There are a multitude of reasons as to why many people have difficulty sleeping at night. Some recent studies in neurology indicate that daily stress, lack of exercise, use of stimulants and poor nutrition may be to blame. All of these factors can contribute to neurotransmitter imbalances which translate into poor sleep.
Some scientists believe that that these neurotransmitters play a crucial role in sleeping and how well we sleep. What exactly are neurotransmitters? They are chemicals that process information transferred from neurons (nerve cells) to other types of cells. These chemicals can carry messages that calm, or messages that excite, the nervous system. Chronic anxiety and depression can occur if certain neurotransmitter levels are too high or too low.
Neurotransmitters associated with healthy sleep include:
- GABA (Gamma-Amino-Butyric-Acid)
There are three problems that can occur with these neurotransmitters that can affect our sleep:
- The development of an improper balance of these neurotransmitters.
- Sensitivity of our neurotransmitter receptor sites that does not allow the neurotransmitter to deliver its message.
- Recycling of neurotransmitters too early by monoamine oxidase and other enzymes.
Often times, medical science will treat these issues with drugs. However, there are safer and more natural ways to resolve these imbalances. In addition to exercise, which can release more calming neurotransmitters, better nutrition and herbs can be implemented to improve the quality of your sleep. Below, we will focus on these in order to create a strategy to sleep better.
The following natural two-step strategy is recommended for better sleep:
(1) Select a complete protein superfood. Take these superfoods during the day. They can be as snacks or some even blended into smoothies. A little can go a long way. By supplementing our diet with only five to 10 grams of protein from clean superfood sources is enough for each day. The amino acids and protein compounds found in these superfoods form healthy neurotransmitters and maintain neurotransmitter balance.
Some Popular Complete Protein Superfoods:
- Goji Berries: An easy high-protein snack that tastes great. The goji berry is a 100 percent natural, real food.
- Chia seeds: These should be soaked in pure water for at least 15 minutes until they “gel” up. Heating this gelatin-like chia seed water creates a wonderful alternative to oatmeal. Add honey and berries. Chia is a wonderfully-rich, complete, non-stimulating protein source that is gentle on digestion.
- Hempseed protein: Another increasingly-popular, complete protein source that is free of stimulants.
- Rice Protein: Rice protein is hypo-allergenic (friendly to those with allergies) and easy to digest. Rice protein tastes a little chalky, but when blended in a smoothie this taste disappears.
(2) Select a calming herb. In the evening, as you wind down, take a calming herb. Calming herbs can help clear clogged or damaged neurotransmitter receptor sites. They can also increase the production of healthy neurotransmitters.
Some Excellent Calming Herbs Are:
- Passionflower tea (two to three cups) or Passionflower powder in capsules (2,000-5,000 mg): Passionflower is usually used for calming an excited nervous system. Passionflower blocks the monoamine oxidase digestive enzyme and as a result can have a positive effect on dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
- Chamomile tea (two to three cups): Chamomile is a time-proven, effective, calming herb that can be safely used by children and adults alike. Chamomile tea is used regularly worldwide for insomnia, irritability, and restlessness.
- Reishi Mushroom tea (two to three cups) or Reishi mycelium powder in capsules (2500-5000 mg): Reishi is well-known in Chinese medicine to great feelings of “well being” and spiritual calm. Reishi mushroom is also high-regarded for assisting our immune system health.
- St. John’s Wort tea (two to three cups) or St. John’s Wort extract powder in capsules (300-1000 mg): This common, yellow-flowered herb has become an important part of the new surge of interest in natural medicine. It has a long history of use dating back to the ancient Greeks. Scientific research has demonstrated that it can help relieve chronic insomnia and mild depression. Because this herb can sensitize the skin to sunlight, take it in the evening after the Sun has set.
Reference: David Wolfe, the author of five bestselling books including Eating For Beauty, Superfoods, The Sunfood Diet Success System, Naked Chocolate, and Amazing Grace.