Some people have the innate ability to sleep. They simply tell their busy minds to ease up, hit the pillow and they’re gone. These are very lucky people. On the other hand, most of us have to approach sleep as a process. We develop a routine to help us unwind: exercise, a good read, perhaps a crossword puzzle. But even then the stress of life can intrude on our relaxation: How did that happen today? What’s going to happen tomorrow? I forgot to do x, y or z!
And our zzzs can suffer for it.
There are enough sleep aids on the market to fill your entire house, let alone your medicine cabinet. But there are some simpler and healthier approaches. One of them is to be mindful of what you eat. You may already be choosing foods based on their glycemic index, how quickly the body metabolizes them to produce sugar. But what about following an informal sleep index, based on foods that promote natural relaxation and help us get the rest we need? Research shows this method can work.
High “Sleep Index” Foods
You’ve probably heard of tryptophan – the amino acid that everyone blames for their lethargy after Thanksgiving dinner. The body converts tryptophan into neurotransmitters that help us relax, such as serotonin and melatonin. As a result, tryptophan-rich foods help us feel sleepy. Turkey, hummus, lentils, and kelp are naturally high in tryptophan and many other beneficial nutrients. Bananas are also a great “sleep index” food, as they contain tryptophan, potassium and magnesium, which are natural muscle relaxants. Cherries are a good source of melatonin which can help us get more restful, reparative sleep.
Carbohydrate-rich foods may also promote better sleep. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high-glycemic carbohydrates, which increase sugar levels rapidly, encourage sleep when eaten at least four hours before bedtime. Jasmine rice, potatoes, carrots, corn and honey are healthy options.
Calcium helps the brain use tryptophan to create melatonin. Specific food combinations, such as whole-grain cereals and milk, peanut butter sandwiches or cheese and crackers, contain balanced amounts of calcium and carbohydrates. Calcium is also a natural muscle relaxant.
When to Eat
Eating high sleep index foods calms the nervous system and triggers sleep-inducing hormones. But timing is everything. A large meal right before bedtime can interfere with sleep. Tryptophan takes at least an hour to reach the brain, so plan meals accordingly.
Avoid rich, high-fat foods close to bedtime. They require a lot of work to digest and may cause stomach trouble and heartburn. Also, moderate the liquids. Too many fluids will cause frequent trips to the bathroom during the night. In particular, caffeinated beverages stimulate the body and act as diuretics, a double-whammy when trying to sleep.
As noted, there is no shortage of sleep aids, either over the counter or by prescription. While they generally work in the short term, they also come with a long list of detrimental side effects and can become habit-forming. In addition, these powerful drugs are known interfere with a number of critical biological mechanisms. Remember, they’re not meant to be gentle, but rather to put us out like a light.
More than Just a Sleep Aid
For more rejuvenating sleep, there are natural supplement solutions. Traditional Asian health systems recommend specific herbs and botanicals to soothe anxiety and tension, promote relaxation and support regenerative sleep. Deep, restorative sleep and balanced circadian rhythms are critical for our overall health, mental clarity, and long term vitality. We can see the effects directly on our faces, even after just a few days of poor sleep quality.
To support deeper, more rejuvenating sleep, ecoNugenics is proud to offer ecoSleep™, an unparalleled relaxation and sleep formula to help soothe tension, promote healthy relaxation, rebalance circadian rhythms and support deep, regenerative sleep cycles.*
ecoSleep™ contains a physician-formulated blend of lemon balm and passionflower extracts, HonoPure® honokiol, amino acids and a small amount of melatonin help to promote relaxation and reduce tension, gently easing you into deeper sleep.*
But there’s more. Beyond just promoting relaxation, ecoSleep™ helps support your body’s natural processes of regeneration during deep sleep cycles. Traditional Asian botanicals like Paeonia lactiflora root, Abizia julibrissin bark and other time honored herbs offer support for the liver, lungs, cardiovascular system, brain and other organs and systems, to boost your body’s natural regenerative processes during sleep.*
Unlike other sleep aids, ecoSleep™ is not habit forming and doesn’t cause next-day drowsiness. In fact, because ecoSleep™ allows you to relax and sleep deeply, it helps provide a feeling of freshness and renewal upon waking.*
A Gentle Yet Effective Way to Improve Rest
One of the shortcomings of modern society is that every problem requires maximum response. But when it comes to healthy relaxation and restful sleep, we want to take a softer, gentler approach. High “sleep index” foods, together with calming supplements like ecoSleep, can help us relax, enjoy a restful sleep and wake feeling refreshed. Other excellent sleep-supportive measures include mindful relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing.
Getting a good night’s rest is one of the best things we can do for our health and wellbeing. When we support our natural sleep rhythms and cycles with the right foods, supplements and healthy relaxation measures, we will reap significant and noticeable benefits. In addition to greater physical energy, mental clarity and emotional balance, getting quality sleep each night will result in stronger vitality and better overall health, naturally.