By Anni Dahms
Owner of the retail chain
ANNI’s VITAL SHOP.
Nurse- & Health
specialist, Biopath and Nutritional Adviser.
On the cover of the Danish newspaper ‘Jyllandsposten’ on the 7.5.2016, was the title “the world is in a global sleeping crisis”. It was about a study done with people from more than 100 different countries, Denmark being one of those countries. The study was published in the scientific journal, Science Advances. The researchers stated, that it is especially due to social pressures that typically causes sleep deprivation, which often manifests itself in postponing people’s bedtime or by shortening their sleep.
I’ve always been interested in the importance of sleep for our wellbeing, and have taken great measures throughout the years to ensure that I get adequate sleep. Unfortunately, some circumstances recently have had the consequence that I often get too little sleep.
I can clearly feel, what this sleep deprivation does to me, both physically and mentally. When I don’t get enough sleep, I’m in danger of firing off, I’m more easily irritable, lose patience, lose oversight, sneer at people, etc. Physically, I also feel that my body is not functioning optimally, my legs swell, while my whole body feels lethargic and sluggish.
Since I consider myself to be an ordinary part of the global population, I think a little philosophically, that if I feel this way, how then do other people find it when they do not get the sleep their bodies require?
Perhaps it can contribute to making the world a better place with greater harmony, happiness and tolerance as well as better health wise, if we only would make an effort and conscientiously try to take the hours of sleep which our bodies require. A well-known phrase is, “small strokes overturn big load”, which I am personally convinced counts in terms of enough sleep.
Public health debates jam our ears full of the dangers of smoking. We bear the costs of large sums of money trying to ban smoking everywhere. At the same time, we are maladjusted, if we drink too much, don’t exercise, we eat unhealthily, etc.
However, it seems to me that the importance of getting enough sleep has been swept under the rug. Sleep deprivation can be life threatening. Sleep is as important as food.
Sleep deprivation is decidedly damaging to the body, and can, in my opinion, contribute to life threatening diseases.
Your sleep is split up into different phases. There is dozing, light sleep, deep sleep and delta sleep, which is the deepest sleep. If you sleep 8 hours, the sleep is distributed typically with 2 hours of deep sleep, 2 hours of REM sleep and 4 hours of light sleep.
It’s best to avoid caffeinated food and drinks in the hours before you sleep, e.g. coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, etc.
The “third spice” has the same effect on any of us, as when we intake caffeinated food items. Many restaurants use “the third spice” as a flavour enhancer. Its also known as MSG, and is used in thousands of foods, especially if you use “fast food”. Strong spicy food also has a stimulating effect, and should be avoided before bedtime.
It’s also best to avoid heavy meals right before bedtime. It takes time to digest and can negatively affect your night’s sleep.
Red meat, a lot of protein and fatty food can have the same effect too. Avoid all forms of sugary foods before bed. It causes your blood sugar to rise and will make you restless.
Alcohol is often used as an excuse to be able to fall asleep. You may indeed fall asleep, but the sleep will be a restless one and interrupted many times. Furthermore, alcohol dehydrates, so you wake up because you’re thirsty. Even small amounts of alcohol can have this effect. So, if you’re used to sharing a bottle of wine with your partner at night and have difficulty sleeping without a sleep-aid, it is worth a try to leave the wine, and perhaps enjoy it at other times of the day, or keep it for those special occasions.
According to the human body clock, the liver cleanses between 1 – 3 am. Here it is important that the liver is left in peace to clean out after the day’s food and drinks. It is good to avoid making the days big meal, right before you go to bed, and perhaps switch meals around so that you only eat a light meal before bedtime. Wholegrain pasta, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, etc. help to increase the content of serotonin in the brain and to hereby produce melatonin, which contributes to a good sleep.
Food with tryptophan helps to form serotonin, so that melatonin can be created. For example, for dinner you could make lovely wholemeal pancakes, in which the filling for the pancakes could be chopped turkey with some yummy vegetables. Let your fantasy take over, and find recipes on the internet using foods rich in serotonin.
