“I wonder how I’ll die,” I mused out loud when I was a kid. (I have no idea why I wondered that at age ten.) My father chuckled. “Chances are 23 out of 24 it will be in your sleep.”
I guess getting enough Zzzzzzs then was not a problem. I still remember a line from the poem Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1798. “Sleep. It is a blessed thing, loved from pole to pole.”
Yea, I could relate.
Capturing that blessed thing
It seems insomnia plagues many of us as we age. According to Ocean Robbins in his latest look at sleep deprivation on the online Food Revolution Network, many factors play a role in our tossing and turning. Here is a link to an interesting article about how modern life gets in the way of a good night’s sleep https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/feb/08/how-modern-life-gets-in-the-way-of-sleep-chronic-insomnia. It explores how, starting with Edison’s lightbulb that let us work late, modern life interferes with quality sleep.
I remember when I worked the night shift, our chief topic of conversation was how much sleep we got and how we got it. “I slept for two hours, then got up and did the shopping. After lunch I slept until the kids got home from school and then got a couple of hours in the evening after dinner.”
Then there are those automatic jolts to our circadian rhythms like daylight saving time changes and jet lag. And while LED lights last forever, they emit the same blue wavelength that our digital screens do. Most sleep experts will tell you not to use the computer late in the evening (like I’m doing now, so I can edit and post this tomorrow).
It’s also a good idea to avoid eating or snacking before bed. I’ve read that short term fasting by eating nothing between 7pm and 8am promotes health and a good night’s sleep.
Some foods to the rescue
The Food Revolution Network lists nutrients found in certain foods that promote a good night’s sleep.
- Fiber…A 2016 study found that good nutrition (less fat and sugars and more fiber) helps people sleep well for seven to eight hours. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160114213443.htm
- Folate…linked to less insomnia and less incidence of restless leg syndrome. Kiwis contain folate as do mushrooms.
- Complex carbs…NOT simple carbs like processed sugar. Skip the ice cream and go for the muffin made with oats. Complex cabs lower stress levels and raise that feel good comfort neurotransmitter serotonin.
- Isoflavones… results in better and longer sleep. Pistachios contain isoflavones as well as melatonin. Whole soy foods like tempeh and edamame are high in magnesium and folate.
- Magnesium… too little magnesium may result in poor sleep or insomnia. Try some almonds.
- Tryptophan… found in almonds helps regulate mood and improve REM sleep. Also helps reduce sleep apnea.
Pumpkin seed are rich in tryptophan AND magnesium. You only need three ounces of roasted seed to meet your daily requirement.
- Melatonin… Besides sleeping in a dark room so the body produces melatonin, melatonin can be found in certain foods like mushrooms, pistachios, and almonds. This hormone helps us fall asleep and stay asleep.
- We have used Chamomile tea for years to promote sleep because of the flavonoid apigenin.
- Tart cherry juice has high levels of tryptophan, serotonin, melatonin, and antioxidants.
- Valerian tea and lavender teas also promote sleep.
Bookworm that I am, I looked forward to reading myself to sleep in bed. Then I learned that’s not a great idea. I needed to train myself that bed is for sleeping, so now I read on the sofa until my lids droop, then toddle off to bed. I found that worked. Or you can read all about nutrition at 10 pm and fall asleep even quicker.