Poor sleep habits have been linked to dementia in older adults, according to a recent New York Times article in the Health section. The study measured sleep duration, wakeful periods and sleep apnea. The findings are strong enough to jolt you out of bed! It’s all about how much oxygen gets to the brain during sleep —those with poorer sleep were 4X as likely to have dead tissue in the brain caused by oxygen deprivation!
There are foods that can help with getting the sleep we need and we should all know what they are. Sleep deprivation clearly has serious health consequences and not something to take lightly!
The importance of sleep as part of a healthy lifestyle cannot be underestimated. The medical facts are now showing that chronic lack of enough sleep increases the risk of many health problems, including:
Heart disease, diabetes, memory lapse, obesity, stroke, low sex drive, skin aging, substance abuse, impaired judgement, depression and psychiatric illness—even cancer, according to medical studies. See the end of this page for links to informative articles regarding the medical evidence.
That’s quite a scary and comprehensive list. Many of these diseases will strike at the end of many years of inadequate sleep habits and when they do, unfortunately, you may not think about years of lost sleep as being a contributing factor. Does your doctor ask you what the quality of your sleep is, unless you come to him for that reason? If you eat healthily and exercise regularly, your inadequate sleeping habits could be undoing some of the good you’re doing with a healthy lifestyle.
If 7-8 hours is considered a good night’s sleep, how many of us routinely only get 5 or 6? Or is your conscious attempt at a 7 hour’s night of sleep thwarted by waking up in the middle of the night or restless tossing and turning? The ironic part of it is that everyone seems to love a great night’s sleep but busy schedules, bad habits, aches & pains, your to-do list, family and work life and just wanting to watch one more rerun of “Friends” (not saying who that is) has turned us into night owls and it’s apparently very harmful!
Since I don’t sleep well about half the time, I wanted to learn whether there are any natural foods that could help, beyond having chamomile tea before bed, and I found that there are several:
Melatonin is the naturally produced sleep hormone that helps regulate our body’s clock and cherries are one of the few natural foods that contain it. A small study found that drinking tart cherry juice improved the quality of sleep in adults. The Montmorency cherry is a type of sour cherry which has about 6 times the amount of melatonin than a regular cherry. If you can find a cherry juice concentrate, this will also increase the concentration of melatonin even more. Sometime they can even be found in the frozen section.
Melatonin and tryptophan and magnesium, all sleep-helpers, are all found in bananas. While melatonin helps to regulate the body’s internal clock, trytophan converts to serotonin, which induces relaxation, and magnesium relaxes the muscles. According to Dr. Oz, serotonin levels are typically low in people who cannot stay asleep and are wakeful thought the night.
Pumpkin Seeds and Pumpkin Seed Powder
Pumpkin seeds and the powder from pumpkin seeds have relatively high amounts of trytophan, as well as high amounts of zinc, which helps convert tryptophan to serotonin. It’s recommended to eat about 1 cup of seeds or 1/2 cup of the pumpkin seed powder with applesauce.
Oatmeal is a cereal made form the herb Avena sativa, which is known in traditional herbal medicine as a calming plant. Oats contain small amounts of melatonin and can help regulate your sleep and sleep efficiency. Complex carbohydrates help more tryptophan get into the brain to you sleep. Adding bananas and dried cherries to your oatmeal in the evening is a triple-header.
Why not add nuts to the mix too? Walnuts are good source of melatonin and healthy fats and can help in attaining good sleep. Almonds are a source of calcium that helps with melatonin production.
Tahini, the paste made from ground sesame seeds, also naturally contains tryptophan, the amino acid linked with getting to sleep. Tahini is an ingredient in hummus but it can also be spread alone on bread about an hour before sleeptime to help get to sleep.
Dark, Leafy Greens
Vegetable-sources of calcium have been known to help the body generate melatonin, the hormone that helps the body regulate its circadian rhythm. Spinach, Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens and collard greens are great sources of calcium.
All of these wonderful plant-based remedies are healthy and nutritious for many other reasons, all of them full of essential vitamins and nutrients. I’m going to try having oatmeal with some dried, tart cherries and sliced bananas with a sprinkling of a a few nuts of each, walnuts and almonds, about an hour before I head for bed. I’ll let you know what happens….hopefully it will involve lots of zzzzz’s!
Enjoy the Zzzzz,
For more important information about why Lack of Sleep is so detrimental to your health….