In last week's blog, we covered three of seven strategies to help you reclaim the capacity to rest, rebuild and regenerate through sleep. Just a single night of substandard sleep has been shown to compromise multiple processes, so we owe it to ourselves to investigate alternatives to reduce sleep loss. Here are four more proven additions to your Sandman armory.
4) Eating for sleeping
If you suffer sleeping problems, there are foods and drinks to avoid and treats to embrace. Tryptophan is an amino acid building block for serotonin (the feel-good relaxer) and melatonin (the sleep-inducing, antioxidant hormone). In several studies, tryptophan has outperformed antidepressants in relaxing and lifting mood. However, a tryptophan supplement produced by genetically engineered bacteria in Japan two decades ago caused illness in many people, and tryptophan was subsequently banned in many countries. Most of those nations have since reintroduced the natural form of this amino acid, but Australia has dragged its heels, as is often the way. However, there is still a way to access this amino acid before bed. Turkey is one of the highest sources of tryptophan, and berries contain a substance that speeds the journey of this substance across the blood brain barrier. A supper snack involving a slice of turkey breast and a handful of berries serves to boost tryptophan and enhance sleep.
Calcium is the other mineral for sleep, and a good way to deliver calcium is to savour a glass of warm milk before bed.
A few grains of a high quality mountain salt placed on the tongue, immediately after a glass of water, can also serve as a remarkable calmative. Try Nutri-Salt™ from NTS Health. We give a money-back guarantee that this unique, mineral-dense mountain salt is the best salt you have ever tasted.
5) Avoid the sleep stoppers
Alcohol can put you to sleep if you drink enough, but unfortunately, it does not provide the high quality, regenerative sleep characterised by REM. There is also a tendency to awake at 3 am, as your liver struggles to detox the ethanol.
Coffee stimulates our adrenals and this is not conducive for a deep, relaxing sleep. Many people know that they cannot drink coffee after 5 pm, but many of those who continue to partake of the brown bean in the evening will lose sleep quality as a result.
Your sleep space should also be free of EMFs (electromagnetic fields) to ensure a regenerative sleep. This means that you keep the digital world out of your bedroom. This is a sacred room for sleep, lovemaking, reading and relaxing. Your phone, computer, clock radio, fridge and television are for different rooms of your house.
6) Play with the herbs and hormones
There is a strongly individual response to some of the natural solutions for sleep. Chamomile tea just before bed works a treat for some, but it barely raises a yawn amongst the more charged-up souls. Lavender essential oil sprinkled on your pillow is similarly effective for those who respond to more subtle influences. However, if your adrenals are running ragged, you may struggle to notice a difference.
The sleep hormone, melatonin, can be purchased across the counter in most countries and it will usually put the most stubborn resistor into the desired place. However, it is only possible to source a homeopathic version of melatonin in Australia, so performance can depend upon the strength of your imagination. Sorry for the cynicism, but the homeopathic version of this hormone does nothing for me personally, while the real thing always works a treat. Melatonin is also a highly protective antioxidant and it has been partnered with DHEA in some quite impressive therapy to counter breast cancer in recent studies. I always pick up a bottle of melatonin at the pharmacy at Singapore Airport when passing through.
7) Meditation and breathing for sleep
Often the greatest challenge for struggling sleepers is quelling their frantic minds to allow sleep. There are several meditation techniques that can help. One productive strategy simply involves focusing upon an imaginary, flickering candle in the area of your pineal gland (between your eyebrows). There is a need to breathe deeply and shut out all other thoughts as you peacefully observe the candle.
Breathing techniques can also be of considerable value. Focusing on the breath is the most basic meditation technique, simply because you can not focus on the breath while thinking about other things. There is a wonderfully relaxing strategy called 4/7/7 breathing, which I have found of great benefit when fighting jet lag in foreign hotels. Here is how you do it: empty your lungs before drawing in a deep breath from the pit of your stomach. This in-breath through your nose should take four seconds. Now hold that breath for seven seconds, before exhaling through your mouth for another seven seconds, completely emptying your lungs – your tongue should be tucked in behind your front teeth as you exhale. This 4/7/7 cycle should always be repeated seven times. If you need more relaxation, then you complete a second series of seven cycles and perhaps even a third. Many people find themselves gently succumbing to sleep after two cycles.
A final suggestion for a meditative chill-out involves something called progressive muscle relaxation. Here, you begin with your toes, tensing all of the toe muscles by scrunching or extending the toes for seven seconds while breathing deeply. Then relax the toes for seven seconds and move to your feet, then your lower legs, thighs, bottom, stomach, fingers, arms, shoulders, neck and face. For each muscle group you tense for seven seconds then relax for seven seconds while breathing deeply. At the completion of this exercise, you tense every muscle at once for seven seconds before relaxing. Typically, you will be transported to a place of blissful relaxation at the completion of this simple seven-minute exercise.
There is nothing more disconcerting than struggling for hours on end to get some precious sleep. You know that you will be below your best the following day, but the more you try to avoid this outcome, the further you move from the realms of sleep. Hopefully, this two-part article has equipped you to achieve more restorative sleep. If a single strategy is not enough, then work up a package of these strategies that will work for you. Happy sleeping.