Sunday, May 15, 2011

Good Night and Sweet Dreams… and How to Get Them!

We all know the value of a good night’s sleep.  It allows us to awaken in the morning refreshed and ready for the day.  It also helps keep our bodies functioning optimally by regenerating our entire system. 

Melatonin and Regeneration
The processes of internal regeneration that occur during sleep are controlled by a hormone known as melatonin.  Melatonin is created by the pineal gland and is produced most effectively in the dark and when our body temperature lowers as we sleep.

Digestion and Melatonin Production
For the correct amount of melatonin to occur in the body during the night, the best protocol is to have your evening meal as early as possible. Make sure the foods you eat in your final meal of the day are the easiest to digest, which means that raw food should be eaten during lunchtime instead.  Raw foods require a fermentation process within the organs that is necessary for metabolic function. This process requires energy that causes the body temperature to increase.  We often think that having a salad for dinner is a good way to lose weight, which it is, but there is a cost to the sleeping process and the associated inner recuperation necessary for total health. 

Zinc and B6
The presence of zinc and vitamin B6 in the diet help with melatonin production so essential to a good night’s sleep.  Zinc is present in:

·      Almonds
·      Cashews
·      Brazil nuts
·      Walnuts
·      Peanuts
·      Artichokes
·      Cauliflower
·      Onions
·      Avocados
·      Bananas
·      Blackberries
·      Lima beans
·      Garbanzo beans
·      Parmesan cheese
·      Milk
·      Yogurt
·      Eggs
·      Brewers yeast
·      Dark meat chicken
·      Turkey

Vitamin B6 is present in:

·      Sunflower seeds
·      Hazelnuts
·      Cashews
·      Whole grains
·      Bananas
·      Yams
·      Broccoli
·      Asparagus
·      Garlic
·      Tuna
·      Salmon
·      Cod
·      Turkey

Tryptophan and Sleep
Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps to stimulate the production of melatonin as well as another sleep-inducing substance called serotonin, which helps to reduce
symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Tryptophan helps  build relaxing neurotransmitters in the brain, helping you get the good night sleep you need.  Complex carbohydrates help to release this calming substance by stimulating insulin release to clear away certain amino acids that interfere with tryptophan production.  Some foods that are high in tryptophan include:

·      Dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt
·      Soy products
·      Brown rice
·      Seeds
·      Bananas
·      Turkey

A good dinner for sleep might include a pasta dish with organic parmesan cheese, scrambled eggs, a savory tofu stir fry with veggies, steamed veggies over rice noodles, or hummus with whole wheat pita bread. 

Body Temperature and Diet
Body temperature is tied in with food intake. The energy content of food is generally measured in kilo-calories, which indicates units of warmth.  This means that the more we eat at night, the harder it is to lower the body temperature to effectively produce melatonin.  Because digestion requires energy, foods that require the body to do the most digestive work are the ones that will inhibit our ability to make sufficient amounts of melatonin to restore the body during every night’s sleep.  Make dinner the lightest meal of the day and see how well you sleep during the night! 

Say No to Night Time Protein and Caffeine
Besides being harder to digest and thus adding heat to the organs, high protein foods contain the amino acid tyrosine, which activates the brain.  Staying away from meat and other dense proteins will help your body maintain the necessary balance to produce enough melatonin to induce a deep and restful sleep.

We all know by now that anything containing caffeine speeds up the nervous system as well as other areas in the body, raising the level of adrenaline. This  triggers an increased heart and breathing rate as well as the production of stomach acids.  If you want a deep night’s sleep, you definitely want to avoid caffeine as you want to cut back on internal energy levels rather than increase them.  And of course, what goes up must come down.  After the simulated uplift of caffeine comes the crash, which can lead to emotional highs and lows that require more caffeine and sugar to simulate the high!

A Hot Bath or Shower
Take a hot bath or shower before going to bed.  This helps to regulate your body temperature while soothing the nerves and paving the way out of the day into the ideal calming nature of the night.  

Calming Herbs
A hot cup of soothing tea before bedtime is another way to help one drift off  into sleep.  Chamomile, lemon balm, passionflower, skullcap, and valerian root are some very effective herbs that can be taken alone or combined as  a sleep-inducing tea.  There are also several very good commercially packaged tea combinations that you can find in your local health food store.  St. John’s Wort is another valuable herb that can be taken in capsule form if you find it difficult to sleep, especially if this is due to tension and anxiety.

Note:  Before embarking on an herbal protocol for sleep inducement, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider.

Electromagnetic Waves and Sleep,  or the Lack Thereof
One of the greatest deterrents to sleep are the electromagnetic waves produced by our computers, cell phones, televisions, and the like.  The more you are exposed to these waves during the night, the less melatonin is produced by your body.  Making sure your bedroom is free of electromagnetic currents is essential if you want a healthily functioning body.  This means keeping all your technological goodies in another room, or unplugging them completely before you go to sleep.  Keeping a cell phone by the bed is not a good idea as the electromagnetic waves are too close to the head, which can affect the depth and quality of your sleep.  And don’t go to sleep with the TV on!  Don’t just turn off the switch, unplug the cord to prevent any electromagnetic waves from penetrating your precious organs.

Do Your Homework
There are many other additional ways to improve sleep, including deep breathing protocols (pranayamas) and meditation.  I encourage you to look more profoundly into diet and lifestyle changes that will help you achieve the ideal melatonin output and reduction of stress so your body can naturally rejuvenate and regenerate itself.  We all have the ability to enjoy a long, healthy life free of dis-ease.  It just may require some adjustments, discipline, and a new way of looking at our old habits. 

And with this… I wish you a good night and sweet dreams…

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