A Sleep Symposium
By Megan Barber, Grocery and Wellness Buyer, Merchandising Manager, Co-op Owner
A solid snooze is key to not only looking and feeling your best, but also is irreplaceable for brain health, memory, weight management, pain, and mood. When that siesta is interrupted or you just can’t fall asleep, the lack of downtime will start to impact your body’s appearance, functions, immune system, memory, concentration, and mood. While it’s always the best call to first try lifestyle changes, certain supplements have a history of helping.
Lifestyle changes and adjustments to your diet and actions could provide relief for wakefulness:
- Not eating or drinking caffeine should be an easy solution, but certain foods have sneaky caffeine levels. These include: chocolate, hot chocolate, some teas, soda, some headache medications, some ice creams and cereals containing chocolate and coffee ingredients, and even decaffeinated coffees still contain caffeine levels that could impact your sleep. Also try avoiding nicotine due to its stimulating effects on the body. Avoid spicy foods late at night as well as eating in general before bed. Exercising during the day has been shown to reduce the stress that can lead to an inability to fall asleep.
- Create a bedroom of comfort by de-cluttering the space, deep cleaning the room and your mattress and bedding, lower the temperature, close curtains and avoid unnecessary light, avoid screen time before and in bed, don’t sleep with televisions on, and unfortunately, you might consider kicking out pets that sleep on the bed as they often can create noise, and motion.
- Create a regular routine before dropping into bed at night. Try showering, reading, meditating, putting on quiet relaxing music, or a combination of the above to get your body thinking about snoozing soon. Going to bed at the same time every night also gets your body and mind in the habit of knowing when it’s time to sleep. Waking up at the same time is also beneficial unless you’ve lost a few hours of sleep recently. In that case, sleeping in or going to bed earlier can help your body reclaim that lost time slumbering.
- Avoid napping during the day unless you cannot schedule 7+ hours at night. Naps can further disrupt your sleep. If you need to nap, aim for an hour in the afternoons and never after 3:00pm typically.
When lifestyle changes just aren’t enough, don’t seem to be improving the quality of your sleep, or aren’t applicable, supplements may be of assistance. The most common natural supplements include:
- L-Tryptophan: is absorbed into the brain where it is converted into serotonin and melatonin which in turn promotes relaxation and drowsiness. These natural chemicals are produced by your body to help you achieve a better mood and regulate your sleep schedule.
- 5-HTTP: assists with serotonin creation in the brain which impacts sleep, mood, appetite, and body temperature. Because 5-HTP helps produce serotonin which then converts to melatonin, the body can then use the melatonin to maintain a healthy cycle of sleeping and waking.
- Melatonin: you can take melatonin by itself, usually in low doses, to naturally maintain sleep regulation, immune systems, and digestion support. This supplement helps reset your body to better recognize being awake with the sun and sleeping with the fall of night.
- Valerian Root: has been used for ages to assist in sleep. It works to calm the brain and nervous system and associated stresses. Studies have shown that people who take valerian both fall sleep faster and wake up with more energy.
- Passion flower: has also been used for a long time as a calming and sleep aid. It has been shown to reduce stress and tension while helping users fall sleep quicker and wake less throughout the night.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. As always, if you find your waking life drastically impacted or impaired, you can’t sleep well for days on end, or this is an ongoing issue, you should consult your physician or a sleep specialist.