Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Can't Sleep at Night? 5 Sleep Tips for Sleep Awareness Week

Poor sleep can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. So if you haven't been getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep lately, Sleep Awareness Week (March 6 - March 13) is the time to correct that. 

There could be several reasons why you're not sleeping soundly at night: Hormonal imbalance, drinking alcohol or eating a big meal before you go to bed, and the blue light from your smartphone, TV and computer screen are all factors that can disrupt your sleep. 

And sleeplessness can certainly become more problematic when Daylight Saving Time kicks in on March 13. As we spring forward, here are five natural tips that will help to restore your healthy sleep routine:

1. Take a hot bath or shower. "A great way to help your body start its melatonin production is to take a bath or shower," says sleep expert James Wilson. "Melatonin is a hormone made naturally by our bodies which helps create the urge to fall asleep and is key in regulating your body's internal clock. The fall in body temperature we experience when we get out of the bath or shower is a signal to the body to start producing melatonin."

2. Get enough magnesium. Studies show that when the body’s magnesium levels are too low, it makes it harder to stay asleep. "Magnesium helps the body relax by ensuring the GABA receptors in our brain and nervous system are working as efficiently as possible," adds Wilson. "GABA receptors help the brain switch off and without it our brains would continue to race. It’s also essential for allowing your muscles to relax, particularly after stress or exercise."

Spinach, lentils and kidney beans also contain high amounts of magnesium. The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brian Tanzer recommends trying a morning green smoothie using 1 cup of spinach or kale along with some fruit and plant-based protein powder. 



Melatonin gummies from the Vitamin Shoppe.


3. Try an herbal supplement or tea. There are several natural sleep supplements on the market. Natrol and the Vitamin Shoppe make helpful melatonin supplements; Gaia's Adrenal Health Nightly Restore supplement has Ashwagandha root extract; and Pukka makes a nice night time tea made with organic oat flower, lavender and lime flower.

4. Nuts and seeds. Walnuts and sunflower seeds are an excellent source of Vitamin B6, which is required for the normal production of neurotransmitters as well as melatonin. Tanzer suggests you  mix 1.5 oz of nuts and seeds into a smoothie, a cup of unflavored Greek yogurt, or enjoy them right out of the package. 

5. Put a cherry on top. Cherries provide naturally-occurring melatonin, which is the regulator of the sleep/wake cycle. Eat cherries right out of the bowl, says Tanzer, or add 1 cup tart cherry juice to 2 cups sparkling water for a nice after dinner spritzer. 


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