Sleep is essential for our health and well being. It allows our body to rejuvenate and restore itself. It helps the body to create new cells. Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest causes of premature aging. Tiredness can significantly affect your mood and how you feel. Besides the usual brain fog and irritability that can come from lack of sleep, chronic tiredness can increase your risk of depression and anxiety. It can also affect the way that you respond and react to the people and situations around you. Nutrition and dietary supplements are inevitably linked to healthy sleep. The nutrients you give your body can directly affect the amount and quality of sleep you get.
Scientific studies demonstrate that lack of quality sleep can affect cognitive ability. This decrease in brain function can cause us to be less constructive and creative. It can limit your productivity due to lack of focus. It can also decrease the ability to think quickly which may impair the ability to drive or complete daily tasks. Studies conclude that sleep deprived people have significantly lower levels of performance in all areas than those that sleep well consistently.
The amount of sleep needed per night can vary from person to person. Studies indicate that people are generally most effective when they sleep an average of 7 hours, but people find anywhere between 5 and 8 hours okay for them. However, it’s important to get at least 4 hours of continuous sleep in order to reach the deep level of sleep that your body needs to replenish itself.
Some people find that they are too stimulated at night and are unable to fall asleep. In this case caffeine or too much sugar in the diet may be the culprit. If work and other life stresses are keeping you awake, meditation, relaxation techniques or calming herbal teas or supplements may help. Passion Flower, Valerian root, magnesium and skullcap are some of the natural supplements that may help you to relax and calm the mind and body.
Many people are able to fall asleep easily, but awake often after falling asleep. This happens often between the hours of 3am and 4am. This can be caused by a blood sugar imbalance during the night and a resulting adrenal gland dysfunction, and can usually be remedied by adjusting your food intake prior to bedtime. If this happens to you more than once a week or on a regular basis, try eating a blood sugar balancing snack before bed. Eat something with 10 to 20 grams of lean protein and about the same amount of complex carbohydrates. For example, half of a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, or a few ounces of lean meat with a quarter to half cup of brown rice. Including some healthy fats like avocado or olive oil in small amounts. This can help keep your blood sugar balance also. The worst thing to do would be to eat a sugary or carbohydrate laden snack before bed, like a sugary cereal with milk. This will increase your blood sugar and the resulting drop 2-4 hours later will wake you up – sometimes with your heart pounding.
If diet is not the cause or is only part of the cause of your sleep problems, digestion may be part of the problem. If you have gas, bloating, constipation, hemorrhoids or other digestive issues this may be contributing to your poor sleep. The proper nutritional testing could show anything from imbalanced gut flora, lack of digestive enzymes, food sensitivities, lack of vitamins, minerals or amino acids or a lack of water and fiber in the diet. These can all be contributing to sleep problems.
Recent science shows us that our digestive systems are home to many of the same receptors that accept the brain chemicals that govern our moods. An imbalance in these neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) like serotonin, epinephrine and dopamine can cause irritability and insomnia. We now know that an imbalance in our gut lining can have an effect on our brain chemistry and change our moods. The old sayings a gut feeling and nervous stomach seem to ring true here. So if your digestive system is chronically inflamed with irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, colitis or any other gut issues these may be the cause of insomnia and mood problems. Clear up the gut issues and the moods and sleep may become normalized.
Some of the more common supplements effective for supporting healthy sleep are valerian, 5 HTP, L-theanine, omega 3 like fish oil capsules, inositol, adrenal glandular, skullcap, glycine and magnesium. The trick is having a nutrition science expert to help you figure out what exactly your body needs to restore balance. This is where a proper health history, symptom and mood assessments come in. Targeted nutrition means getting the supplements and foods you need at the right times and in the correct amounts. Many of my clients clear up chronic sleep problems and lose weight in the process! Studies show that sleep problems and the associated stress and secretion of the adrenal hormone cortisol can cause weight gain and an inability to lose weight.
Even those dependent on sleeping pills like Ambien, alcohol or other sedatives are sleeping soundly now using natural methods. It’s a matter of figuring out where your body is out of balance and than using the correct foods and supplements to get it back into balance. This is what we have always done at Nutrition Solutions and it works! Feel free to visit my website for even more information. Questions are welcomed.
Juli Keene, CN Nutrition Solutions
1603 Aviation Blvd. Suite B
Redondo Beach, CA 90278