October 17, 2013

5 Tips to Help Us Sleep. ~ Selene Vakharia

Snow White and Sleeping Beauty had it so easy with their effortless, peaceful, never-ending slumber.

If only we all had evil stepmothers and witches in our lives to help us fall asleep!

If you’re having trouble catching some shut eye, you’re not alone. Almost 1/3 of the adult population is struggling through sleepless nights with you.

When starting to fantasize about eating poisonous apples and pricking a finger on hexed needles just for some shut-eye, these five slumber-friendly strategies may be just what the sandman ordered.

1. Frankie says magnesium.

Among its many uses, magnesium is an essential mineral for mental and physical relaxation. However, with our diets and high-stress lifestyles, we use up magnesium quickly and tend to have inadequate amounts in our bodies. In fact, magnesium is one of the most commonly deficient minerals. Low levels of this mineral can result in anxiety, an inability to manage stress, and Restless Legs Syndrome—all of which is enough to keep anyone up at night.

Magnesium supplements are available in powder, liquid or capsule form. Take 200-500 milligrams before going to bed to promote a calming effect and a more restful sleep. It’s also a good idea to make sure to get enough magnesium in our diet throughout the day. Good sources include leafy greens, kelp, almonds and cashews.

2. Sweet dreams are made of melatonin.

Melatonin is a hormone that is strongly linked with our circadian rhythm—our body’s daily biological clock. Through natural fluctuations of this hormone, we feel awake and tired at the right times during the day. At night, our pineal glands secrete more melatonin helping us to fall asleep. However, for various reasons, our melatonin production may be insufficient to trigger our ideal sleep-wake cycles.

Melatonin supplementation in doses ranging from as low as 0.1 milligrams to three milligrams can help us catch up on our beauty sleep. Success with supplementation is mostly seen in individuals that do not have adequate levels of this hormone. If your sleeplessness is from other causes, this may not be the answer for you.

3. Think a nightcap will help? Try a zinc cocktail.

Zinc is an essential micronutrient that is connected with mood, immunity, cognitive function, skin health, and sleep. Between our nutrient-depleted soil, its low absorbability rates, and our often increased need for this mineral, we tend to have low levels of zinc.

Supplementing with zinc in combination with magnesium and melatonin approximately one hour before bed can make it easier to fall asleep. This dreamy cocktail can also improve the quality of your sleep and help you feel alert and awake in the morning.

4. Skip the sheep; count breaths instead.

When the mind is racing, drifting away into the land of sleep and dreams is anything but possible. This is when a mini meditation session can be the answer. Not only will a meditation help to relax and slow thoughts down, but it might just cause us to fall asleep. Many people become nervous at the thought of stopping their thoughts, however, there are other techniques for meditation that can actually harness the power of an active mind.

Kathy Gruver, author of Conquer your Stress with Mind/Body Techniques, suggests concentrating on something repetitive such as the breath by focusing on the inhales and exhales. Gruver also recommends silently repeating “I am” whenever there is a breath in and “at peace” every time there is a breath out. This will occupy the mind while keeping away the relentless thoughts. Remember, this method is about relaxation, not creating more stress. If the usual thoughts begin creeping their way back in, let them come and pass without judgement.

5. Sleep as the Romans sleep.

Valerian has a long history of use in health and healing, including in the therapeutic practices of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Valerian is a flowering plant native to North America, Europe and Asia whose roots have traditionally been used for their sedative properties. It is also useful for improving the quality of sleep so that we wake up feeling rested and ready to take on the day. It works by calming the nervous system and relieving stress and anxiety. That means that whether anxious thoughts or just plain old insomnia are keeping us up at night valerian can help.

Valerian is available in capsule, tea, and tincture form. It’s best to take it 45 minutes to an hour before bed to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. A typical dose is anywhere from 300 to 500 milligrams as an extract, or two to three grams of the dry herb when used to make a tea.


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Asst. Ed: Jane Henderling/ Ed: Sara Crolick

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Selene Vakharia