What is Insomnia?
Sleep has actually become the new medicine. Going against the circadian rhythm )which is the 24- hour internal clock that is running in the shadows of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and staying alert at intervals) will only hurt you in the long-run. It works at its optimum when you have regular sleep cycles. When long working hours, jet lag, watching TV till the wee hours of the morning; you disrupt the circadian rhythm.
Insomnia is defined as difficulty in falling asleep or even staying asleep. Chronic insomnia can have many causes: changes in your home environment or travelling too much, if you are on medication, more prevalent amongst airline crew, people who work in shifts, people with sleep apnea. I use to be a sleep deprived person at one time, my friend would always say “if I could gift you anything, I would gift you a good night’s sleep.” It’s taken me years to work hard at cultivating good food and lifestyle habits to aid my sleep. Now, I sleep like a baby.
What does the body need to help insomnia?
Tryptophan is an amino acid that promotes sleep and is found in protein-rich foods in small ammounts. It is a precursor to the sleep-inducing compounds serotonin (neurotransmitter) and melatonin (a hormone, acting like a neurotransmitter). Tryptophan will need to cross the blood- brain barrier to have a positive effect. However, eating a protein alone will not work; eating both carbohydrates and protein in the same meal, which releases insulin, will clear out the amino acids that sometimes stop tryptophan from entering the brain.
How to overcome insomnia?
While food is the foundation of ever thing that goes wrong on a sleep-front. We must also strive towards lifestyle habits and using other therapies to help balance sleep patterns.
Foods to help sleep
Amongst the foods that are used on a Macrobiotic approach –
- Brown rice and millets contains complex carbohydrates, and high ammounts of magnesium and vitamins B3 and B6 that aid sleep; plus, when combine with a good quality protein will also help clear out other amino acids to aid tryptophan absorption.
- If you eat meats, then lean meats like chicken and turkey have high levels of tryptophan.
- Leafy greens, have magnesium, B6 all aiding serotonin.
Stay away from the following that will not help with sleep –
- Sugary foods, including colas and aerated beverages.
- Processed and packaged foods with additives.
- Simple carbohydrates, made with refined flours.
- Coffee and caffeine in anything.
- Quit smoking, nicotine does not help.
- Spicy foods.
- High saturated fats in meats, and high protein in them; will take longer to digest and will keep you up.
- Ice cream has both sugar and saturated fat and does not work as a night-time dessert.
- Quit medications if possible, unless necessary; especially pain medication.
On a lifestyle-front, implement the following –
- Stick to a regular sleep-schedule daily, which means sleeping at the same time.
- Exercise every single day, this promotes endorphins and also gets you nicely tired.
- Don’t take afternoon naps (unless they are power naps)
- Always unwind for at least 45 minutes (reading always helps)
- Doing some yoga nidra takes you to the going-to-sleep stage (a meditation that calms you helps in sleeping better).
- Having a hot shower always helps.
- Lavender and frankincense aroma oils in a diffuser or on pulse points aid sleep.
- Creating an atmosphere conducive to sleep, like keeping the lights dim and keeping iPads, and phones away from the bedroom.
- Sitting in the sun, and get a good dose of vitamin D also aids sleep, and re-tunes the body clock.
- The bedroom is from sleep and sex only; stick to only these activities when in bed.