Using Foods, Herbs and Supplements as Natural Remedies for sleeplessness

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Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle, an internal pacemaker that controls the timing and our drive for sleep. It causes drowsiness, lowers body temperature, and puts the body into sleep mode.

Research on melatonin in people with sleeplessness is mixed. Some research shows that taking it restores and improves sleep in people with sleeplessness. Other studies show that melatonin does not help people with sleeplessness stay asleep.

Melatonin might be of benefit to people with issues such as jet lag or shift work. It is not regulated by the FDA and can have problems with purity. You should only use it under close supervision by a doctor.

Warm milk.

You can put a tasty spin on your grandmother’s natural sleeplessness remedy by sipping warm milk before bed. Almond milk is an excellent source of calcium, which helps the brain make melatonin. Plus, warm milk may spark pleasant and relaxing memories of your mother helping you fall asleep.

Sleepy-time snacks.

The best sleep-inducing foods include a combination of protein and carbohydrates, says Shelby Harris, PsyD. She’s the director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y.

Harris suggests a light snack of half a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter, or a whole wheat cracker with some cheese. Eat one of these snacks about 30 minutes before hitting the hay.

Magnesium apparently plays a key role with sleep. Research has shown that even a marginal lack of it can prevent the brain from settling down at night. You can get magnesium from food. Good sources include green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, and almonds. Check with your doctor before taking magnesium supplements. Magnesium can interact with many different medications, and too much of it can cause serious health issues.

Lavender.

Lavender oil is calming and can help encourage sleep in some people with sleeplessness, research shows. “Try taking a hot bath with lavender oil before bed to relax your body and mind,” Harris says.

Valerian root.

This medicinal herb has been used to treat sleep problems since ancient times. “Valerian can be sedating and may help you fall asleep,” says Tracey Marks, MD, an Atlanta-based psychiatrist.

Research on the effectiveness of valerian for sleeplessness is mixed. Marks says if you try valerian as a sleep remedy, be patient. It can take a few weeks for it to take effect. Talk to your doctor before taking valerian and follow label directions.

L-theanine.

This amino acid found in green tea leaves may help combat anxiety that interferes with sleep. A 2007 study showed that L-theanine reduced heart rate and immune responses to stress. It’s thought to work by boosting the amount of a feel-good hormone your body makes. It also induces brain waves linked to relaxation. Talk to your doctor before taking it.

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