. This process results in the uptake of tryptophan across the blood–brain barrier.
The following post dinner desserts or supper foods will help induce a healthy night’s sleep:
1. Cheese (protein) on crackers or bread (carbohydrate)
2. Cheese or yoghurt (protein) and fruit such as an apple (carbohydrate)
3. Cheese or yoghurt (protein) and a vegetable such as a carrot (carbohydrate)
4. Ham or another healthy (additive free) deli meat, smoked salmon or left over poultry, fish or meat (protein) and a vegetable or fruit (carbohydrate)
5. Healthy liver pate (protein) and a vegetable such as celery
6. Hot dairy milk (protein/carbohydrate) with cinnamon and vanilla and a piece of fruit such as a banana (carbohydrate)
7. Jelly made from real pastured bovine or porcine gelatin (protein) and fresh fruit (carbohydrate)
8. Broth, made from bone stock (protein) and a vegetable (carbohydrate)
9. Egg (protein) and a piece of fruit or vegetable (carbohydrate)
10. Spirulina, green powder (protein) in a glass of fresh, home made juice such as apple
A good night’s sleep will reward you with excellent health. It also provides great pleasure, offering immediate comfort, calm and connection to self away from a noisy world.