-by Dr. Nicole Klughers | 03/02/2017 |
Life is but a dream, right?
Sleep is a naturally occurring state, where the body and the mind periodically enter a state of regulated restoration for another invigorating day. Sleep is in fact a very active process, regulated by different hormones, and a time when self-healing is in full effect. To get the full benefits of sleep’s restorative and holistic healing power, you must observe a recurring quality sleep daily.
Who needs sleep, anyway?
Although some seem to function better than others on little sleep, the truth of the matter is - we all need sleep to maintain health and prevent disease. Aside from the restorative processes that occur during a good night's rest, quality sleep is essential for our body:
- Keeps memory healthy
- Increases lifespan
- Boosts creativity
- Boosts the immune system
- Reduces risk of depression
- Improves physical performance
- Increases alertness
- Reduces stress
- Improves body’s self-healing
What are the consequences of crummy sleep?
A sleep study by the Center for Disease Control shows that more than one-third of American adults aren’t getting enough sleep. This situation, unless the individuals find a way to improve their lack of normal and optimal sleep, could result in grievous consequences, including:
- Early death
- Poor quality of life
- Memory loss and associated brain problems
- Heart diseases
- Weakened immune system
- Mental disorders
- Low productivity
What can I do besides take a sleeping pill?
Holistic healing with naturopathic medicine emphasizes the use of natural therapies to activate the body’s natural healing process through ancient healing methods aligned with modern biomedical science. The result of this encourages the prevention of illness and the approach aims to uncover and address the underlying causation of health issues. Utilizing food as medicine is one of the most important ways to address chronic sleep issues and optimal nutrition is an exceptional way to create a foundation of total life wellness.
So, what can I eat to get some super sleep?
Wholesome natural foods are best for wellbeing and longevity. This means food in their unprocessed, natural form, ideally with avoidance of pesticides. Shopping the perimeter of the grocery store helps you avoid processed foods and stick to the produce (vegetables and fruits), fish, poultry, meats, dairy, nuts and seeds.
Some foods containing a compound called tryptophan stimulate necessary sleep hormones, promoting a sense of subtle calmness as you drift into sleep. Other foods provide good ratios of adequate protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates, which provide proper nourishment to stabilize blood sugar and allow for rest. Individual dietary needs are unique to each person and for that reason it is often helpful to work with a nutrition expert when aiming to implement the diet best for you. Specific portion sizes are also important to consider to ensure you are taking in the right amount of nutrients for your body – and not in excess or deficiency. Here are some foods which encourage you to have super sleep:
- Cage-free eggs
- Wild fish (salmon, cod, sardine, anchovy)
- Pasture-raised poultry
- Grass-fed dairy products
- Sesame seeds, cashews, and walnuts
- Grass-fed beef or lamb
- Sweet potatoes
Why tryptophan containing foods?
Tryptophan is one of the eight essential amino acids in the human diet and is necessary for making vitamins and hormones in the body. The body cannot produce it and therefore it must be obtained from foods or supplements. The consumption of tryptophan-rich foods results in a source of tryptophan molecules, which produce vitamin B3 (niacin) and 5-HTP nutrients. These nutrients are further metabolized to produce serotonin and melatonin, which are required for causing natural and restful sleep.
Why can't I just sleep?
Like all animals, the human body is designed with an internal clock to make us sleep for a certain number of hours at a certain time of the day. This means there should be no reason for anyone not to sleep at the right time or get a less amount of sleep, right? Apparently not! Our gaps in nutrition, busy lifestyle and stimulating environment have changed everything! When the body is low in serotonin from diet and lifestyle habits, there will be an insufficient production of melatonin required for sleep. The low serotonin will also lead to sleep disruptions, anxiety, increased hunger, and low mood.
In addition to less melatonin sleep hormone activation, where and how you sleep matters. Natural sleep requires a dark environment to activate the release of melatonin. The wisdom of your body is so amazing that the presence of any light stimulates hormones to be awake and darkness triggers that sleepy feeling.
What if I just take medicine or supplements to sleep?
Unless thoroughly discussing with your physician, avoid taking tryptophan or melatonin supplements and sedative medications to induce sleep. Taking these supplements or medications can have long-term interference with your body’s natural ability to produce melatonin and can be habit-forming. In addition, supplements can interact with other medications you may be on, especially anti-depressants or medicines affecting your serotonin.
All this talk about sleep and I'm ready to hit the hay…
Sleep is a vast subject and everyone can benefit from better quality sleep. Most people are of the impression that when they exercise, undergo stress management and eat quality food, they will be in good health; nothing is farther from the truth without good sleep. Therefore, think well, live well, eat well, and sleep well. Happy night’s rest for a happier life!
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