The Stars of Sleep

The Stars of Natural Sleep Remedies
It happens to us all. Sometimes there are nights where it seems impossible to either fall asleep AND stay asleep. We can will ourselves all we want, but when it comes down to it, the sleep process involves a lot more than willpower.
There are actually four different chemicals that aid in proper sleep. The first, tryptophan, is what is needed to start the process of sleep. Tryptophan is the only one of the four chemicals not produced naturally by the body. This is one chemical that you must consume. Once it’s consumed, it gets converted into 5-HTP, which then converts into serotonin. The serotonin then converts into melatonin. It’s the melatonin that tells our body when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake. If you don’t get enough tryptophan to start your sleep process, your body will be lacking in the other three essential sleep chemicals.
If you regularly have trouble sleeping, make sure that you are consuming foods that contain tryptophan. These include: cheese, chicken, eggs, fish, milk, nuts, oats, peanut butter, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soy, and turkey.
Once you know that you are eating foods that give your body the tryptophan it needs to start you on your sleep journey, you can look further into how to naturally increase your sleep time and quality. Many answers can be found in plants and minerals.
Stars
The Two Stars of Sleep Remedies 
These two seem to be the most powerful of natural remedies. In fact, the first, tart cherry juice, has been found to provide better sleep than Valerian Root, a commonly prescribed natural sleep aid. 
Tart Cherry Juice – Two studies, one performed in 2009 and one in 2011, show that drinking tart cherry juice every day increased melatonin levels and provided participants in the study with more sleep time and better sleep efficiency. Why does it work? Cherries help to increase the availability of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that coverts to serotonin, which then coverts to melatonin. Cherries are also a source of naturally occurring melatonin. Concentrated tart cherry juice is the best as it is a much smaller serving size with a lot less sugar than the not from concentrate. This ‘remedy’ is particularly helpful for staying asleep through the night.
Magnesium – Magnesium plays a huge roll in calming the nervous system, thus getting the body ready for sleep. Surprisingly, many people are deficient in this mineral. If you are experiencing muscle spasms or heart palpitations, these could both be signs that you need more magnesium in your diet. Magnesium can be found in foods such as dark leafy greens, nuts, fish, dark chocolate, avocados and bananas. Though important to ingest through foods, you can also get it through soaking in an Epsom salt bath. In this way you are absorbing the mineral into your skin. Make sure to follow the dosage directions that come with the salts.
Two Herbal Remedies for Sleep
These two provide great sleep on a lesser scale of potency than the two aforementioned remedies. While the cherry juice and magnesium can both be used with children, these two herbals/oils can be used on very young kids and babies as well.  
Chamomile – Chamomile contains properties that act as a mild sedative and helps to aid in calming. The properties of the plant can be used in two ways to induce sleep. It can be made into a tea, or the essential oil can be used on the bottom of the feet or diffused in the air. Chamomile is great for inducing sleep.
Lavender – For sleep purposes, lavender is best used as an essential oil as it is the inhalation of it that helps to reduce stress and to provide a calming and sedative effect. It can be diffused or put directly on the soles of the feet to be absorbed into the skin.
It’s important to note that a great night’s sleep starts with your sleep environment and the routine you have for getting to sleep. Please see “Bed-time Tips for Your Child” for more information on this because the same tips that apply to children also apply to adults!
Resources
Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. NCBI. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/
Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study. Journal of Medicinal Food. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3133468/
Lavender, University of Maryland Medical Center http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lavender
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