Melatonin is perhaps the most well-known supplement used to promote sleep. Melatonin is actually a hormone that is produced in the pineal gland and regulates the body's sleep and wake cycles. What this means is that melatonin levels should become higher in the evening and into the night and are lower during the daytime. However, the body uses light as a trigger for melatonin production; therefore, if you are watching television or looking at a computer screen before bed, your body might interpret the light emitted from such screens as meaning it is daytime, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Melatonin is available as an over-the counter supplement that has been shown to be helpful in resetting the body's sleep/wake cycle and in treating insomnia, and is thought to be safe for short-term use. However, check with your doctor before starting to take melatonin, as it might interfere with some medications or conditions. Melatonin is also found naturally in some foods. For example, tart cherry juice is high in melatonin, and sipping on a cup before bed has been shown to promote restful sleep.
Kava, a plant used in a ceremonial drink in the Pacific Islands, has also been associated with promoting relaxation. In fact, a number of studies have found that kava is effective in treating anxiety, and its relaxation properties might help to promote sleep. Kava can be purchased in tablet or capsule form. However, be sure to check with your doctor before taking kava, as some medications, such as anti-anxiety agents and other drugs metabolized by the liver, might interfere with kava. In addition, alcohol use should be avoided while taking kava.
Adding certain foods to your diet can help promote sleep. Ever felt sleepy after eating a big turkey dinner? That's because turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that acts as a natural sedative. Other foods containing tryptophan include chicken, soybeans, tuna and shellfish. It is suggested to combine a food rich in tryptophan with carbohydrates, because this will promote digestion and make tryptophan available to the brain.
Magnesium is sometimes referred to as the "anti-stress mineral" because of its role in promoting muscle relaxation and sleep regulation. In fact, insomnia can sometimes be caused by a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium can be taken in supplement form, or foods containing magnesium can be added to the diet. Good sources of magnesium include seeds, spinach, black beans and nuts.
Aromatherapy is a safe method to help promote relaxation, which in turn can help with sleep. Several studies have shown that lavender can be helpful for insomnia. So next time you have trouble getting to sleep, try taking a bath with lavender bath salts before bed, or purchase a lavender-filled pillow. Camomile and ylang-ylang are other oils that can help promote sleep. Using scented lotions and roll-ons or room and pillow sprays are ways to bring these scents into your bedroom. Sweet dreams!
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