I hope this article sends you to sleep …Although ideally you’ll stay awake long enough to read all the way to the end!
Okay, so I’m not actually trying to make you fall asleep in front of your computer, quite the opposite actually. I thought I’d share some tips and techniques that have proven to work and will help you get your sweetest sleep possible.
What do we actually need for a good night’s sleep?
If you think the answer to this question is a hearty measure of whiskey or some action under the sheets before bedtime, think again! (Whomp Whomp!)
What you actually do need are two neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in your brain) known as melatonin and serotonin. But let’s rewind a bit first…
I don’t want to get too deep in the physiological stuff here, but I must explain that the amino acid tryptophan, and the metabolic intermediate 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is needed in the biosynthesis of serotonin and melatonin. Basically we need Tryptophan & 5-HTP before we can make the good stuff! I created this chart to help explain things a bit clearer.
In case you haven’t heard of either Melatonin or Serotonin, here’s a quick run-down:
Melatonin is both a neurotransmitter and a hormone secreted by the pineal gland (in your brain). It inhibits melanin production (the pigment that gives our hair and skin its colour) and is thought to be linked to the reproductive cycle. One of it’s main roles, however, is to help us get a good night’s sleep.
Serotonin, also a neurotransmitter and hormone (classified as the “Happy Hormone”) is important in regulating our sleep cycles as well as our moods. A lack of serotonin can lead to disruptions in sleep patterns and less time spent in the deep sleep stages – the type we need to restore us after a hard day’s work.
So what’s the big secret?
Okay, so now you know that you need melatonin and serotonin to send you off to dreamland, how do you get more of them? Well, don’t worry about raiding the medicine cabinet just yet – there are plenty of natural ways you can up the ante while you’re trying to catch some Zs.
For added melatonin production:
Sleep in complete darkness. Even a little bit of light can affect your body’s internal clock, inhibiting the amount of melatonin it produces. You may want to get thick, black-out curtains or drapes. If that’s not possible for you, consider purchasing an eye mask. Even the glow from a radio clock can have a bad effect, so throw a cloth over it at night if you can.
Get loads of light in the daytime. In particular, nice, bright light. This means at least 15 minutes of morning sunlight. This will help your body recognize the difference between night and day. You have photo-receptors all over your body that need to sense that daylight is present, even if you don’t necessarily look at it with your eyes.
Avoid TV or your computer before bed. At least an hour before you go to sleep, try doing something more relaxing on the eye. The blue light from TVs and PCs trick your eyes into thinking it’s still daytime. I personally use the app Flux on my computer. This app turns the blue light in my screen down, so that it doesn’t disturb the melatonin production in my brain.
Have a warm bath before bed. This increases your core temperature and, when you get out it drops suddenly. This sends a signal to your brain that it’s time for sleep. Also, who doesn’t enjoy a nice relaxing bath? Mmm … bubbles
Beware of EMFs. EMFs, or ‘electromagnetic fields’, come from electrical equipment such as cell phones. In tiny doses they won’t kill us, but they are added stress and they have been shown to disrupt melatonin production. I suggest turning WIFI off especially during your sleeping hours. I personally practice the night time habit of placing my cell phone on “Airplane Mode” before going to bed.
Keep cool. …And I don’t mean keep up-to-date with the latest trends. (Although kudos to you if you do – I’m always at least one season behind!) Keep the temperature of your bedroom at about 18-20 degrees. I know it’s tempting to be cozy and snuggled up at night, but you easily overheat without realizing it. Sleeping in cooler places has shown to create better sleeping patterns.
Ditch the noise. No-one likes a rude awakening in the morning, and your body’s feels the same. If your alarm’s so loud that it jerks you out of bed, consider swapping it for something more subtle. If you get enough sleep on a regular basis you may not even need an alarm.
Best foods to eat. These are the most ideal foods for melatonin production:
- Tart Cherries
For more serotonin:
Get some sun. Serotonin loves a bit of sunlight too. Take an early morning walk to get your blood flowing.
A healthy diet. Although there are limited foods that are serotonin boosters. Most foods that claim they do this are simply foods that contain tryptophan, the amino acid that’s a precursor of serotonin (which I mentioned above). Top tryptophan foods are mostly all proteins, here are a list of a few:
Lastly, I want to reiterate the importance of getting proper nutrition. As a quick reference here you can see how important certain vitamins and nutrients play in the cascade needed to produce both serotonin and melatonin, ultimately getting you quality sleep!
I know old habits die hard, but try this advice and you are sure to see a refreshed and smiling face looking back at you in the morning!
Interested in a personalized program to help you stop counting sheep? Click here to apply now for my custom tailored protocols.
Please don’t forget to leave some of your favourite insomnia busting solutions in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.
Cheers & Namaste,
P.S. For more tips on helping you sleep better be sure to sign up for my e-mail mailing list (I promise not to spam you ;))
I’m Elle! A Toronto-based Holistic Nutritionist. I’m a multi-passionate woman, but nutrition and understanding how the body works is really my passion. Through my own personal journey, I have trained my body to heal itself using strategic, natural tools and techniques. Now I’m ready to help others!
As a new Mom, I understand that wellbeing is a journey. I hope my expertise will inspire other parents to choose nutrient-rich foods and the right products to create a happy, healthy and sustainable home. Click Here to Continue Reading