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What to eat for a good night’s sleep

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Ah, the comforts of sleep. You can go to bed worn out and wake up refreshed and with a spring in your step. Recognize this wisdom on the power of sleep? “...innocent sleep. Sleep that soothes away all our worries. Sleep that puts each day to rest. Sleep that relieves the weary laborer and heals hurt minds. Sleep, the main course in life’s feast, and the most nourishing.” This is the modern English version of Macbeth’s speech on “sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care.” Shakespeare may have been a playwright, but his description of the benefits and importance of sleep is right on the money.

These are just a few of the lovely benefits of sleep. Modern research shows that sleep is essential to good health and well-being—especially a sound sleep in which you have dreams. Dr. Mercola’s interview with Dr. Rubin Naiman, an expert in sleep and dreams, points out that cutting short your sleep—especially the tail end of your sleep, when you are dreaming—is like ripping the last few pages out of a novel—very frustrating. You need sufficient sleep every night and a complete dream cycle in order to be at your best.

Sleep problems are rampant in today’s world. In fact, many people are literally desperate for sleep. Think of Michael Jackson, whose illegal use of the anesthetic Propofol to get to sleep ended his life far too early. While there are some medical conditions that can cause insomnia, for most of us the path to a good night’s sleep consists of a few simple things.

One of the most important ways to promote sleep is to make your environment sleep-friendly. In order to sleep, you need a cool, dark room. I turn the temperature down at night, and I keep my bedroom dark. I also keep things out of my bedroom that will distract me, like evidence of tasks that will nag at me to be done. When I get in bed to go to sleep, I want sleep to be my priority. Everything else can wait until the next day.

Your mental environment is as important as your physical environment. Worry, anxiety, and distress will go on endlessly if you let them. Park them outside your bedroom door and take them up again the next day if you must. Unless your life is being immediately threatened by a present danger, you don’t need to worry at bedtime. In fact, the more you allow worry to disturb your sleep, the less you will be able to solve your problems. You need to be well rested for that, and sometimes all it takes is a good night’s sleep to recognize that there is a simple answer to your complex problem. Many people find it easier to let go of worry when they pray, meditate, or make positive affirmations. Even counting your blessings can make it easier to fall asleep.

For a healthy sleep that includes a rich dream life, you want to go the natural route. That means eating foods that promote sleep instead of taking drugs. Sleep-inducing foods are typically healthy foods. Here are a few foods and nutrients that may help:

  • Milk or yogurt. You need sufficient calcium for a good night’s sleep, so if you’re not getting it, some milk or a cup of yogurt can help. The old adage about drinking warm milk at bedtime actually can help you sleep. I prefer organic dairy products, because I don’t want the hormones and antibiotics you get in regular ones.
  • Nuts or nut butter. Nuts provide unsaturated fats that raise your serotonin level, making it easier to fall asleep. A spoonful of almond butter or a handful or walnuts, pecans, or whatever nut you like is all you need.
  • Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach. Believe it or not, these are also good sources of calcium. If you avoid dairy products, try greens. Kroger’s carries Brad’s Raw Kale Chips, which are made from kale and also contain nuts—both good sleep inducers.
  • Bananas and cherries. Bananas and cherries are both a good source of the natural sleep-inducing hormone melatonin
  • Lean protein. Chicken, turkey, fish, and lowfat cheese are good sources of lean protein that will help you sleep. Choose organic chicken or turkey if possible; if not, get the minimally processed kind, like Miller’s chicken (available at Kroger) or Bowman & Landes turkey (available at Bowman & Landes turkey farm). Avoid lunch meats, although some are a bit better than others. Oscar Meyer Selects use natural preservatives and omit the nitrates and nitrites, for example. For fish, buy wild-caught salmon or low-mercury types of tuna. Kroger has Wild Planet low-mercury tuna in its health food section.
  • Basil. Fresh basil or dried holy basil are a calming addition to food. Try them on your evening meal.
  • Complex carbohydrates. A wholegrain cracker, a slice of wholegrain toast, some brown rice, or wholegrain pasta will help you sleep. However, non-wholegrain (i.e., white) grains and pastas do the opposite. Whole wheat bread good; white bread bad. Sugar really bad. You know the drill.
  • Herbal teas. There are some herbal blends especially made for inducing sleep, so try one of those, or else just drink chamomile or peppermint tea, which are known sleep-inducers.

Exercise will also benefit your sleep, but don’t do heavy exercise at bedtime. You’re better off doing heavy exercise early in the day. If you want to exercise again later, make it a nice leisurely, smell-the-roses kind of walk after dinner to help you unwind.

If doing all of these things still does not help, you can try a natural sleep-inducing aid like Calms Forte. Nutra Foods Huber Heights carries it.

What will work against a good night’s sleep? Caffeine, obviously. I used to drink a lot of caffeinated diet drinks, and I was convinced they weren’t bothering me. That was until I developed heart palpitations. When I went to my doctor, he said the problem was just from the caffeine. Sure enough, when I stopped drinking the pop, the palpitations stopped. Not only that, once I got through the first week or two of getting it out of my system, I felt terrific, both physically and emotionally. I didn’t realize until I gave up caffeine how much it had been affecting me.

Any toxic substance you use can alter your ability to sleep. This includes anything from smoking to drinking alcohol, as well as taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. If you have to take prescription drugs, try a little mini-detox between doses. A couple of chlorella tablets or some liquid clay will help your body unload some of that toxicity. Just don’t detox at the same time you take your medications; the detox could make your medications less effective.

Heavy meals or stimulating meals are also not a good idea if you want to sleep, especially close to bedtime. Instead, if you’re hungry at bedtime have a light snack of sleep-inducing foods—yogurt with a banana cut up in it, some almond butter on a wholegrain cracker. If you’re really hungry, have half a turkey sandwich with a slice of cheese on whole-grain bread.

If you try all of these suggestions and still have trouble sleeping, you may want to see your doctor to find out whether there is an underlying medical condition or depression causing your insomnia. For most people, though, just creating a good sleep environment and including some sleep-inducing foods will be enough to take you into a sweet, restful sleep and on into dreamland.

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