Nature offers safe and effective remedies for disturbed slumber. We review the herbs, vitamins, minerals and sleep-promoting supplements that feed your brain nutrients to help you relax and sleep better and have more energy and vitality.
Regular supplementation will greatly benefit your slumber. Discuss dosage with your doctor, nutritionist or health professional and experiment to find which offer the most sleep benefits for your needs.
Here are some herbs used for centuries and throughout the world to give sweeter and sounder sleep: anise, bergamot, California poppy, catnip, chamomile, fennel, gentian root, gotu kola, hawthorn berries, hops, kava kava, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, melissa, mullein, oats, orange, passionflower, primrose, rosemary, skullcap, valerian root, verbena and vervain.
Vitamins and minerals are also great soporifics and essential in helping you to maintain healthy sleep.
Without question, the best source of nutrients comes from fresh food itself. Yet with depleted soil, pesticides, processed foods, and our generally poor eating habits especially the bad but prolific habit of eating food too quickly absorbing the proper amounts of each nutrient directly from food can be difficult. A multi- vitamin and mineral tablet or capsule is the best start. Then see if you need ‘boosters’ in any of the following areas, taking into account the total amount from your multivitamin as well as from your supplement.
When deficiencies are the cause
Calcium and magnesium deficiencies are two major culprits of disturbed sleep among women. Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body and yet something most women still need to supplement. All women need extra calcium, particularly as we age.
Calcium has a calming effect on the nervous system, helps to promote restful and high-quality sleep, and is good to take right at bedtime. Calcium citrate and calcium carbonate have the edge for best absorption. Some good food sources include dairy products, calcium-fortified soy milk, nuts and seeds, sardine or salmon (with bones), as well as leafy green vegetables.
Magnesium also has a calming effect on the brain and nervous system and is important for good sleep. It’s a natural sedative, helps the body absorb calcium and is often combined with calcium in tablet form. A suggested daily magnesium intake is 300mg to 500mg. Higher doses of magnesium about 1000mg can work well as a mild relaxant before bedtime. Loose stools can be a side effect, so taper down if this becomes an issue. Good sources are dark green vegies, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, dairy foods, seafood, legumes and fruits.
Low iron and unbalanced copper levels can also cause poor sleep. Copper helps make norepinephrine, a chemical responsible for the brain’s general arousal and crucially involved in sleep; and iron is essential for making dopamine, also involved in sleep. Since too much copper and iron can cause serious side effects, take these supplements only under the guidance of a health professional and after blood tests to determine your true mineral levels. Iron-rich foods include wholegrain cereals, meat, poultry and fish, while copper can be found in lean meat, nuts, milk and seafood.
The B-vitamins regulate the body’s use of tryptophan and other amino acids and are depleted by stress, the Pill, smoking and alcohol. All B-vitamins are important for good sleep. Start with a complete B-complex, then ask your naturopath or nutritionist whether you may need any of the following single Bs as boosters: niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (B9), choline and inositol are all important B-vitamins for sleep. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) may also help, particularly if you’re a vegetarian. Many vegetarians claim they sleep better and have more energy just by taking a supplemental B-vitamin complex regularly.
Read more in the November issue of New Zealand Good Health magazine at magshop.co.nz.