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Getting Your Rest
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— January 6, 2020

Getting Your Rest

By Lisa James
  • These dietary supplements can help you deal with chronic sleeplessness.

It has become a never-ending battle: your quest to get a solid night’s sleep.

At first, it happened every once in a while, after a particularly stressful day. But now sleeplessness plagues you at least four or five nights a week. What’s worse is that you are finding it more and more difficult to function properly during daylight hours.

Chronic insomnia should always be checked out professionally for signs of obstructive sleep apnea, in which breathing problems repeatedly wake you up during the night (even if you don’t remember these episodes during the day). But you should also reevaluate how you approach getting to sleep—and whether or not natural aids can help you finally find dreamland.

Forming Good Habits 

Your efforts to sleep more soundly need to begin long before bedtime.

Those endeavors begin in the kitchen, where you should eliminate caffeine sources, including chocolate, starting in the afternoon; actually, it’s a good idea to forego all forms of sugar. Instead, snack on cherries, bananas and walnuts, which contain sleep-promoting substances.

Reduce your consumption of alcohol. It may make you feel sleepy but can cause you to wake up in the wee hours. And while regular exercise helps with sleep problems, you should avoid strenuous activity at night.

Next up is the bedroom, which should be dark and cool at night. Get a good mattress and rotate it regularly, and keep clean bedsheets on it. Consider replacing your pillow every year. What’s more, turn off your devices, including the TV, for at least an hour or two before bedtime (which should be about the same time every night).

Sleeping Naturally

For centuries, people have turned to natural remedies in their efforts to end sleeplessness.

Warm milk before bedtime is one popular option. We now know that it contains protein-like molecules called peptides, which have been found to ease stress and promote sleep.

Herbs are also commonly used to induce slumber. Chamomile is the best-known herbal sleep aid; others include hops, a mild sedative; lemon balm, which helps settle the stomach; passionflower, a muscle relaxant; and valerian, which eases anxiety.

The most popular herb on the planet right now is hemp and especially CBD, its most notable extract. In addition to helping reduce stress and pain—two key contributors to insomnia—hemp/CBD has also been linked to improvements in REM sleep (the stage in which vivid dreaming occurs).

Tea is another herb; while it has caffeine, it also supplies theanine, which induces calming alpha brain waves.

Theanine acts by affecting levels of neurotransmitters, which carry messages between nerve cells. One messenger in particular, GABA, promotes relaxation and helps soothe anxiety. Neurotransmitter function is also affected by the hormone melatonin, which controls the wake/sleep cycle; the amino acid tryptophan is a key melatonin building block.

All of these substances are available in supplemental form in various combinations. Always look for well-formulated products free of common allergens and GMOs.

Poor sleep is frustrating. Fortuately, there are natural ways to get the rest you need.

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