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The Items In Your Kitchen That Help You Sleep
Instead of tossing around sleepless and restless in your bed at night, you can head to the kitchen and find some quick home remedies to help you sleep. However, you should be careful because there are just as many things to keep you awake in your kitchen. So, what foods should you choose during those sleepless nights? Which herbs and herbal teas should you keep at home to help your insomnia? What other readily available sedative natural supplements can be found in your medicine cabinet? This article discusses the most effective sedative home remedies for your insomnia.
by Brad Chase
Warm milk is the most popular home remedy for sleeplessness. Its effectiveness is backed by solid evidence.
The sedative effect of milk is due to its calcium and tryptophan content.
Besides its primary role in bone health, calcium is also important for electric conduction in the nervous system. In the central nervous system, calcium can help stabilize neurons and reduce the “noise” signals coursing through brain cells.
This neuronal stabilization has a calming effect on brain activity and allows the brain to quickly and seamlessly enter into sleep phase.
Tryptophan, on the other hand, is an amino acid used in the production of a number of brain chemicals.
Tryptophan is the precursor to the neurotransmitter, serotonin, and the B vitamin, niacin. While the contribution of B vitamin to sleep is modest, serotonin can improve mood and also go on to make melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone released from the pineal gland. It is secreted in response to darkness and forms a major part of the mechanism by which the brain signals the sleep phase of the circadian cycle.
Therefore, milk can promote sleep through its ability to reduce brain activity and release sleep-inducing brain chemicals.
The warmth of warm milk is also known to have a soothing effect that can contribute to the sedative property of milk.
Lastly, warm milk as a nightly remedy for sleeplessness evokes a psychological response in most people. Since warm milk is commonly given to children who have difficulty sleeping, it creates a strong association with sleep that may persist into adulthood.
Banana is the model sedative fruit. It has the right sets of nutrients to promote sleep. These nutrients range from B vitamins to magnesium and even tryptophan.
The tryptophan content of banana can encourage sleep through the increased secretion of serotonin and melatonin (as described above).
In addition, the high potassium and magnesium content of banana can also calm neuronal activity in the brain even better than calcium. Magnesium has been shown to act at calcium channels of nerves to reduce electrical conduction.
Furthermore, these minerals do also have muscle relaxant effects. Therefore, they can help relieve muscle disorders (such as periodic limb movement) that can disturb sleep.
Oatmeal is another good source of calcium, potassium and magnesium all of which can help calm the muscles and reduce heightened brain activity at night.
Just as importantly, oatmeal and whole grain cereals are great sources of complex carbohydrates. Unlike simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates actually promote sleep. They achieve this by producing a steady blood glucose level instead of a spike in blood sugar and then a crash.
When blood glucose levels rise sharply, the brain gets a sugar high that fuels increased brain activity. Therefore, food sources of simple carbohydrates can keep you up at night and have been proven to cause insomnia.
Oatmeal and cereals, on the other hand, provide slowly digested complex carbohydrates that meet immediate energy needs of the body without causing a sugar surge.
In addition, the steady energy level provided by the complex carbs of oatmeal and cereal reduces food cravings. This means that these foods can also prevent insomnia by allowing you to avoid snacking or heavy meals at night.
Therefore, oatmeal and cereals should not be regarded as breakfast-only meals. They can also serve as your evening quick meals for a restful sleep at night.
Turkey is the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving dinner and it is rightfully credited with the sleepiness that follow that dinner.
Turkey is an exceptional source of tryptophan. Unlike other proteins, turkey contains more tryptophan than similar amino acids. This is important because it means that turkey can make tryptophan more bioavailable.
Tryptophan and similar amino acids compete for absorption into the central nervous system because they share the same transport mechanism across the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, a protein source with more tryptophan than other amino acids can easily make the amino acid available in the brain.
Once it crosses the blood-brain barrier, tryptophan is converted into niacin, serotonin and eventually melatonin.
Besides these sleep-promoting compounds, turkey is also an excellent source of magnesium and B vitamins.
Cherries (especially tart cherries) and grapes are the two most common fruit sources of melatonin.
Therefore, they can provide the body with melatonin and induce sleep. How bioavailable is the melatonin obtained from tart cherries and grapes? Studies show that a glass of tart cherry juice is enough to put you to sleep.
Just as the melatonin contents of cherries vary, the concentration of the compound varies from one variety of grape to another.
Researchers determined that the 3 grapes with the highest levels of melatonin are the Nebbiolo, Croatina and Merlot varieties.
However, you should not drink grape wines in the hope of getting the melatonin required to put you to sleep. While melatonin can indeed be found in grape wines, the alcohol content of the wine will definitely interfere with your sleep.
Want a nut snack at bedtime? Choose almonds. Almonds not only contain calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron and B vitamins but also 14 amino acids including tryptophan.
Therefore, almonds contain all the right ingredients to help you sleep better.
In addition, the nut is also known to improve glycemic control. Therefore, it can regulate blood glucose level and prevent sugar-fueled insomnia.