You can also eat porridge with bananas. It’s rich in tryptophan and is good to sleep on.
Other foods containing tryptophan include, fish, turkey, cottage cheese, bananas, wheat germ, etc.
If you can tolerate milk, an old folk’s remedy is a glass of warm milk with honey at the bedside table. This is very effective. Milk contains large amounts of tryptophan.
• Melatonin is a natural hormone, as well as being an important antioxidant that helps to boost the immune system. Begin with 1 mg and be patient for the first few nights. However, if you don’t feel that the effect is enough, you can slowly increase to 3 mg. Some need to take as much as 5 mg.
• 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is formed from tryptophan and has often proved effective. On the subject of dosage, one must test it out. Often, a combination of melatonin and 5-HTP works really well.
• A lot of people are magnesium deficient, and it may be good to take a combination of magnesium and calcium, both are known to have calming properties. A symptom of magnesium deficiency could be if you suffer from “excessive thinking” when you lay down to sleep.
• Many people that suffer from insomnia are also deficient in B vitamins, especially B1, B3 and B6, but as all B vitamins work together, you should use a combination preparation of B vitamins.
• B vitamins should be taken in the morning.
• Sleeplessness can be caused by vitamin D deficiency too.
• A great number of herbs have relaxing and sleep-enhancing properties, and they come in many different forms and combinations, either in capsule form or as a herbal tea. One of my personal favourites is the medical plant chamomile, which is available either as loose tea or in teabags. One of the benefits of teabags is that once it’s cold, you can lay the teabag on your eyes, if you have tired eyes.
• Chamomile tea has been used for thousands of years as a sleep aid. It is a good idea to drink one/several cups of chamomile tea, half an hour before bedtime. It helps the body to relax and hereby helps you fall asleep more easily. Chamomile tea is one of the most well-known and well-documented medical plants in the world.
• Furthermore, there are studies showing that the chamomile tea is associated with a 29% reduction in the risk of all cause mortality amongst women.
• There are plenty of different products that come in ready-mixed capsules, e.g. Melissa Dream from New Nordic which includes lemon balm and chamomile etc. This product helps a restful sleep. Rolin*at by Natur Drogeriet combines hops and valerian, which gives you a good and balanced night’s sleep.
• Valeriana/valerian is well known for its soothing properties and for its ability to relax the nervous system. Available alone or mixed with other calming herbs.
• The herbs mentioned are not addictive.
- Have a good chat with yourself, as to why you are not getting enough sleep.
- Is it stress-related, is it laziness, could it be you love to play on your computer or to watch TV, etc. Is it because you love the calm, late night hours. Are you being bombarded with electronic rays, causing your adrenal glands to suffer, or you can you just not sleep when you go to bed.
- Do something about it, so you can get enough sleep.
- If you smoke, then consider quitting. Plenty of studies have linked smoking to sleep deprivation.
- Gentle exercise can help you sleep well. Let the TV be. Use your self discipline to go for a relaxing evening walk instead, with or without your dog. It can work wonders following a stressful day. It feels fantastic for both the mind and body.
- Decide to have the self discipline to go to bed at a certain time each night. If you wish to maintain a youthful appearance, it has been proven that it is good to go bed at about 10pm, as the two hours before midnight actually are anti-aging time.
- Try to avoid watching anything excitable on TV right before bedtime. If at all possible, let your work stay where it belongs, at your work place. If you happen to think of something important or an idea, just as you lay down, then try not to think too much about it. Instead, write keywords down, relax and let it wait until the morning. Personally, I have found much pleasure in doing this.
- Another thing that can really keep me awake, is cold feet. If you suffer from cold feet then a pair of night socks will do wonders, or you can use Aloe Vera Heat, which helps momentarily.
- Get used to keeping your bedroom dark and cool, so you can sleep well.