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Maybe you're reading this article at 2AM, looking for a solution to your insomnnia (one which doesn't come in a prescription bottle).
Well, you're not alone.
According to a new survey from Consumer Reports, around 27% of adults claim to have issues falling asleep or staying asleep. Plus, 68%, or roughly 164 million Americans, have trouble with sleep at least once per week.
So, assuming counting sheep didn't cut it, how can you improve your sleep?
If you aren’t following a perfectly balanced diet (and who does?), you may not be getting all of the vitamins and nutrients you need to get a restful night.
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of vitamin C might be that it’s a great boost for your immune system. You’re totally right, it is great for your immune system!
However, that’s not all this super vitamin can do for you. In fact, studies suggest that those individuals who have particularly low levels of vitamin C in their systems also suffer from increased problems catching z’s.
When low on vitamin C, you are also more likely to wake up sporadically throughout the night, which means you’re not getting the most restful sleep.
Adding a supplement of vitamin C to your daily wellness regimen is one of the best ways to quit tossing and turning (as well as staving off the sniffles).
Intuitively, you might vitamin D would wake you up, not help put you to sleep.
In reality, vitamin D has recently been linked to the maintenance of good sleep, and getting enough of it is especially important during those long winter months, when we have far less exposure to the sun.
Some studies have gone so far as to associate certain sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia, with low levels of vitamin D.
That’s why this vitamin is a must during winter.
While melatonin has only now been making waves in the press recently, it’s been making waves in the brain for millennia.
Melatonin is a naturally occuring hormone that aids in the regulation of the body’s circadian rhythm. Studies suggest that taking melatonin supplements can really help to get you better, more restful sleep.
Given its ability to help your body produce melatonin, magnesium is a good bet for improving sleep quality. And yet many Americans are just not getting enough of this crucial mineral. In fact, the Nutritional Magnesium Association states that over 75% of all Americans don’t get the recommended daily dose of magnesium.
Most people understand that iron is essential, and mysteriously related to energy levels, but many don't know why.
Iron is the ultimate oxygen transporter, so when you don’t have enough - even through malnutrition, or anemia - it is no wonder you will feel particularly fatigued.
Furthermore, any sleep you get while you have an iron deficiency will most often be disrupted by restless leg syndrome, which may sound like a condition from a Monty Python sketch, but is no laughing matter.
Did you know that the word “nightmare” comes from the Middle Ages and refers to an evil spirit sitting on your chest and interrupting your sleep? The latest research shows that if knights in shining armor had eaten more calcium, they would’ve had more dreams (okay, and maybe more nightmares, too)! Where does our proof come for this?
While archaeologists continue their search for King Arthur’s dream diary, a recent study found that a deficiency in calcium can lead to a disruption in your REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. When calcium levels were returned to proper levels, there was a marked return to normal REM sleep. As you may recall from your high school psychology class, REM is the most critical stage in the sleep cycle for dreams.
You can find calcium in plenty of foods, including many dairy products as well as collard greens, kale, sardines, sesame seeds and mustard. You can also easily boost your calcium levels by taking a supplement.
(Do you find yourself prone to nightmares? That could be a sign of high levels of stress. Check out this article, here, for tips on reducing stress.)
There are multiple vitamins within a B-Complex supplement that can impact your quality of sleep. Vitamin B6 in particular can help you remember your dreams.
In general, vitamin B6 aids numerous functions of your body, including cognitive function and development, so it makes sense that it would impact your ability to remember your dreams. If you can remember your dreams, you are also more likely to have lucid ones.
B12 greatly impacts your sleep, too, as studies have linked low levels of the vitamin with insomnia. It also turns out your sleep-wake cycles are regulated by the vitamin.
B6 can be found in carrots, bananas, potatoes and spinach, while B12 can be found in meat, eggs, fish and dairy products.
Taking a reliable multivitamin can ensure you get all of the minerals and vitamins you need for proper sleep. In addition, if you are aware of a deficiency you might have, you can supplement that mineral or vitamin.
Given what the latest science tells us, we know which nutrients can be supplemented to promote sleep, and we know what foods can do the same. The National Sleep Foundation recommends foods high in lean protein such as cottage cheese, which can increase serotonin levels. Other ideas include some nuts which offer heart-healthy fats and can give you a healthy dose of melatonin right before bedtime.
That is especially true if you consume walnuts or almonds. Some other bedtime snacks to consider include complex carbohydrates paired with fats, such as fruits or whole grains. Carbs, when paired with fats, have been shown to improve the transport of amino acids in the brain.
The National Sleep Foundation contends that the amount of sleep you need and the particular pattern you should follow depends on a couple of factors, the most impactful of which is your age. Improve your sleep quality by getting the right amount of sleep for your age. If you’re a teenager, you need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep, while the adults among us need somewhere between 7 and 9 hours in order to feel well-rested.
This recommendation is accompanied by others that can help improve your overall sleep, such as making sleep a priority and following your own schedule. Exercise can help, as well as making sure you have a ritual that is particularly relaxing right before you climb into bed. And as we all have learned the hard way, the screens on our phones or our computers or our tvs have blue light, which trips up our circadian rhythms by significantly suppressing melatonin.
Basically, your body thinks the light from your phone is actually from the sun! In order to sleep better, we must all put our phones down, close Netflix, and turn off the TV. By improving your sleep hygiene and getting less blue light before bed, you will find it much easier to fall asleep. You might even stop believing the world revolves around your phone.
REM sleep takes place just about 90 minutes after you’ve fallen asleep, and as said before, it’s really important for dreaming. When REM occurs, your eyes move from side to side, though your eyes move while they are closed. As you get older, you spend less time in REM sleep, which is problematic because REM is significant for memory formation and learning.
The same methods discussed earlier can help you get better REM sleep. That includes keeping a regular sleep schedule and preparation for sleep, and investing in the right multivitamin supplement.
Sleep on it. We’re sure it’ll help.