Research shows we need between seven and nine hours of sleep in order to feel refreshed and to function well mentally and physically. The benefits of regular, uninterrupted sleep are enormous, you will have more energy, find stress easier to handle and improve overall well-being. It keeps your heart healthy, helps you to maintain a healthy weight and strengthens your immune system. So to feel your best, see if you can improve your sleep quality and feel the benefits of a restorative night’s sleep.

Do you find it hard to get a good night’s sleep?

Do you suffer from sleep-onset insomnia? This is when you find it hard to get off to sleep. With sleep-maintenance insomnia you may wake up frequently and find it hard to get back to sleep. Identifying the cause of poor sleep is the first step. The most common causes of insomnia are psychological: depression, anxiety and tension. It can also be dietary or lifestyle factors.

  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol in the evening, try stopping caffeine and stimulants at 6pm.
  • Avoid Nocturnal Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels) as the hormones that regulate glucose will stimulate the brain. This means avoiding refined carbohydrates like pastry, biscuits and cakes.

Nutrients to help you sleep

Magnesium is the mineral that is so important for helping you achieve a deeper and more restful sleep. In addition to deeper sleep, it supports your mood, nervous system, muscle, bone, digestive and heart function.

Magnesium is a good mineral to take in the evening. If you get cramps regularly, find that fluids pass through you easily, have cold hands and feet, experience tightness in the neck and shoulders or notice twitches in small muscles (the eyelid, for example), you will probably benefit greatly from Magnesium supplementation. See KIKI Health Magnesium Oil, Terranova Magnesium Calcium Complex Herbs such as Valerian and Passionflower can also improve sleep quality and the ability to relax. 5-HTP, from the shrub Griffonia simplicifolia, is a herb that keeps the nervous system balanced and helps when there is stress or difficult sleeping. See Drasanvi Kalmansia Drops.

Zinc and Selenium are also key minerals needed to support thyroid hormone production and sleep as well as energy, immunity and concentration. Along with Magnesium, sleep quality and duration of sleep can be greatly improved. Selenium can also help to increase sleep cycles.

Amino Acids, particularly L-tryptophan, are calming and helps in regulate sleep patterns. This amino acid is the precursor to Serotonin which is the neurotransmitter that sends relaxation and sleep-inducing nerve impulses. It is an essential amino acid so it needs to be supplied through diet or supplementation.(see below) L-theanine also stimulates alpha brain waves that enhance alertness and deep relaxation. Drinking L-theanine rich green tea will help.

Some things to try:

  • To keep blood sugar levels steady, eat whole grains, oatmeal and complex carbohydrates which will help to promote sleep by increasing serotonin in the brain. If you are hungry before bed have a small snack such as a couple of nuts or an oatcake to balance blood sugar levels.
  • Try foods containing the amino acid Tryptophan which also releases serotonin to promote sleep. Great sources are nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, oats, beans, lentils and eggs.
  • Give yourself time to digest dinner before going to bed, so don’t eat too late.
  • Take regular exercise as this improves sleep quality, preferably in the morning or afternoon and some gentle yoga stretches in the evening can help.
  • Make sure you are getting enough vitamin D. Get outside every day and consider a supplement in the winter months.
  • Try to go to bed at the same time each night and read or listen to relaxing music or a meditation app.
  • Wake yourself up at the same time every morning, this sets the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Start turning down the lights before bedtime to start melatonin production.
  • Increase relaxation with a warm bath or shower.