When your spouse, neighbor, or colleague greets you with a cheery “Good Morning!”, do you find yourself questioning whether it really is a ‘good’ morning? The fact is, greater and greater numbers of us are dragging ourselves out of bed to face the day with bleary eyes after yet another night of inadequate rest.
There is a significant amount of sleep issues and sleepiness in our society, with 50-70 million US adults having a diagnosed sleep disorder. According to the American Sleep Association, one in three adults report regularly getting less than the minimum recommended 7 hours of sleep a night, and nearly 40 percent of people reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the last month.
For many, being tired is just a fact of life, but the ill effects of sleep deprivation shouldn’t be underestimated. Lack of sleep affects not just your energy levels but also mood, cognitive function, and long term health. One study found that regularly sleeping less than seven hours per night doubles your mortality risk, and sleeping less than six hours quadruples your risk. Not only that, but daytime sleepiness has serious implications on public health, with medical mishaps and road accidents being just some of the examples.
It’s no surprise that many people look to sleeping pills for help, and perhaps you’re one of them. Consumer Reports shares that tens of billions of dollars are spent on sleep aids and remedies, and the dollar figure is growing with each passing year. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that sleep aids can carry many risks and side effects. Sleeping pills can interfere with normal breathing and can be dangerous in people who have chronic lung problems such as asthma or emphysema. Other common side effects may include digestive issues, headache, memory problems, sleepwalking, or impairment the next day. Some even carry a risk of addiction and overdose.
Clearly, taking sleeping pills is an undesirable option, but where does that leave those of us desperate for more and better sleep? Luckily there are many vitamins and supplements that may help you find relief. Generally speaking, these remedies may hold more promise than medication because they can correct the underlying imbalances which were stopping you from sleeping well in the first place – preventing the bandaid solution and potential dangers that come with sleep aids.
Here are some of the nutritional deficiencies which could be causing your sleep issues, and how you can correct them now.
If you have trouble sleeping, it could be due to a magnesium deficiency. This essential mineral assists your body in producing the sleep hormone melatonin. Magnesium also relieves muscle tension that can prevent restful sleep; it can even help ease tension by encouraging the production of an amino acid known as GABA that relaxes the nervous system. Try supplementing with a magnesium citrate powder that you can dissolve in water, or enjoy foods with higher magnesium content, such as leafy green vegetables, pumpkin seeds, and Brazil nuts.
Research shows that the amino acid glycine reduces symptoms of insomnia, helping you fall asleep more quickly and promoting deeper, more restful sleep. It may also help you bounce back to healthy sleep cycles after a period of disrupted sleep. Supplementing with 3 to 5 grams of glycine before bed has been found to help sleep in scientific studies.
Low vitamin B12 levels can cause fatigue, sleep disturbances, and numbness or tingling, which can affect sleep quality. Scientists have found that this vitamin helps regulate sleep-wake cycles and keeps circadian rhythms in sync. Some people with low levels of vitamin B12 may be able to relieve their insomnia symptoms with vitamin B12, especially those who also suffer from depression. However, consuming too many B vitamins when you are not deficient can cause agitation and restlessness, so be sure to speak with your health practitioner about your particular needs before taking supplements.
Other B vitamins may help with better sleep too. A lack of vitamin B5 may cause you to wake up repeatedly during the night, while low folic acid (vitamin B9) is associated with insomnia or trouble falling asleep in the first place. A B-complex supplement may help, or you could simply eat a few servings of liver per week.
Vitamin E is known for being extremely good for skin and nails, but it is also an antioxidant that will help with your sleep. This is an especially good vitamin if you suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome and cannot sleep due to the sudden urges to move your limbs. Vitamin E is also said to help prevent hot flashes and night sweats, so it is a promising remedy for many sleep issues. Try supplementing with a gel cap of 400 IU daily to see results.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning the body cannot make it on its own. This amino acid must come from your diet, including foods such as eggs, poultry, chia seeds, and sweet potatoes – or supplements. The body requires tryptophan to synthesize the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a significant role in sleep. Supplementation of 1 to 2 grams of tryptophan at bedtime has been used successfully in studies for people with insomnia.
Here is another amino acid that is important for sleep. Researchers found that L-theanine induces anxiety-reducing alpha brain waves, which helps initiate high-quality sleep. They pointed out the distinction that this supplement induces sleep by relieving anxiety rather than through sedation. It is free from side effects and was not found to cause daytime drowsiness. The recommended dose is 200 milligrams taken before bedtime.
Iron is a major component in our blood that provides oxygen to our cells and tissues. Iron deficiency is one of the more common causes of the sleep disorder, restless leg syndrome (RLS). Supplementing with iron could help relieve these symptoms and promote better sleep. Try a natural, liquid-based iron supplement for better absorption without constipation associated with conventional supplements.
Vitamin D deficiency is linked with disrupted sleep and less sleep overall, so you should do your best to keep your diet loaded with fish and eggs, and make sure to expose your bare skin to sunlight (in moderation). While vitamin D may not help you sleep directly, getting your daily dose makes you more wakeful during the day and regulates your circadian cycle so that you are ready for sleep when nighttime arrives.
Calcium deficiency could disrupt the dream cycle of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). When a group of researchers gave supplements to a group of calcium-deficient volunteers, they regained normal REM sleep. You can get the mineral from dairy, or you can also eat more foods like kale, mustard, collard greens, sardines, and sesame seeds to boost your calcium intake.
Before resorting to risky prescription sleep medications, try taking a look at vitamins. In addition to some careful supplementation to fix any nutritional imbalances, lifestyle habits such as exercise and healthy eating will also help you get better rest and wake up feeling refreshed.