Nov 232010

natural sleep remediesHaving trouble sleeping? Try these natural sleep remedies.

Remember when eating too much at Thanksgiving would put you to sleep? One in three Americans is plagued by insomnia, the National Institutes of Health estimates, and 10% of them struggle for shut-eye every night. While a glass of warm milk at bedtime may be comforting, there’s little evidence that it actually helps you fall asleep. That doesn’t mean you can ignore your diet though. What you eat and drink does play a role in falling and staying asleep. If you have trouble sleeping, try these simple changes in your eating habits:

Avoid large meals late in the day. Your metabolic rate and body temperature will increase when they should be decreasing. This makes it harder to get to sleep. It is wise not to eat a large meal within two hours of bedtime.

Eat a small snack several hours before bedtime. Hunger pangs can wake you up, so don’t go to sleep hungry. Choose a small, healthy snack, such as a small bowl of oatmeal or cereal with low-fat milk, or yogurt with granola sprinkled on top. Carbohydrate foods that break down quickly during digestion have higher glycemic rankings. These foods may help you fall asleep in half the usual time if you eat them within 4 hours of bedtime by speeding up the release of tryptophan and serotonin, brain chemicals that promote sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid, occurring naturally in turkey. Another natural source is cottage cheese.

Avoid heavy, spicy foods, especially if you’re prone to heartburn. Eating too much may cause you to feel physically uncomfortable when lying down. Slow down; digestion is a process, and your food needs to be properly digested before initiating sleep. Some people use supplemental digestive enzymes. The most popular are bromelain, extracted pineapple, and papain, from papayas. [Note: People should be aware that the use of digestive enzymes is not suggested when there is inflammation of the stomach lining.]

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Don’t drink too much liquid. Drinking lots of fluids before bed can cause you to wake up repeatedly to use the bathroom.

Avoid caffeine. A stimulant, caffeine increases the activity of your nervous system, which makes falling asleep more difficult. Avoid caffeinated beverages at least eight hours before your desired bedtime. Your body doesn’t store caffeine, but it does take many hours for it to eliminate the stimulant and its effects. Even decaf coffee and chocolate contain small amounts of caffeine.

Avoid alcohol. Although it may initially make you feel sleepy, alcohol prevents deeper stages of REM sleep, and often causes you to awaken in the middle of the night. Try to stick with wine at dinner…or margaritas at the beach!

Get exercise, but not close to bedtime. Everyone’s body temperature naturally goes up slightly in the daytime and back down at night, reaching its low just before dawn. Decreasing body temperature seems to be a trigger, signaling the body that it’s time to sleep. Vigorous exercise temporarily raises the body temperature for up to five hours. A lower body temperature will help you sleep better.

Nearly everyone has occasional sleepless nights; but did you know that sleep is also important for your health? People who have chronic sleep loss are also at a higher risk of being obese, having heart disease and diabetes. If you have trouble sleeping on a regular or frequent basis, see your doctor. He or she can determine what might be the cause of your sleep problem and how it might be treated. If your doctor thinks you could have a sleep disorder, you might be referred to a sleep center for special testing. And try natural sleep remedies — sweet dreams!

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