How To Overcome Insomnia?
What is Insomnia?
Clinical insomnia occurs at least three nights a week for more than a month. There are two types:
- sleep-onset (difficulty falling asleep) and
- sleep-maintenance (waking up during the night and being unable to fall back to sleep, or waking up too early in the morning).
Most people look forward to bedtime as their respite from a busy day, but for many of us, nighttime is anything but restful. While all of us experience a restless night now and then, 27 percent of the population suffers occasional bouts of longer-lasting insomnia that may persist for weeks or months. Lying awake at night and spending daytime hours exhausted can reduce your quality of life, contribute to diminished health, and put you at a higher risk for accidents. But you don't have to take insomnia lying down: Sleep experts draw on many slumber-inducing techniques, and nutrition often plays a significant role in helping you get your Zs.
Dodging The Sleep Robbers
Insomnia-the inability to get enough sleep for you to feel refreshed during normal waking hours-is most often the product of an active mind. Common causes include stress, anxiety, and excitement. But certain foods and eating habits can also make it more difficult to fall asleep. The top culprit is caffeine, a stimulant found in coffee and many carbonated sodas, including some orange and lime flavors. Alcohol can induce dozing, but it may also disrupt sleep later in the night, and spicy foods may cause sleep-impairing stomach distress.
Seeking The Sleep Promoters
A number of nutrients may help promote sleep. These include iron, copper, and B vitamins, all found in meat, along with magnesium, available in beans and leafy, green vegetables. Eating habits can make a difference as well. For example, because eating draws blood away from the brain and into the gastrointestinal tract, a light snack before bedtime may help you feel drowsy, but overeating late at night can cause bloating or gas that may keep you from sleeping or may wake you up later.
- Cereals and pasta
- Leafy, green vegetables
- Lean meats
- Navy and pinto beans
- Tuna and other seafood
- Walnuts and cashews
- Whole-grain breads and muffins
Proactive Sleep Protection
In the wake of much recent attention, many people seeking to fall asleep faster have turned to supplements of melatonin, a synthetic version of a hormone in the body that regulates sleep. Because the long-term safety of melatonin supplements has not been established, however, experts advise that it's generally better to seek dietary relief for insomnia from nutrients and herbs. Your best choices for bedtime:
Tryptophan This amino acid has been described as nature's sleeping pill. In the body, it provides a building block for the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps induce feelings of calmness and is involved with regulating sleep. The best way to boost your intake is to eat foods that are high in carbohydrates, such as cereal, toast, or bananas. High-protein foods such as milk and turkey contain greater amounts of tryptophan, but some experts say their other amino acids blunt tryptophan effects.
Iron and Copper These minerals assist in bodily reactions related to proper use of energy. Studies suggest that when the diet lacks iron and copper, it may be more difficult to fall and stay asleep. You can obtain these minerals from organ meats, fish, and other seafood such as clams, as well as from walnuts, cashews, lentils, and whole-grain products.
Magnesium Lack of magnesium may affect your ability to sleep by overstimulating neurotransmitters in the brain. Magnesium is found in pinto beans, navy beans, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, almonds, and leafy, green vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard.
B Vitamins The body uses B vitamins-especially niacin-to help regulate many amino acids, including tryptophan and possibly melatonin. Good sources of the full range of B vitamins include lean meats and canned tuna.
Valerian This herb, renowned as a sleep aid for centuries, appears to interact with a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid to promote calmness. Valerian's soothing effect may lead to restful, refreshing slumber.
While having trouble sleeping isn't a dire problem in and of itself, even short-term insomnia can be a sign of an underlying problem such as a sleep disorder, depression, or anxiety. Many medical professionals recommend that if sleeplessness lasts longer than a week, interferes with how you feel or function during the day, or becomes troubling to you in any way, you should see a doctor.
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