Trouble sleeping? Consider these snooze-friendly foods

Is there anything worse than waking up after a night of no sleep? How about going to work or school with barely an hour of shuteye from the previous night? No matter how you look at it, poor sleep habits can lead to a number of physical and neurological problems – ranging from decreased cardiovascular health, stress management and even weight loss difficulties. Increased exercise is one way to help catch some more Zzzs, but you might also want to
consider incorporating some of these snooze-friendly foods into your regular diet.

Tea
Tea isn’t exactly the first thing you would think of as a sleep aid – especially considering how much caffeine is contained inside. However, WomansDay.com notes that many decaf varities – particularly chamomile and green teas – can help you fall asleep more easily. Green tea actually possess a substance known as theanine, which may assist with better sleep habits.

Cherries
Got a soft spot for cherries? Well, this delicious fruit can also offer a helping hand when it comes to falling asleep each night. Forbes.com notes that fresh cherries are a great natural source of melatonin, a substance that may be able to promote a more restful night’s sleep.

Bananas
Not just a quick breakfast, bananas may also be beneficial as a snack right before bed, according to the Huffington Post. The reason is twofold – bananas are sources of both magnesium and potassium. Magnesium may aid the body in relaxing nerves and muscles, while potassium can do the same, on top of promoting better blood circulation and digestion.

Dairy
That old idea of drinking a warm glass of milk before bed might not be so far off the mark. WomansDay.com reports that dairy products that are packed with calcium can be great sleep aids. Calcium may be able to reduce stress levels, relax the body and calm the mind for a better night’s sleep. This goes for milk and yogurt as well.

Eating habits
Beyond eating the right foods, it’s important to follow healthy dietary habits to enjoy a good night’s sleep, reports EverydayHealth.com. In particular, you should avoid gorging on snacks right before bed, as this can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Alternately, you shouldn’t go to bed hungry either, so choose pre-bedtime snacks that are light and won’t hurt your stomach. The source also suggests sticking with familiar foods at night so you don’t have an unexpectedly poor reaction to what you’re eating.

 

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Linking weight loss to sleep

Diet and exercise may help those looking to manage their weight and promote cardiovascular health, but adequate sleep could be just as crucial.

Many may know that ravenous feeling that can happen during the day following a sleepless night. These cravings emerge because an individual’s internal clock is linked to their metabolism, according to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Therefore, getting a full and undisturbed sleep may be significant in avoiding weight gain.

Mice show the danger of disturbed sleep
Researchers from the FASEB studied mice to procure their results. Keeping the mice in an area with constant light exposure made the rodents’ sleep cycles irregular. They continued disrupting the mice until their internal clocks became worn down, similarly to when specimens get older.

This disruption carried over to the metabolic function of the mice. The rodents lost energy metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

Essentially, when light disturbed their sleep clocks, the mice’s daily metabolic rhythm went off kilter.

By having undisturbed rest, this rhythm may go on without disturbance.

“The good news is that some of us can ‘sleep it off’ to avoid obesity and diabetes. The bad news is that we can all get the metabolic doldrums when our normal day/night cycle is disrupted.” Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, said in the release.

Though sleep helps keep these metabolic rhythms in tact, it should not be completely relied on to manage weight.

Sleep is just a part of the package
As the FASEB suggests, sleep may help to prevent obesity. Other sources have concluded the same: A 2012 release by the Canadian Medical Association Journal claims that sleep deficiency actually stimulates the body to want food.

That being said, diet and exercise may also be necessary for those looking to to lose weight.

“Sleep should be included as part of the lifestyle package that traditionally has focused on diet and physical activity,” Jean-Phillippe Chaput, Ph.D., of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, said in the release.

With people’s lives as busy as they are, it may be hard to get a full sleep each night. According to a 2011 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35.3 percent of an adult study group reported that they got seven hours of sleep or less within a 24-hour period.

Though getting enough sleep so that one’s internal clock remains undisturbed may be difficult, for those concerned about their weight, doing so could be integral.

