Sleep is a time when the body releases growth hormones that are essential for the repair of tissue into the bloodstream. It also helps the body to balance appetite by maintaining optimal levels of leptin and ghrelin.
There is a host of other benefits of sleep that we will discuss in another topic; today we focus on how to get our bodies to rest naturally.
Nowadays, more people find it difficult to sleep after a hard day’s work. The amount of sleep required at night varies but for adults, an uninterrupted eight hours of sleep is healthy for the body and the mind.
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Sleeping for fewer hours leads to the development of weak immune systems, carbohydrate cravings throughout the day, and lack of concentration. A CDC report showed that 49.2 million people find it difficult to focus due to lack of enough sleep.
In fact, the number of individuals relying on sleeping pills to find a good night’s sleep is continually rising. With problems like depression and significant amounts of pressure from work and daily life taking a toll on people’s bodies, it is important to look for natural ways to help the body sleep.
How the Body Gets to Sleep
The body has a natural sleep-wake cycle known as the circadian rhythm. It is influenced by various hormones released in the body like tryptophan (obtained from an external source) and essential amino acids for the process to kick off.
The tryptophan hormone is converted to 5-HTTP, which is changed to serotonin. Serotonin converts into melatonin, which signals the body to sleep. Melatonin hormone is produced by the body when it is dark.
It explains why it’s hard to fall asleep in a room with bright light as the body does not release this hormone.
It is also the reason night-time shift workers can’t sleep during the day. While there is an artificial version of this hormone, taking it at the wrong time of the day worsens the body’s response, hence the need for supervision by a medical doctor.
Tryptophan is the only amino acid that converts to serotonin and increases melatonin levels. Natural sleep remedies help increase the levels of this hormone, thus allowing the body to rest with less difficulty.
Take a Tart of Cherry Juice
A cup of this juice provides an excellent remedy for finding restful sleep. Persons who don’t like its taste may add the juice to chamomile tea or other beverage. Cherry juice has tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is required for restful sleep.
Studies also show that the extract reduces inflammation and insomnia while improving how long we sleep. Researchers from Louisiana State University performed a study on seven adults who suffered from insomnia. These subjects took eight ounces of cherry juice twice a day for two weeks and a similar period of placebo beverage intake, and two of no juice.
They found that the subjects could sleep for 84 more minutes every night when they took the juice compared to when they ingested the placebo drink.
Incorporate Foods that Attract Sleep
While heavy meals often lead to restless nights, certain foods help you sleep better. Increasing the levels of carbohydrates, for example, allows tryptophan to function effectively by overpowering the blood-brain barrier.
The barrier is a filtering mechanism that inhibits the transportation of essential substances to the brain. Insulin is released from carbs and directs other amino acids to the muscles, making a clear passage for tryptophan to enter cerebrospinal fluid.
Whole-grain oats, corn, brown rice, and quinoa are excellent sources of carbs that contain serotonin and tryptophan; proteins like nuts, turkey, and seeds also contain it.
It does not mean eating a bowl of cereals before bedtime; you just need to snack on a piece of bread fifteen minutes before bedtime to divert the large chain amino acids to the muscles.
Add a Touch of Glamor to your Space
For most people, the bedroom is a haven from life’s pressure and hassles; it is that space that helps you relax. As such, it is important to create a space that depicts the kind of environment you want.
Also known as the art of Feng Shui, it helps you arrange your furniture, office, or room to maximize space and bring out a harmonious flow of energy.
A few tips come in handy when improving the Feng Shui of a bedroom to help you sleep at night:
- The bed should be accessible and approachable from all sides
- Freshen the energy in the room by ensuring a clean flow of air, such as by opening the windows
- Ensure most of the windows allow natural light into the room
- Make certain the space is clean and neat to bring out a balanced look. Clutter and trash stress out the mind and prevents you from having a restful night. It also affects your sex life.
- The bed should be positioned to allow you to see the entrance
Add some Valerian roots to your Beverage
Valerian is a hardy plant that acts as a sedative and sleep aid. It works by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid in the body that regulates the function of nervous system and has a calming effect. The properties make it a popular anxiety remedy.
Be sure to brew up a cup of tea before you sleep for a restful night. If the odor is too strong, buy the capsule form of the Valerian from the local pharmacy.
Establish a Sleeping Schedule
The body tends to adapt to habits or routines, hence the need to create a program that you will stick to religiously. For example, random exercises may not be as effective as those performed every day for an hour at a particular time.
The same routine works when it comes to sleeping. Experts recommend following a calming ritual that you do every day before going to bed to help the body transition quickly from being awake to going to sleep.
Such rituals include:
- Performing a series of gentle stretches
- Taking a cup of warm tea (half an hour before retiring to bed)
- Reading a chapter of an interesting book every night
- Meditating to clear the mind of crowded thoughts. Overthinking keeps the mind awake for long hours
- Taking a warm bath also helps the body and the mind to relax. You may add some drops of essential oils like lavender to enjoy its soothing benefits.
Take a Cup of Chamomile Tea
The remedy has been an effective sleeping aid since time immemorial. It works by relaxing the muscles and is a potential source of apigenin, which binds to GABA receptors that affect sleep and the central nervous system.
Many retail stores stock chamomile tea extracts but the native version of the plant is fresh and more efficient.
- Two rounded tablespoons of dry chamomile flowers or ¼ cup of fresh flowers
- Fresh lemon juice
If you are using fresh chamomile flowers, cut out the stems and use the flower heads. Put the flowers in a teapot and boil four cups of water in another pot. Add the water to the chamomile flower pot and allow it to sit for 5-6 minutes.
The same process applies when using dry chamomile flowers. You may add honey and milk to taste while squeezing in some lemon juice.
Follow a 4-7-8 Breathing Routine
It makes another useful natural sleeping remedy recommended by Dr.Weil. You just need to follow a slow and patterned breathing that helps the body relax.
Various religious groups use this kind of breathing when praying or meditating. Recent studies also show that 4-7-8 breathing helps the body shift from flight or fight mode to relaxation.
How to do it
- Lie down and breathe in as you count to four
- Hold the breath as you count to seven
- Exhale as you count to eight
- Repeat the procedure 3-4 times until your body/mind relaxes
Perk up your Magnesium Levels
Magnesium is a vital mineral that aids in the function of GABA receptors a primary neurotransmitter that helps relax the central nervous system. It also regulates the function of melatonin hormone, which guides circadian rhythm in the body.
As such, reduced amounts of magnesium in the body affects sleep and may cause insomnia. In senior adults, it is known to achieve deep sleep and improve its quality. A study was conducted on older adults where 500 mg of magnesium was administered to determine its effect.
The report showed that they had a better quality of sleep. The group also exhibited improved levels of melatonin and renin-essential hormones that help regulate sleep. A few treats come in handy to boost magnesium levels:
- Half a banana followed by a few almonds
- A glass of warm goat’s milk kefir with a dash of cinnamon
- Gluten-free oatmeal with dark cherries and honey
- Foods like pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, and spinach
A Blend of Essential Oils
Essential oils like lavender, sandalwood, mandarin, frankincense and bergamot make excellent natural sleeping aids. Unlike prescription medications, they don’t cause adverse side effects like jet-lagged waking.
You may use aroma sticks that are laced with these oils to improve sleep.
These natural remedies should come in handy for people who find it difficult to sleep. You are not compelled to try all of them but only those that work effectively for your body. Also, try a different remedy every day to find out the one that suits you best.