The Stars of Natural Sleep RemediesIt 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.The Two Stars of Sleep RemediesThese 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 SleepThese 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!ResourcesChamomile: 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/lavenderTart Cherries SUMMARY OF CURRENT SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE. http://ncnm.edu/images/Helfgott/Projects/scientific-literature-summary-cherries-2011.pdf
Instilling healthy sleep habits in children helps to set their foundation for proper mind and body development for the rest of their lives. It also enables parents to get some down time and a better night sleep for themselves. Many parents of toddlers to pre-teens are in a situation where it takes hours to get their children to bed and/or their kids aren’t sleeping soundly through the night. Fortunately, there are ways to help children to transition better from awake time to sleep time, as well as steps parents can take to make sleep more restful.
Set a routine – Start with making sure that there is ample time between the end of dinner and bedtime, giving the body time to digest before trying to send it off to sleep. Also keep in mind that sugar is only going to stimulate a child’s body, so it’s not the best idea to end the evening with a sugary treat. Once dinner is over, set up some relaxing activities along with the essentials of getting ready for bed. This can include bath time, getting pajamas on, brushing teeth, reading books and possibly listening to some relaxing, meditative music. There are some great music and meditation programs designed specifically for children to listen to at bedtime. As addressed below, television should not be part of the bedtime routine, so if watching a show is something that you want to incorporate in the evening, make it either right before or right after dinner, before the nighttime routine actually begins.
Provide the proper sleep environment – It’s important that the place where a child sleeps is conducive to relaxation. The bedroom should promote rest and a sense of peace with subtle colors and not too much clutter. It should also be free of too many electronic devices. A room painted red, filled with toys and video games stimulates a child’s brain, while a bedroom painted in a light, peaceful color, with toys put away and no electronic devices to be seen promotes a sense of rest. In addition, the darker the room at night, the better a child can sleep. Any light coming into the room at night, be it from a hall light, a nightlight, or from the windows, can confuse the pineal gland, which results in it making a lesser amount of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that is essential to a good, healthy night’s sleep. So forgo any lights and invest in some darkening blinds for your children’s bedrooms; you will see a difference.
No television, iPads or computers before bed – One mistake parents often make is letting their children watch a television show right before bed. Any device that emits blue light, such as iPads, television, computers and smart phones, actually inhibits the body’s self regulating release of melatonin, which usually starts to occur a few hours before bed. This makes it hard for a person to feel sleepy. Leaving any thing that emits a blue light on in the bedroom can inhibit the pineal gland from producing the melatonin at all while the light is being emitted.
Add essential oils to the bedtime routine – There are some great essential oil combinations that can help the body to relax. Two that are safe for children are lavender and roman chamomile. You can diffuse some by the bedside or apply a drop or two to the bottoms of the feet. Both oils have calming, soothing and relaxing properties.