Eat to sleep – beat insomnia

Why can’t I sleep?

To feel healthy and normal we need about 7 to 9 hours sleep a night. Sleep is vital for good health. So what goes on when we can’t sleep?  And I don’t mean the odd night where you were too hot, too cold, or there was a lot of noise or too much light. When you cannot sleep for night after night and you feel as if you’re not really tired in the small hours.

It might be that you are: not getting to sleep; waking up a few hours later and just lying there tossing and turning; or waking early (say 5 a.m.) and being unable to get back to sleep.

When it persists it can make you exhausted, tearful, unable to cope and stressed. Eventually it is just like torture and you may feel irrational and depressed. After all, sleep deprivation is a form of torture.

Why does it happen? Again, there is no clear answer. If you are worried about something, it can go round and round in your head and there’s no way you can drop off.. And even if you aren’t worried about something, sure as anything the insomnia will make you anxious about everything, especially the insomnia –  it becomes a vicious circle.

What can you try?

Everyone will give you plenty of advice – listen to music, watch TV, read a book, get up for a while, but sometimes none of it works. Here’s a selection of other things you can try.

  • Melatonin – available on prescription. Side-effects are minimal and usually used for jet lag to enable you to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Herbs – Valerian, Passiflora in all kinds of forms – as a tincture,  tablets, or a night-time drink.
  • Lavender – a ,  essential oil of  lavender on a tissue under the pillow or close to our nose, or a pillow spray of lavender..  
  • Hot bath – maybe with a few drops of essential oils – lavender or geranium – to help you feel drowsy before bed.
  • Reading – for many people who like a good book it’s a way to calm down and become sleepy. Watching TV or reading your phone at night is less likely to help.
  • Environment – noise and light can keep you awake. Make sure you have good curtains or blinds, have no lights on around you, and if you have a noisy snoring partner, try ear plugs.
  • Rescue Remedy – to calms down a busy brain.
  • Yoga/meditation – before bedtime can be very helpful. Just practising  yoga and/or meditation helps to keep you calm.
  • Watch caffeine. Tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and even green tea and chocolate contain caffeine, so if any of these are your favourites before bedtime, try consuming them earlier.

Food to ease tiredness

Bed Kingdom’s experts have put together a list of foods to help when you are really missing out on sleep.  

  • Avocados are packed with healthy fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals, including potassium which is responsible for preventing fatigue by giving your body energy. With approximately 14 grams of fibre, this also helps promote the growth of healthy bacteria, which is vital for your gut. Plus,
  • Dark chocolate contains high amounts of cacao, which is responsible for boosting your energy as well as increasing your focus – so you can count on this to keep you going throughout the day. Not to mention, it is filled with antioxidants such as magnesium which helps to relax you. (Editor’s note: try not to eat chocolate late in the evening as it contains caffeine).
  • Chia seeds are high in magnesium which also fights extreme fatigue and high stress levels. They also retain high levels of water and you need to be hydrated when you’re lacking sleep.
  • Sweet potatoes are also high in magnesium and they contain lots of vitamin C. This helps transport fat into energy – as a result, this combats the feeling of sleepiness and keeps you switched on.
  • Oranges contain a lot of Vitamin C which enhances your energy – but they also contain a moderate amount of natural sugar, which is converted into glucose, the brain’s best source of fuel. Even consuming orange juice instead of eating the fruit can boost your memory and mental ability for the day. 

Other posts on Healthy Soul about sleep: Sleeping tips; Sleep where are you?; Are you sleeping in the right position?

The Sleep Charity

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