How to Improve Sleep Quality
POSSIBLE KEY CAUSES OF SLEEP PROBLEMS
- Low Melatonin & Serotonin
- Insufficient exposure to Light during the day
- Lack of Exercise
- Nutritional deficiencies (B Vitamins, Magnesium, Zinc)
- Emotional Stress, Anxiety, Depression
- Stimulants (Caffeine, etc.)
- Hormonal imbalance (low Oestrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone)
- Sleeping environment (Noise, Light)
- Obstructive Sleep Apnoea
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has shown for the first time that sleep loss can lead to irreversible brain damage!
BENEFICIAL SUPPLEMENTS & HERBS
- Ashwagandha, according to numerous studies, reduces stress levels, anxiety & sleep problems; Promotes feeling of calmness and relaxation by enhancing GABA signalling and serotonin levels in the brain. Ashwagandha’s Latin name “somnifera” can be translated as “sleep-inducing”. The anti-anxiety effect of Ashwagandha may be also due to the ability of Withanolides to mimic the activity of the calming neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which reduces overactivity in neurons, acting as a nerve tonic and helping relax, improve mood, reduce anxiety, and promote good sleep. (>) In the 12-week 2009 study, a standard multi-vitamin and 300 milligrams of Ashwagandha twice daily decreased anxiety levels by 55 percent without side effects or adverse reaction. Significant improvements in vitality, energy levels and overall quality of life, were also noticed (>). In a 2000 experimental study involving rats, Ashwagandha proved to have antidepressant properties. It was concluded that it can be used as a mood stabilizer in clinical conditions of depression (>). In a study involving 64 people suffering from chronic stress found that supplementing Ashwagandha for two months decreased stress by 44% and significantly improved mood. According to a 60-day trial stressed adults who took 600mg of Ashwagandha extract every day reported a 79% reduction in severe depression (>).
- Medical research indicates that taking 5-HTP Tryptophan before bedtime can help trigger sleepiness and delay wake times. Specialists believe tryptophan brings on sleep by boosting levels of serotonin, a body chemical that promotes relaxation. Increasing serotonin tryptophan also helps to boost melatonin as it is made of serotonin. However, consumers should take this supplement with caution as it may adversely interact with certain antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and others,
- Magnesium citrate (high in elemental magnesium), taken one hour before bed, has been shown to relax nervous system and help induce sleep and improve sleep quality.
- One study showed that Lemon balm was able to improve mood and significantly increased self-ratings of calmness.
- A good quality multivitamin-mineral formula, high in B-complex vitamins, and containing also zinc: 1-2 tablets after breakfast.
- Vitamin B12 (in the form of sublingual methylcobalamin) – 1000mcg under the tongue only after breakfast may help induce sleep especially in people over 60 years old as they have problems with absorbing B12 from food due to inability to produce intrinsic factor in the stomach. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is reported to help insomniacs who have problems falling asleep. The research indicated that as a result of taking B12 supplementation total length of sleep decreases while restorativeness of sleep increases. It is also important to know that many people who are B12 deficient never get into deep sleep, although they may have enough of shallow, non-restorative sleep. But although deficiency of B12 can cause difficulties with falling asleep and therefore supplementation helps to cope with it yet the same B12 can also cause some problems with sleeping as it increases alertness and energy. For this reason take B12 only in the morning and try to not overdose it. Also any B vitamin, Chlorella, Ginseng, Acetyl L-carnitine, Fumarate or DHEA and many other energy boosting supplements and herbs should be taken only in the morning as they all are known to increase energy and mental alertness.
- Melatonin supplements do not give the same results as the body’s own melatonin. Although melatonin supplements initially may improve sleep quality yet as a sleep inducer it has been disappointing. Some studies discovered that synthetic melatonin can even trigger many side effects including dizziness or headaches. In addition, taking melatonin pills may cause your body to stop producing it on its own hormone. So it is much better to provide your body with everything it needs to make melatonin (5-HTP tryptophan, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, increase serotonin, etc.) and consume foods that may contain some natural melatonin or boost body’s melatonin. According to researchers most effective were pineapples and bananas. Other fruits help as well but they are not as efficient as pineapples and bananas.