If you cannot tolerate almond nuts, you may still get its sleep-promoting benefits from almond butter.
Apple cider vinegar and baking soda do not direct make you sleepy but they are effective home remedies to provide relief for common health conditions that may make you sleepless.
Apple cider vinegar, properly diluted in water, is effective against acid reflux. The burning pain of acid reflux in the upper gut can keep you up all night. One study identified that as many as 1 in 3 insomniacs suffer from acid reflux and ulcer pains.
Baking soda also provides relief in a similar way. This alkalinizing agent can help soothe gout pain.
Honey is another home remedy for gastrointestinal pains. It can help relieve heartburn and, because it is filling, it can help prevent you from eating unhealthy snacks that may interfere with your sleep.
These home remedies can help you sleep at night especially if you are one of the numerous people whose night sleep is affected by physical pain.
A number of teas contain the right ingredients to promote sleep. These include chamomile and green tea.
The chrysin in chamomile and the theanine in green tea have been proven to promote sleep. They act on the GABA pathway in the brain.
Since GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid, the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain) is the most important neurotransmitter to sleep, taking herbal teas can indeed help you sleep at night.
However, these teas usually have significant caffeine contents and caffeine is a stimulant.
In the central nervous system, caffeine acts on the adenosine pathway. Basically, it keeps you active and awake by increasing brain activity.
Therefore, you should only drink decaffeinate varieties of these teas. Avoid any caffeine product at least 8 hours before going to bed.
Herbal remedies for insomnia are found in local markets carrying medicinal herbs. You can easily prepare the remedy in your own kitchen as long as you obtain the right plant parts.
Valerian is the most common of the sedative herbs. It is traditionally used to induce sleep, calm the muscles and relieve anxiety.
The part of the plant used in preparing the medicinal remedy is the root. Sometimes the stems or rhizomes may also be included. Valerian is available as a liquid extract, powder for tea and in capsule and tablet forms.
In some countries, valerian qualifies as a sedative drug. This is because some of its bioactive phytochemicals act on the GABA pathways of the brain in the same way as prescription sleep medications.
Although valerian contains GABA, it is unclear whether this can cross the blood-brain barrier in significant amounts. However, studies confirmed that valerian increases the concentration of GABA in the brain as well as raise the activities of GABA in the parts of the brain involved with sleep.
Specifically, these studies identified that certain valerian phytochemicals bind to GABA-A receptors in the brain.
Valerian is a safe sedative herb and it is commonly combined with other sedative herbs such as kava, passionflower and hop.
Hop is the herbal remedy prepared from the female flowers of Humulus lupulus. It has a gentle sedative effect.
Hop is more commonly known as the stabilizing and bittering agent added to beers.
As an herbal remedy, hop has a similar but milder medicinal property as valerian. It is more commonly combined with other sedative herbs rather than used alone.
In one study, the combination of hop and valerian was enough to induce sleep and overcome the hyperarousal caused by caffeine. Therefore, combining hop with valerian may help you sleep and neutralize the effect of the late caffeinated drink that is making it difficult to go to sleep.
Passionflower has a milder sedative effect when compared to valerian. It is sold as a tincture but more commonly as dried leaves that can be used to prepare an herbal tea or infusion.
The bioactive phytochemicals in passionflower include amino acids, flavonoids and alkaloids. All of these compounds contribute to the sedative effect of passionflower.
Studies show that passionflower raises GABA levels in specific parts of the brain. One of its constituent amino acids, alanine, is believed to contribute to this because it is a direct precursor of GABA. In addition, the flavonoids in passionflower are also known to increase GABA activities in the brain.
In low doses, passionflower can relieve anxiety without putting you to sleep. However, at higher doses it functions both as a sedative and an anxiolytic agent.
To improve its sedative effect, you can combine passionflower with valerian and/or hop.
There are different plants belonging to the same plant family and bearing the name, passionflower. Make sure to get Passiflora incarnata as it is the passionflower species with proven sedative effect.
English lavender is a traditional sedative and recent scientific evidences provide strong support for its ability to increase the duration and quality of sleep.
Lavender oil can be used to promote sleep in different ways. Some dab a little of the oil on the forehead and temples; some place a few drops on a handkerchief; and some keep a sachet of it under their pillow.
Lavender oil is also commonly used in aromatherapy. By adding several drops to your warm bath, its smell and the drop in core body temperature can quickly put you to sleep.
Studies show that lavender is an especially effective sleep aid especially for women mostly because of their keen sense of smell.
B vitamins are some of the common vitamin supplements that are found in most homes.
While they do not provide dramatic sedative effects, they may help especially if your insomnia is caused by B vitamin deficiencies.
In addition, B vitamins are usually essential cofactors in the enzymatic syntheses of sleep-promoting brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA and melatonin.
The B vitamins that can help you sleep include
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Moderex, a natural remedy for anxiety and insomnia, contains natural neurotransmitters that have been shown to help combat anxiety and insomina.