Sleep disorders are conditions that affect how much and how well you sleep. The causes range from poor habits that keep you awake to medical problems and stress that disrupt your sleep cycle. If you do not feel rested in the mornings then you should look at your overall health as lack of good restorative sleep deprives our immune system of re-building which keeps us strong and full of vitality. The trillions of microbes sitting in our small intestines – known collectively as the microbiome or microbiota are actually affecting our mood, digestion, overall health and ability to get a full eight hours.
Restorative Sleep Tips
Sleep Hygiene: Exercise
Adopting habits that promote sleep is known as good sleep hygiene. Regular exercise should be part of the plan but the timing is important. Exercise in the late afternoon can make it easier to fall and stay asleep – just don’t let it get too late. Exercise within a couple of hours of bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep.
Sleep Hygiene – Helpful Foods
Beyond caffeine, what foods should we reach for and avoid in order to fall asleep?
You’ve heard it a thousand times: if you want to fall asleep you have to give up caffeine. So you’ve done that and you still can’t seem to sleep through the night. Well, your diet has a huge bearing on the way you feel especially if a sleep deficiency has become a part of your life. Choose foods that promote sleep rather than keeping you up all night.
Five Foods to Prevent Insomnia:
1. Pumpkin Seeds – Pumpkin seeds are a great source of magnesium which serves to calm the body down. Magnesium helps to relieve the stress that can keep us up all night. Just 1 oz. of pumpkin seeds has 151 mg of magnesium, making it one of the most magnesium-rich foods out there.
2. Soy Beans contain tryptophan, a sleep inducing amino acid that relaxes the entire body and mind; you can also find tryptophan in soy milk, hummus, and lentils.
3. Sesame Seeds – Sesame seeds are rich in tryptophan but they’re also high in carbohydrates with a medium protein content, perfect to sprinkle over your evening meal.
4. Brown Rice – Whole unrefined grains like brown rice have a calming effect on the mind. They soothe the nervous system so that the mind stops moving a mile a minute and you can fall asleep. Almonds, Flaxseeds and Goji Berries on my morning short grain brown rice porridge has been a ‘healthy habit’ I adopted decades ago. Goji berries has the highest score in terms of melatonin content.
5. Greens – Chlorophyll-rich foods like kale, spring greens and spinach help you get to sleep. Greens like pumpkin seeds as mentioned above, are also loaded with magnesium, which calms and de-stresses the entire body.
Five Foods that Promote Insomnia
1. Refined Carbohydrates – These drain the body of vitamin B, which the body needs to release serotonin. When the body can’t get enough serotonin, tension, fear, and depression can keep you up all night.
2. MSG – Monosodium glutamate (MSG), often found in Chinese food, causes a stimulant reaction in some people. MSG is almost always found in processed, prepared, and packaged foods and is used in Chinese restaurants.
3. Bacon – Bacon contains tyramine, which increases the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant that keeps you up. Others foods that contain tyramine include chocolate, eggplant, ham, potatoes, sauerkraut, sugar, sausage, tomatoes, and wine.
4. Alcohol – While many of us drink to relax the body and mind, the fact of the matter is that wine, beer, and spirits can keep you up at night. This is especially true if you drink more than one. While alcohol can make you tired in the short run, you’re likely to awaken in the middle of the night.
5. Chocolate – Chocolate can elevate your energy levels with bioactive compounds like tyramine and phenylethylamine. Chocolate also contains sugar which wakes you up as well as the other obvious culprit, caffeine.
Beyond your diet, yoga is another great way to help you sleep as is full breath mediation.
Sleep Hygiene – Bedtime Rituals
You can signal your body and mind that it’s time to sleep by creating a bedtime ritual. This may include a warm bath, reading a chapter of a book, or practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing.
Apple/Kuzu Drink is the perfect tonic to calm and relax the body and mind which will aid you in sleeping deeply. (Recipe below)
Valerian for Sleep – For more than 2,000 years, valerian root has been used as a sedative and anti-anxiety treatment. Although it is not a pleasant-smelling herb, valerian can be taken in capsules.
A review of 16 studies showed evidence suggesting that valerian may help sleep come more quickly — and that it improves the quality of sleep. Valerian becomes more effective over time, so taking it nightly works best, rather than taking valerian only on random rough nights.
Since there are few adverse effects from valerian, it’s safe to try as a sleep aid. Most natural health food stores sell valerian in dried tea form as well as a tincture.
Chamomile Tea for Sleep – For thousands of years, people have used chamomile tea medicinally. The tea and essential oil have been used for their calming effects and for insomnia relief. Chamomile tea raises the body temperature and makes many people feel sleepy.
“Chamomile is safe as a tea, “But the trick is to make sure you are brewing it properly. Use two heaped teaspoons in a pot of boiling water. Then put a lid on the pot to keep oils in the water — so you get the medicinal effects of the tea.”
A few cautions: If you have an allergy to ragweed, don’t use chamomile. Also, don’t take chamomile tea if you are pregnant as chamomile may act as a uterine stimulant.
Lavender is a favourite of mine. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to your pillow or purchase one of the many varietes of dried lavender sachets to lay by your bed.
Recipe for Apple Kuzu Drink
Kuzu which is a wonderful soothing beverage to relax you and also a great aid to digestion; a popular addition to a macrobiotic diet.
2 cups apple juice
Cinnamon to taste (about a teaspoon)
2 tsp Cleasrpring Organic Kuzu
Add some organ raisins or cranberries if you like.
Cut the apple into chunks and simmer in the apple juice for at least 20 minutes adding the cinnamon and dried fruit after about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Mix the kuzu with a little water to make a smooth paste. Then add the slurry to the warm liquid – make sure it is not boiling. Stir constantly to avoid lumps. The liquid will turn cloudy and then clear up in about 3-5 minutes and thicken.
You can also make this recipe using 1 tub of your favourite Clearspring Organic Fruit Purée with 2 cups of apple juice or water. Simmer for around 10 minutes with the cinnamon and dried fruit already added and then stir in the kuzu and continue as above.
There are many other home remedies and medicinal teas in my book ‘Macrobiotics for all Seasons’ available world wide on amazon.
In good health