If you are having any kind of sleep problem, it is likely to have a negative impact on your health if left too long. Struggling with sleep over prolonged periods of time is linked to depression, hypertension, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity and others, so it is critical to take action sooner rather than later. Before reaching for the bottle of sleeping pills, know that there are naturally effective ways to help you sleep better. Tweaking your lifestyle to address the main causes of sleep problems is a powerful solution.
- Getting enough sunlight exposure during daylight hours.
- Taking action to combat stress by working shorter hours and taking breaks.
- Exercising plenty without overdoing it.
- Putting the iPhones, iPads and laptops down well before bed time.
- Cutting sugar and caffeine – at the very least, after lunch.
Essential nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and certain B vitamins may help remedy sleep symptoms. Many of these nutrients are linked to successful sleep biochemistry. The essential amino acid tryptophan must be converted by the brain into serotonin. Serotonin is in turn converted to melatonin. Low levels of melatonin and serotonin can lead to insomnia and other sleep disorders. Unfortunately, essential nutrient deficiencies are relatively common and include ‘key sleep nutrients’ like magnesium and vitamin B12. If you’re not careful, Paleo and similar diets can limit access to some nutrients. If you’re following a Paleo diet but having difficulty with sleep, choosing foods that are rich in the right nutrients is more important than ever.
Here are 6 of the best paleo-friendly foods for a successful slumber that contain key sleep nutrients and hormones:
Contains the hormone serotonin which may be beneficial in treating sleep disorders. A study involved adults with sleep issues who ate two kiwifruit an hour before bed time for four weeks. Significantly decreased waking time and time to fall asleep were reported, as well as significantly increased efficiency and length of sleep.
Contain the hormone melatonin, which induces and sustains sleep when it is released at night by the brain’s pineal gland.
3. Pumpkin seeds
contain high levels of magnesium and zinc. Magnesium improves melatonin secretion and unsurprisingly, blood concentrations of magnesium are linked with sleep. In fact, increasing magnesium has been shown to increase sleep quality and length of sleep time. Magnesium also activates GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric acid), a sleep-favoring receptor of the nervous system. Zinc is known to contribute to sleep regulation and is associated with sleep length.
4. Barley Grass
Barley grass is associated with sleep duration and one study showed improved sleep in subjects who took a small amount of barley grass powder daily. These beneficial effects are thought to be due to its high content of GABA, magnesium and also calcium. Calcium is associated with initially falling asleep.
Tuna provides close to our entire recommended daily amount of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin). Our body requires B6 to make enough serotonin, while vitamin B12 contributes towards the secretion of melatonin, contributing to healthier sleeping patterns. I’m not always a fan of tuna – it’s often high in mercury toxicity, or it’s not sustainably caught – but I realize many paleo enthusiasts love their tuna!)
Bananas have plenty of vitamin B6 and are also on the list because it is important not to skip out paleo-friendly carbs. Carbohydrate meals are important in aiding tryptophan to reach the brain and other paleo-friendly carbs include sweet potatoes and yams.