I’ve suffered from chronic insomnia for over a decade. After consulting multiple doctors, therapists and websites, I am now a self-proclaimed sleep-expert. I have finally found a bedtime routine that works for me and a natural supplement that works wonders. For anyone else who might be looking for an answer to their sleeping problems, here’s a breakdown of the different foods that help, are harmful, and some other tricks I’ve learned along the way.
We’ve all heard of and probably tried melatonin, a hormone that the brain produces at night that sends a signal to the rest of the body that it’s time to start winding down. However, melatonin definitely has its limits, as I’ve found myself over the years. Melatonin doesn’t necessarily improve one’s quality of sleep, which is why many people wake up feeling sluggish and groggy after taking it the night before. Additionally, after taking the hormone for a long period of time, our bodies start developing a tolerance to melatonin. This is because when the brain’s melatonin receptors are exposed to too much of the hormone, they can become unresponsive. So, overtime, as I experienced myself, taking melatonin was completely ineffective for helping me fall asleep. While melatonin may help reset your body clock, it is not recommended as a long-term solution.
Lucky for you, doctors are recommending another supplement that has personally changed my life — magnesium. “If you’re looking for a more consistent sleep aid that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep, magnesium is the way to go,” said physician Robert Rountree, M.D. Unlike melatonin, magnesium is a mineral, not a hormone. I have been taking Mindbodygreen’s magnesium+ supplement for over a month now and am finally getting the full night’s rest I have been missing for years. It not only improves the quantity of sleep, but more important, the quality. Additionally, there’s less concern incorporating magnesium into your daily diet, since it is a mineral, not a hormone.
There are plenty of other ways to help establish a bedtime routine if supplements aren’t your first choice. Meditation has consistently been recommended to me by doctors and therapists. And in the age of social media, it is easier than ever to meditate on your own through the virtual guidance of an app. Headspace and Calm are two that I recommend. Meditation paired with herbal teas containing chamomile and valerian root is a perfect way to establish a winding down routine before bed. Valerian root is another herb that has been used as a sleep aid for centuries. Its calming effects can be attributed to its interaction with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical messenger that helps regulate nerve impulses in your brain and nervous system. Valerian root is thought to increase GABA levels, and the more abundant the GABA, the sleepier you feel.
Finally, there are certain foods you should definitely avoid right before bed. Steer clear from was chocolate, especially dark as it contains caffeine and other stimulants such as theobromine which has been proven to increase heart rate.
Throughout my battle with insomnia and chronic sleep issues, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s how sensitive our body clocks are. Every organ and tissue in our body is connected to biological cycles. One slight disruption to the circadian rhythm can throw off the body’s entire clock — whether it be certain food, time of the day we eat, exposure to light, travel or stress — making sleep seem utterly impossible at times. Thankfully, there are so many easy, natural ways to help realign our system. Maybe it’s time for you to reset your clock and get your sleep routine back on track.