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Sleep for Vitality and Vigor

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Sleep for Vitality and Vigor

Sleep is an essential practice for health and the lack of sleep has adverse effects on normal well-being. By promoting healthy sleep patterns through lifestyle practices and dietary supplementation, one is able to increase vitality, normalize stress and refresh our body’s ability to cope with the rigors of daily life.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
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Volatile Oils to Support Healthy Sleep

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Volatile Oils to Support Healthy Sleep

In a placebo-controlled experiment published recently in Chronobiology International, exposure of adult men and women to the scent of lavender volatile oils at bedtime significantly increased sleep duration, the percentage of sleep spent in deep sleep and subjects’ self-reported morning vigor.8 In contrast, the results of another placebo-controlled experiment published recently in Biological Psychology indicate that exposure to the scent of peppermint volatile oils increases alertness and inhibits sleep.9 Together, these research findings suggest that the scent of some relaxing volatile oils can help normalize sleep patterns while simultaneously pleasing the senses.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Sleep for Vitality and Vigor

References:
8. Goel N, Kim H, Lao RP. An olfactory stimulus modifies nighttime sleep in young men and women. Chronobiol Int 2005;22:889-904.
9. Goel N, Lao RP. Sleep changes vary by odor perception in young adults. Biol Psychol 2006;71:341-349.

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Green Tea for Relaxation

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Green Tea for Relaxation

The amino acid L-theanine is unique to tea leaves and is primarily obtained in the diet by drinking green tea. Studies in rats and humans have demonstrated that the consumption of L-theanine increases the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain and increases brain alpha-wave activity, a sign of relaxation and increasing calmness. Research suggests that the consumption of 200 mg of L-theanine about one hour before bedtime can help one relax, which may enhance the ability to sleep.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Volatile Oils to Support Healthy Sleep

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Valerian – A Relaxing Herb

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Valerian – A Relaxing Herb

Extracts of the roots of valerian (Valeriana officinalis) contain volatile oils that, according to the German Commission E, can support normalization of “restlessness and nervous disturbance of sleep.” In human studies, 450 mg to 1200 mg of oral valerian root extract in the evening have shortened the time to fall asleep, improved the quality of sleep and decreased daytime drowsiness for adults with difficulty sleeping. The results of a study published recently in Molecular Brain Research show that compounds in valerian root extract stimulate the sleep-inducing areas of the brain and enhance normal sleep.7 The amount of extract consumed is important; more than 400 mg was required to improve sleep quality. Timing also is important; valerian too close to bedtime may not allow enough time for absorption before sleep is attempted.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Green Tea for Relaxation

References:
7. Dietz BM, Mahady GB, Pauli GF, Farnsworth NR. Valerian extract and valerenic acid are partial agonists of the 5-HT5a receptor in vitro. Mol Brain Res 2005;138:191-197.

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L-Tryptophan as a Natural Sleep Promoter

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
L-Tryptophan as a Natural Sleep Promoter

Modern nutritional mythology holds that eating turkey meat will make you sleepy because it is a rich source of the amino acid, L-tryptophan. The validity of this legend is under debate by nutritionists. However, because melatonin is made from L-tryptophan in the pineal gland, it makes sense that L-tryptophan could contribute to increasing melatonin secretion and thus help relieve occasional sleeplessness.

This possibility was tested in a study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.6 These researchers discovered that dietary supplementation with a single “dose” of 2 g (2000 mg) of L-tryptophan in the evening reduced sleepiness the next morning and improved the ability to concentrate in healthy adults.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Valerian – A Relaxing Herb

References:
6. Markus CR, Jonkman LM, Lammers JH, Deutz NE, Messer MH, Rigtering N. Evening intake of a-lactalbumin increases plasma tryptophan availability and improves morning alertness and brain measures of attention. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:1026-1033

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Free Radical Theory of Aging

Free Radical Theory of Aging

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Free Radical Theory of Aging

According to the free radical theory of aging, the normal oxidative reactions of metabolism that occur in all cells generate free radical electrons which can damage DNA, proteins and cell membranes, resulting in “aging” on the cellular level. Over time, as the number of individual cells that are experiencing “aging” increases, the entire body begins to show signs of the accumulation of damaged cells and proteins – “aging” in its more common sense.

