- Mental Health
Good sleep and how to get it
Mr. Sandman bring me a dream…
Everyone whom I talk to these days seems to be singing the latest number #one hit "I’m so wired up that I can't sleep." Our lives have become so hectic lately that it’s hard to shut our brains down when it's time for us to sleep. Most people I know head straight for the medicine cabinet at the first signs of sleeplessness. Since I personally have never been plagued with insomnia I never realized what a huge problem it has become. The message finally hit home when I visited a friend recently who had his medicine cabinet stocked to the brim with nightquil. When I jokingly asked if they were having a sale, he sadly informed me that e used it as a nightly sleeping aid!
Whenever I have been unable to sleep, I get up and head straight for that ol trusted sleep remedy a glass of warm milk. The reason this works is because milk contains tryptophan. This amino acid helps with serotonin and calms the brain. When taken along with 2-3 capsules of 450mg of Valerian root, you will sleep like a baby. If you’re like me and you don't drink cow’s milk, warmed up almond milk topped off with sprinkled cinnamon does the trick every time. Since you're unable to sleep anyway find a nice quite cozy place to relax, drink your milk and check in with yourself. Try to use this time constructively and truly try to get to the root of your sleep problem.
Meditation is a great practice if you’re constantly plagued with sleep problems. Practicing meditation regularly allows you to find and use the off switch in your brain just before bedtime when you tend to need it most. You might also want to consider incorporating B vitamins into your diet. Vitamin B12 is known to support a healthy nervous system and B6 will help your body to produce more serotonin in order to slow down the nerve impulses in your brain.
Another important factor to keep in mind is your caffeine, alcohol and chocolate intake. None of these should be consumed after 3pm if you have any sleep issues. Unbeknownst to many is the fact that caffeine can continue to energize your brain up to 12 hours after use.
Alcohol should also never be used as a sleeping aid. It may seem like the answer at first, and it might even give you that calm that you’re looking for, but you are not doing your body any favors. After the initial calm and once you fall asleep your body’s digestive system has to go into overtime to break down the alcohol that you consumed. Chances are that your digestive system will wake you up early, in the middle of the night or dead tired from all the extra work that it had to do.
If you’re like me who tends to fall asleep quickly but has tendencies to wake up in the middle of the night, I might be able to offer you some help. What you tend to eat before bedtime can sometimes play havoc with your blood sugar levels. If you find yourself waking up frequently in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, get water because of cotton mouth or for no particular reason, now would be a great time to get checked for diabetes. This was a huge problem for me until I was diagnosed and able to attack the problem head on. I learned that by eating a high-protein snack or a low glycemic food just before bed levels out your blood sugar throughout the night for a longer, better quality sleep. The best late-night snack choices that I have found are strawberry smoothies, a hard-boiled egg or a slice of wheat toast with almond butter and agave honey.
Something else causing your random late-night wake up might be a magnesium deficiency. If you’re constantly under a lot of stress, eat a lot of refined foods and drink soda regularly, then low magnesium levels might be your problem. I normally take 400mg of regular magnesium and 1,250 mg of magnesium malate nightly before bed. Not only is magnesium great for bones and joints, but it also helps keep those unwanted leg cramps and Charlie horses at bay. It is also important to know that woman with high magnesium levels are 80% less likely to die of sudden cardiac arrest. If you happen to be one of the many women who take over the counter medications for heartburn or acid reflux such as Nexium or Prilosec otc it’s probably a smart idea to take a daily magnesium supplement since these drugs deplete the bodies’ storage of magnesium.
When looking for answers to your night time problems it’s always best to start with your daytime habits. How much caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol are you consuming daily? How much processed food are you consuming throughout the day? How much exercise are you giving your body daily? How well are you managing your daytime stress? Does your lack of sleep have to do with money worries or are you avoiding something in your life and its rearing its ugly head in the form of restless sleep?
You can’t solve problems that you don’t acknowledge, and you can’t cure what you don’t know you have. Start out with the simple solutions and work your way up to the hard questions. Healthy sleep is something that everyone wants, needs and should enjoy. Everyone deserves sweet dreams and a nightly visit from the sandman.