Ottawa, Ontario

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Starr Wellness

238 Argyle Ave.

Ottawa, ON

K2P 1B9

Tel: 613-218-2717

Emily Manuel, B.A RHN
 

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Trouble with the Z's?

Updated: Jun 28, 2019

Sleep is such an important factor in our overall wellness. It's the difference between a well focused workday or one where you basically need an IV coffee drip to get through the day. Not being able to sleep has to be one of the most frustrating things, am I right? You lay awake, wondering if you should stay in bed, maybe get up or even clean, because you definitely are not going to be sleeping any time soon. So what to do? Luckily you can invest in your rest! There are some foods that you can incorporate into your regime to make you sleepier, and there are some great supplements and practices that you can try out!.


Sleep affects almost every tissue and system in the body. It is vital for many functions such as immune, metabolism, cognitive function and much more. There are two different types of sleep REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM which has 3 stages. You cycle through each of these phases throughout a typical night. Your REM sleep is the stage in which you normally dream, your legs and arms become temporarily paralyzed so that you don't act out your dreams, thank goodness! You have internal biological mechanisms that regulate your awake and sleep cycles. These cycles can get thrown off by a myriad of factors including stress, environment, food, alcohol, medications, drugs, sleep setup and your exposure to light. Stress is a big factor when we talk about sleep. When your body is under a lot of stress your cortisol is running high, which will make it difficult for the body to relax. Reducing cortisol is essential to a good nights sleep. Some great ways to do that not just for sleep, but throughout your day is to ensure you are taking deep breaths, taking time to stretch and move. When you're running on stress throughout the whole day it is a lot harder to come home and decompress. Adding adaptogenic herbs into your smoothies or cooking will help your body adapt and handle stress easier, some good herbs are ashwaghanda, rhodiola or holy basil. Putting practices into play throughout your day will be a great way to set the stage for a good nights sleep. Meditation is a great tool, even if it is just for a few minutes at first, and you gradually increase your practice more and more. Bonus if you fall asleep while you are meditating.


One neat tip that I love to give to people who have a hard time sleeping is to try eating a palm full of blueberries and pumpkin seeds and then doing some stretching. I know this sounds really weird, but let me explain the theory behind this trick. Pumpkin seeds contain L-tryptophan and this is an amino acid that is needed for you to sleep however this is a weak amino acid that has a harder time getting through the blood brain barrier. When you eat pumpkin seeds you are giving your body L-tryptophan and it is better absorbed with a carbohydrate which is why I suggest blueberries. The stretching is to get the other amino acids sitting at your blood brain barrier to go to your muscles so that we give the L-tryptophan a good shot and less competition to get through. Pretty neat, eh! Give it a try and see what happens!


Vitamin B6 is a great vitamin to bulk up on when having trouble sleeping. It helps to convert tryptophan to melatonin (sleep hormone). Having a B6 deficiency can lead to insomnia and depression because it aids in not only the production of melatonin but also serotonin which is the happy hormone! Foods high in B6 are sunflower seeds, flax seeds, bananas, avocados and spinach.


Cherries are an awesome fruit that will help you to sleep because they contain melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is made naturally by your body. It's at it's highest levels when you are sleepy. It isn't what makes you falls asleep however it plays into your body's natural rhythms to alert your brain when it is time for sleep. Light suppresses the release of melatonin helping your body to wake up. Incorporating cherries or tart cherry juice are great ways to get some extra melatonin into your body, some grains such as oats and barley and some nuts like walnuts and sunflower seeds also have some melatonin. You can also try a supplement form of melatonin, make sure to follow directions as mentioned on the label.

Magnesium is so important when we talk about relaxing and falling asleep. It has over 300 biochemical process in the body, one being deactivating adrenaline to calm you down. Consuming magnesium rich foods will go along way with ensuring that you are loading up on your magnesium. Dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, bananas and avocados are great sources of magnesium. If you are looking for a supplement magnesium bi-glycenate will be well absorbed, it contains glycinate which attaches itself the the magnesium in order for it to effectively be transported to where it needs to go. Ensure to drink lots of water with it!


Chamomile tea is a soothing tea to add to your night time regime to beat the sleeping blues. Chamomile contains an antioxidant called apigenin, which has been shown to lower anxiety and initiate sleep. Not only does it act like a mild sedative but it is nice and soothing so it will help to put you in a more relaxed state. Incorporating lavender as an essential oil, dried or as a tea can also go a long way when trying to relax. Studies have shown that lavender helps to calm nerves and reduce anxiety. It has such a calming aroma that can help to improve sleep quality. I love making a linen spray that contains lavender. It's so simple, fill a small spray bottle with water and add in 20 drops of lavender essential oil. Smells great, it's all natural and will help you to relax! Prioritizing a good nights sleep is a great self-are practice. Now that we have talked about some good foods and practices to incorporate, lets touch on things to avoid for a good nights sleep. Avoid looking at your phone TV or computer before bed, they emit light which will excite your brain. If you are caffeine sensitive, do not drink caffeine past 4 pm. Reducing alcohol before bed will help you to sleep, alcohol actually disrupts sleep cycles and can keep you from getting enough deep sleep. Try not to eat a huge meal before bed time, this kicks off the digestive process which will make it harder for your body to focus on sleep. Light snacks high in L-tryptophan, magnesium and B6 are a great alternative.

Cheers to a good nights sleep!

References:


Srivastava, J. K., Shankar, E., & Gupta, S. (2010, November 01). Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Retrieved June 23, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/


Kasper, S., Gastpar, M., Müller, W. E., Volz, H., Möller, H., Dienel, A., & Schläfke, S. (2010, September). Silexan, an orally administered Lavandula oil preparation, is effective in the treatment of 'subsyndromal' anxiety disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial. Retrieved June 23, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20512042


Johnson, L. C. (1970, May 01). Sleep During Alcohol Intake and Withdrawal in the Chronic Alcoholic. Retrieved June 22, 2019, from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/490238


Strecker, R. E., Thakkar, M. M., Porkka-Heiskanen, T., Dauphin, L. J., Bjørkum, A. A., & McCarley, R. W. (1999). Behavioral state-related changes of extracellular serotonin concentration in the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus: A microdialysis study in freely moving animals. Retrieved June 22, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11421239


Johnson, L. C. (1970, May 01). Sleep During Alcohol Intake and Withdrawal in the Chronic Alcoholic. Retrieved June 22, 2019, from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/490238


Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2019, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/patient-caregiver-education/understanding-sleep