- Exercise vigorously every day outside (especially in the morning) exposing your body to the sunlight (whenever it is possible). Exercising for at least 30 minutes every day can help you fall asleep. However, don’t exercise too close to bedtime or you will find that you can’t sleep. The brain compensates for physical activity by shortening the lighter stages of sleep and prolonging deep sleep. You sleep much more soundly and deeply after exercising.
- Every day have some complex carbohydrates (fresh and dried fruits, bananas, whole grains, etc.)
- Eat more foods with fibre: raw vegetables, fresh cold pressed vegetable juices, barley, bananas, brown rice, whole oats, cooked organic soya beans and organic Tofu, ground sesame seeds, beans including especially black-eyed peas, black walnuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. Researchers from the Columbia University’s Medical Centre discovered that a low-fibre diet and consumption of refined foods (white flour products, white rice, etc.), products high in sugar and saturated fat can prevent us from having a good night’s sleep. The same study also discovered that even one single day of eating too little fibre and too much saturated fat can disturb the night’s sleep. On the other hand, being on a healthy unrefined plant-based (high in fibre) diet also helps to fall asleep faster. According to the results of the study participants on the high-fibre diet fell asleep within 17 minutes, whereas those eating refined and high-fat diet fell asleep in 29 minutes.
- Apply cold compress on your forehead for about 30 minutes before trying to fall asleep.
- Avoid stimulants including caffeine, black and green tea, chocolate, cocoa, cola drinks, alcohol, cannabis, nicotine, energy drinks, mate teas, etc.
- Reduce consumption of: meat products, cheese, sugar, white flour products, refined grains, spirit vinegar, pizza, wheat, refined salt (use only Celtic, pink or sea salt instead).
- Sleep in complete darkness.
- Make sure you your blood sugar level is not too low (hypoglycaemia). In case it is low treat hypoglycaemia by regular exercise and diet high in fibre and free from sugar and other, mentioned above, refined products.
- During the day you should drink 3 times 2-3 glasses of water but don’t drink any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed. Go to the bathroom right before bed.
- Make your evening meal the smallest of the day.
- In the evening, avoid foods that trigger the secretion of brain-stimulating hormones. The most common are: ham, bacon, sausage, cheese, chocolate, and wine.
- A warm bath decreases the time taken to fall asleep and prolongs the duration of deep sleep. Do not have this bath within one hour of bedtime as it raises body temperature and you may find you can’t sleep until your temperature drops somewhat.
- Listen to calming music before bedtime.
- Stay away from anxiety provoking activities or thoughts near bedtime.
- No watching TV before bed. You may find your brain is stimulated to the point you can’t sleep.
- Have your room cool, ideally 16-18 degrees C (60-65 F)
- Avoid bed time snacks such as grains and sugary foods as they raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep.
- Electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) can disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin. Stay away from electrical devices especially electric blankets.
- If you can’t sleep after 30 minutes, get up and do something relaxing.
Written by Slawomir Gromadzki, MPH
REFERENCES & SOURCES
Journal of Neuroscience 19 March 2014, 34(12): 4418-4431
Johns NP, Johns J, Porasuphatana S, Plaimee P, Sae-Teaw M. Dietary intake of melatonin from tropical fruit altered urinary excretion of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin in healthy volunteers. J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Jan 30;61(4):913-9.
Realnatural News. Research Confirms Tart Cherries Help Sleep Quality and Duration. http://www.realnatural.org/research-confirms-tart-cherries-help-sleep-quality/
Adams C. NATURAL SLEEP SOLUTIONS FOR INSOMNIA: The Science of Sleep, Dreaming, and Nature’s Sleep Remedies. Logical Books, 2011.
Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Dec;51(8):909-16.
Any information or product suggested on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition. Never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Consult your primary healthcare physician before using any supplements or making any changes to your regime.