It’s not news to most people that we are a sleep-deprived country. It’s not just one thing – the rise in technology, social media algorithms that keep us hooked, a societal view that bolsters working ourselves into the ground, a high cost of living paired with low wages, and elevated levels of chronic stress… these all contribute to drowsy under-slept zombies.
Although we don’t always have control over stressful situations, we do have control over what we put into our bodies to reduce the impacts of stress. If you’re ready to try some new routes, try one of these 5 ways to get better sleep.
1. Make the most of your morning with a dose of sunshine and a breakfast packed with essential nutrients
It’s a little counter-intuitive to talk about mornings when you’re discussing the topic of sleep but hear us out. When you start your morning with sunlight, it informs your system that it’s time to produce and use some energy (1). Sunlight provides you with Vitamin D (a super important vitamin for health), and tells your brain to produce the alert hormones in your body – and with daily doses of morning sunshine, it could help to re-balance an out-of-sync circadian rhythm (2). The goal is to reset your sleep/wake hormones so when it comes time to go to bed your body will be ready to produce the sleepy hormones naturally. Start your day with proteins, healthy fats, and energy-boosting vitamins to give you energy. Starting your morning with the right ingredients means you could spend less time feeling groggy, and more time feeling productive. In addition, try not to eat meals late into the evening. This will keep you from digesting your food too late and potentially disrupting your sleep cycle (3).
2. Take Vitamins that aid in sleepiness – Like magnesium or GABA
You may not have heard of GABA before. It stands for Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, and it allows the body and mind to relax and fall asleep (11). Low GABA activity has been linked to insomnia and disrupted sleep (10). Similarly, magnesium is a classic go-to vitamin to improve sleep. It helps to reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, provides a deeper sleep, and may even result in stronger feelings of restfulness the next day (12).
3. Enjoy a sip of tea
There’s nothing like a warm cup of soothing tea before bed, and what better way to get cozy than with some naturally sleep-supporting herbs? Herbal teas made with chamomile (4), lavender (6), or peppermint (5) soothe the stomach and encourage a sense of calm, helping you to get into the evening groove you’re longing for.
4. Eat dinner with L-tryptophan
You may have heard the rumor that eating thanksgiving turkey will make you tired, and although there’s some truth to that, it needs a side of carbs to really do the trick. There are many foods that contain L-tryptophan, an amino acid that, through the process of digestion, ends up as serotonin – a hormone needed for sleep. Although many amino acids compete to get to the brain when carbs are ingested and insulin pushes them into our muscles, one amino acid sticks around and is sent to the brain. You may have guessed, it’s l-tryptophan (7). Foods that contain l-tryptophan include turkey, chicken, tofu, salmon, edamame, oatmeal, and pumpkin seeds. Just be sure to grab stuffing or a dinner roll while you’re at it.
5. Drink a sleepy-time drink mix with melatonin
Not really a tea person? Don’t really like taking vitamins by the capsule? It might be time to try a drink mix. Melatonin can help with jet lag, it may reduce anxiety before a surgery, or it could help you to fall asleep when you’re having a tough time getting rest (8). Use a drink mix as a convenient way to sip your evening melatonin before you head off to bed.
Give one of these options a try and see if you feel a difference. As with anything, it may take a couple tries to get the results you’re looking for. It should be noted that although herbal remedies and homeopathic options may be useful in your health journey, seeking the opinion of a doctor or naturopath about any new health routines or existing health concerns you may have is the most important step to take.
1: Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health
2: Relationship between Sleep Duration, Sun Exposure, and Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Status: A Cross-sectional Study
3: The Big Breakfast Study: Chrono‐nutrition influence on energy expenditure and bodyweight
4: Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future
5: A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.)
6: Lavender and the Nervous System
7: Does Turkey Make You Sleepy?
8: Melatonin: What You Need To Know – National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
9: The Association between Vitamin D Deficiency and Sleep Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
10: Effects of Oral Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Administration on Stress and Sleep in Humans: A Systematic Review
11: 3 Amazing Benefits of GABA – What you should know about a popular supplement for sleep, stress, and anxiety.
12: The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial