Reports suggest that 30-40 percent of the population of the United States suffer from problems with either getting to sleep or staying asleep. But the problem is not confined to America – millions around the world suffer from insomnia.
Before you reach for the sleeping pills, consider the alternatives. There are many natural remedies to improve your sleeping – and we’re not talking about quaint folk remedies, like eating the eyes of an owl. No, there are natural foods and drinks that can help you get a good night’s rest.
The traditional glass of hot milk is a great help. While just the ritual of preparing the drink sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep, milk contains calcium that can help overcome sleeplessness. Add a little malt, which is rich in B-vitamins, or honey, which helps your liver burn off fat, top off with some ground nutmeg, a strong sedative used for centuries, and you’ve got a powerful, sleep-inducing drink.
A little live yoghurt can be a great help in reducing the effects of indigestion, a sure sleep-killer and source of nighttime restlessness. A whey protein shake is easily digested too. Or perhaps a snack of cheese and crackers – high fat foods make you drowsy
If dairy products are not your thing, consider a cup of green tea, mint tea or camomile tea. Or possibly an infusion of valerian root or hops, both traditional insomnia remedies. Mint has the advantage that it helps digestion and calms the nerves.
Maybe you’re feeling a bit peckish and want something a bit more substantial than just a drink, so how about a turkey sandwich? White bread contains high GI carbohydrates, which shorten the time before sleep onset, while turkey is rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps the body produce seratonin, which in turn acts as a calming agent.
A vegetarian? OK, replace the turkey with lettuce (lactucarium, a sleep inducer) or green vegetables, which contain magnesium, calcium and B-vitamins. Non meat-eaters can also consider quinoa, a fat-free source of essential amino acids.
If you want to try fish before bedtime, go for herrings – they are rich in fatty omega 3 acids, which boost the chemicals involved in falling asleep.
Cavemen knew a thing or two as well – seeds, nuts and cereals before bed will send you to sleep faster than a knock on the head with a stone-age club. Seeds contain an impressive mixture of anti-oxidants, protein, magnesium, selenium and calcium as well as zinc, which has the added benefit of helping reproductive organs to stay healthy. So if the other ingredients fail to send you to sleep…
Cereals such as oats contain good amounts of tryptophan and carbohydrates, but go for the wholegrain cereals – leave the Coco Pops packet in the pantry. Add some nuts – high in magnesium, sometimes called “nature’s tranquiliser” – to your cereal and you have a potent sleeping mixture.
Can’t be bothered with making sandwiches or bowls of cereals? Just unzip a banana, yet another good source of vitamins and tryptophan and as simple as can be.
If all else fails, why not drown your sorrows in a glass of red wine? If the melatonin doesn’t help you get to sleep, at least you’ll enjoy being awake!