It has long been known that melatonin is a scavenger of free radical electrons, as many studies have confirmed the ability of melatonin to protect DNA and membrane lipids from oxidative damage. Inside cells, melatonin stimulates the synthesis of glutathione (another antioxidant) while inhibiting the activity of oxidizing enzymes such as nitric oxide synthetase and lipoxygenase. A beneficial consequence of melatonin’s antioxidant actions is increased stability of membranes both inside and surrounding cells.

Melatonin doesn’t just help the body remove free radical electrons after they are formed – it also increases the efficiency of the metabolic reactions that produce free radical electrons, preventing the generation of free radicals in the first place. Melatonin may be even better at this than either vitamin C or vitamin E and in recent research published in the Journal of Neural Transmission melatonin was called “the premier molecule to protect cells from oxidative stress.”4 In short, melatonin lowers oxidative stress levels by slowing free radical production, stimulating the body’s natural antioxidant defense systems and itself capturing and deactivating free radicals.

Melatonin continues to promote antioxidant effects on the body even after it has been used up. When melatonin captures and deactivates a free radical electron, the melatonin molecule becomes changed into “secondary metabolites” that are as effective as the original melatonin molecule in capturing and deactivating free radical electrons – packing each individual melatonin molecule with plenty of excess capacity for protection against oxidative stress.

Additionally, melatonin is a strong supporter of a healthy and effective immune system. This simple compound is produced by the cells of the immune system and enhances cell-to-cell communication to ensure that challenges to the immune system are met quickly and efficiently.

Thus, in addition to restoring youthful sleep, melatonin can benefit our bodies as a strong antioxidant and immune system stimulant, supporting healthy aging in numerous ways.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Does Eating Sugar Make You Sleepy or Alert?

References:
4. Sofic E, Rimpapa Z, Kundurovic Z, Sapcanin A, Tahirovic I, Rustembegovic A, Cao G. Antioxidant capacity of the neurohormone melatonin. J Neural Transm 2005;112:349-358.

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Melatonin Secretion with Age

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Melatonin Secretion with Age

Like so many other bodily functions, melatonin secretion at night typically declines during middle age. In fact, older men and women who secrete the least melatonin overnight tend to have the most difficulty falling asleep. In addition, older men and women tend to become sleepier earlier in the evening and to awaken earlier in the morning, without changes in the cyclic timing of melatonin secretion – almost as if their brains have learned to anticipate the switching on and off of daylight.

A little manipulation of your melatonin cycle can go a long way toward restoring a more youthful sleep pattern. A number of gold standard, “randomized placebo-controlled” human clinical trials have shown that the consumption of small amounts of melatonin (0.3 mg to 5 mg) about one hour before bedtime can shorten the time it takes you to fall asleep, can increase the actual amount of time you sleep while also increasing the relative percentage of the time you spend in bed at night during which you are asleep, and reduce “morning after” daytime sleepiness.

The results of a study published recently in the Journal of Physiology demonstrate that even “normal” sleepers can enjoy an increased quality of sleep and awaken more refreshed following the consumption of 1.5 mg of melatonin before bedtime.3 In fact, many folks find that 1 mg of melatonin about a half hour before going to bed does the trick just fine.

Melatonin enhances normal sleep and may improve occasional sleeplessness. This nutrient also has other potentially beneficial effects in the human body. The latest research findings suggest that melatonin can extend maximum lifespan in mice by up to 15% – an effect called “geroprotection.” How does melatonin do this?

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Free Radical Theory of Aging

References:
3. Rajaratnam SM, Middleton B, Stone BM, Arendt J, Dijk DJ. Melatonin advances the circadian timing of EEG sleep and directly facilitates sleep without altering its duration in extended sleep opportunities in humans. J Physiol 2004;561:339-351.

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