It is estimated that more than 100 million Americans experience sleep disturbances. Chronic sleep disturbance, referred to as insomnia, is defined as “an inability to fall asleep or remain asleep long enough to feel rested.” These disturbances affect all age groups but are more predominant in persons over the age of 60. Women are more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances than men. Disturbances in sleep are not usually a primary concern for children, but can be caused by an unknown condition or genetic component.
Chronic sleep disturbances should be regarded as a symptom of an underlying cause. If the sleep disorder is not associated with a medical condition or psychiatric disorder the patient can pursue non-pharmacologic measures for treatment.
Everyone knows some foods are healthier than others, however people may not realize some foods are good for specific medical conditions. Research studies show certain nutrients to be an effective, natural cure for sleep disturbances and permit sleep throughout the night. Tart cherries are a rich melatonin food source. One cup of tart cherry juice or about one-eighth of a cup of dried tart cherries is recommended.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain which controls sleep and wake cycles. An article in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism concluded that small doses of melatonin – about 0.3 milligrams – helps insomniacs get a better night’s sleep.
Brigitte Mars, author and herbalist, recommends that sources of foods rich in calcium and magnesium, such as green leafy vegetables, almonds, figs, and sea vegetables, can relieve symptoms of sleep disturbance.
A main symptom of insomnia is magnesium deficiency, associated with frequently waking during the night. In a study conducted by James Penland at the Human Nutrition Research Center in North Dakota it was proven that a high magnesium diet can be associated with deeper sleep patterns.
Calcium levels are directly related to sleep cycles. Dr. William Sears notes in his article, “Foods That Help You Sleep”:
“Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture sleep – inducing substance melatonin. Tryptophan is a precursor of the sleep inducing substance serotonin and melatonin. Eating foods that contain this substance will make it available to the brain and help make you sleepy.”
Dr. Sears also recommends dairy products as a rich source of calcium.
An article by James F. Balch, MD. States, “Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A lack of the nutrients calcium and magnesium will cause you to wake up after a few hours and not be able to return to sleep.”
According to an article published in the European Neurology Journal it was concluded that calcium levels in the body are higher during the deepest sleep periods.
What to avoid
Pharmaceuticals can prohibit nocturnal rest. Refrain from eating or drinking when preparing for bedtime to prevent disruption sleep to urinate. Caffeine should not be consumed as it can act as a stimulant. Dr. William Sears notes, “soft drinks that contain citric and phosphoric acid can decrease the absorption of calcium.
Paying attention to what you eat and drink can help you to achieve a healthy sleep pattern.