Confession: I don’t usually have a problem getting to sleep and the only time I’ve struggled to stay asleep was after a 2 week, low-budget, melatonin-dependant trip around South America. I was sleeping on buses which quickly got me addicted to those little melatonin pills (one reason I don’t recommend them) and left me tossing and turning throughout the entire night for at least 10 days. Brutal. By nature I am a classic, GABA dominant, overly mellow being that tends to crave (yet avoids) stimulants like caffeine over downers. That being said, I’m aware that insomnia is a serious issue for many people and over the years I have helped quite a few of the night owl, anxiety-prone types to fall into those deep sleep cycles that they crave.
If you struggle with insomnia, before reaching for the nyquil, try some of natures remedies:
1. Magnesium supplementation- Did you know that over 80% of people are magnesium deficient? Necessary for regulating blood pressure, absorbing calcium, enhancing circulation and about 300 more biochemical reactions in the body, magnesium is what I call natures muscle relaxer. Diets high in refined foods and sugars can cause magnesium deficiency as has the unfortunate mineral depleted soil in which food is grown. Magnesium supplementation would be my first suggestion to overcome sleep troubles.
Topical magnesium in the form of spray, oil or lotion is most helpful as it enters from the skin straight into the blood stream. No assimilation or healthy digestive tract required! Put on soles of the feet for quick absorption. You can find magnesium gel or oil at any health food store.
2. Increase protein- Maybe you’re starting to see a pattern with this suggestion. Increasing protein will always be a recommendation when it comes to balancing hormones and neurotransmitters. If you have a high-carb/ sugar (including fruit) / acidic diet, not only are you depleting magnesium stores, you’re also stressing the adrenal glands, increasing blood sugar, and prohibiting proper neurotransmitter release. The production of relaxing amino acids and neurotransmitters glycine, GABA, theanine, tryptophan and melatonin are completely dependant on protein consumption.
3. Essential Oils- Essential oils are powerful chemical compounds that can have a profound effect on sleep patterns. While vetiver is very helpful for relaxation and sleep, I’ve seen dramatic results from the lavender peace (sometimes called serenity) oil blend. Just smelling it causes immediate drowsiness and a single drop on each of my feet can cause uninterrupted sleep for up to 12 hours ( that’s my jet lag record!). In fact, I notice a dramatic difference in sleep on nights that I forgo using the oils. If you just want to try one, I highly suggest the lavender peace blend.
4. 5-HTP/ Tryptophan supplement- 5-Hydroxy Tryptophan (5-HTP) is a precursor to tryptophan, serotonin and furthermore melatonin (which gives us deep sleep). Serotonin is the most common neurotransmitter deficiency due to compromised gut health, stress and poor diet. Other behaviours associated with the lack of serotonin include anger, anxiety, depression, TMJ, and tension. If any of these relate to you, you’re already eating plenty of clean protein, and you are not taking any Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors or other anxiety/depression targeted medications 5-HTP or Tryptophan supplementation will be very helpful. Of course consult your physician or Nutrition Consultant before taking to ensure correct support, detoxification and dosage.
I believe that all sleep issues can be resolved though proper stress management and nutritional balancing. Pharmaceutical drugs while helpful at the time, can cause serious depletion and an inability to produce neurotransmitters naturally, resulting in drug dependancy. All of these can of course be reversed over time as our bodies are given the raw materials to heal themselves. Do you have any natural remedies that have helped your sleep? I’d love to hear your success.