Sleep is perhaps the most soothing word that we all like to hear given our hectic work schedules, pressure of deadlines, projects and meetings that gives sleepless nights to most. But what exactly is sleep? It is a state where the body shows inactivity of almost all voluntary muscles along with inhibited sensory activity. The importance of sleep for humans and animals alike need no new emphasis. Sleep helps in growth and rejuvenation of the immune, nervous, muscular and skeletal systems so that we feel refreshed when we wake up with improved brain functions and energy. But despite unending research on this topic, researchers have failed to answer why we need to sleep.
Humans usually need 8 hours of sleep on a daily basis but in some cases sleep can be disrupted by certain disorders which is commonly known as sleep disorder (somnipathy) and most of us resort to sleeping tablets or sleeping pill in order to cope with it, hardly realizing that over dependence on such drugs make us addicted to it and we continue to take it even if we don’t need to. One of the most common forms of sleep disorders is Insomnia. People suffering from this problem have trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep leading to poor quality of sleep or lack of sleep. Long term Insomnia can lead to decreased brain functions, forgetfulness, and lack of concentration, stress, and decreases performance. It can also lead to raising blood pressure and increase the risk of obesity and weight gain.
There are several physical and psychological factors that lead to Insomnia. Some common Insomnia causes are as follows:
The primary insomnia symptoms include lack of sleep or difficulty in staying asleep throughout the night. Some of the common symptoms include:
One of the best home remedies for good sleep is to practice light yoga poses that promote sleep by relaxing the muscles and nerves and reducing stress. Simple yoga poses such as neck rolls, shoulder rolls, forward bends, arm and back stretches and the corpse pose can help to loosen and unwind the tense and stressed muscles.
Sleep experts prescribe regular physical exercise as a natural treatment of insomnia. An hour of moderately intense workouts has been shown to improve the quality of sleep, mood and energy. The reason might lie in the fact that strenuous physical activity promotes the releass of endorphins that help in improving the quality of sleep, boosts energy and reduces the symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety.
The best natural treatment of insomnia is to listen to soothing, soft music before going to bed. The right kind of music helps the mind to soothe and relax which in turn helps in unhindered, deep sleep. Research shows that people who listen to soothing music while hitting the bed have improved quality of restful sleep compared to those who don’t listen to music. But make it a point to play something soft and soothing and not something loud and noisy.
Although the benefits of coffee for health are numerous, try to avoid caffeine and alcohol past noon because caffeine being a stimulant disrupts sleep by shortening of deep sleep time and more frequent awakenings. Drinking coffee even six hours before going to bed can disrupt sleep. As for alcohol, it might make you drowsy and make you fall asleep initially, but it can lead to waking up during mid-night with a headache or stomach ache thus creating trouble in falling back to sleep.
Make it a daily ritual to unwind your muscles and relax your senses by taking nourishing aromatic bath before going to bed. Taking a hot bath by adding a few drops of lavender or roman chamomile oil to the water can enhance the mood of relaxation as well as relieve stress and depression, thus helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for a longer period of time so that you wake up refreshed and rejuvenated.
The health benefits of herbs in treating various diseases and health conditions are well known. Valerian is one such medicinal herb that has been used for ages to treat sleeping disorders and Insomnia. Certain chemicals present in valerian has powerful muscle-relaxant and sedative properties that help in soothing stress, anxiety and muscle tension. The roots of valerian have the highest concentration of these chemicals. Taking two capsules of valerian root an hour before going to bed can be helpful in promoting restful sleep.
Including certain foods in your daily diet along with these home remedies can help in improving the quality of sleep and treat transient Insomnia.
Nuts such as almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts are a rich source of healthy unsaturated fats that are not only beneficial for heart health, but also balance the levels of serotonin – one of the most important neurotransmitters that help in regulating the sleep-wake cycle of the body. Imbalanced serotonin levels can lead to depression, chronic fatigue and lack of restful sleep. Stay away from foods with high levels of saturated fats and trans-fats.
Cherry juice acts as an amazing natural medicine for sleep. This is because it contains high levels of melatonin, the hormone that helps in regulating the body’s sleep-wake cycles and promoting restful sleep. Melatonin puts the body to sleeping mode by bringing forth drowsiness and lowering the body temperature. Imbalance of the hormone melatonin in the body can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle and lead to lack of sleep and Insomnia.
Substituting simple carbohydrates such as white flour, white rice and white bread with complex carbohydrates like brown rice, whole grain breads, pasta and cereals are one of the most effective insomnia remedies. Simple carbohydrates tend to disrupt the balance of serotonin thus affecting sleep.
The benefits of honey for health and skin are numerous, but it also plays an important role in improving the quality of sleep. The natural sugar present in honey increases the level of insulin slightly which helps the release of tryptophan in the brain. Tryptophan is the compound that helps in promoting sleep. Therefore, consuming a spoonful of honey before going to bed or adding it to a cup of herbal tea can help in improving the quality of sleep considerably.
Certain beverages such as warm milk, herbal or green tea can help promote restful sleep. Milk, being an excellent source of calcium helps in increasing the production of melatonin by the brain. Green tea is a rich source of antioxidants that fight cancer. Amino acid L-theanine present in green tea has been shown to improve the quality of sleep too. Soothing herbal teas such as chamomile or peppermint tea also helps in relaxing the mind and the body.
Eating leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, etc. are a great way of improving the quality of sleep. These leafy vegetables are loaded with minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium- all of which play important roles in promoting sleep. Calcium increases the level of melatonin that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle whereas potassium and magnesium help in relaxing and unwinding the stressed muscles.
Herbs have played an important role as alternative medicine for treating diseases. Fresh herbs also function as effective natural remedy for treating lack of sleep and insomnia. Herbs such as basil and sage are known for their relaxing and cooling effect that helps in calming the mind and body and relieving stress, tension and anxiety and thus help in promoting unhindered sleep. Spice up your salads and pasta dishes with a hint of basil and sage and enjoy your 8 hours of restful sleep.
Include these foods in your daily diet and follow the home remedies to improve your sleeping pattern. But most importantly make your sleep tranquil and comfortable by keeping your bedroom and your bed clean and wearing comfortable clothes to bed.
Image Sources: ezyshine.com, feminiya.com, community.thehotplate.com, tips2bfitnhealthy.blogspot.in.
Devi Gajendran is a Post Graduate in Nutrition (University of Madras, Tamil Nadu) and has tons of experience in Fitness and Nutrition. She is the chief advisor and full time contributor at the Fit Indian and has the final say on all the segments under the Fit Indian paradigm, such as beauty, fitness, home remedies, diseases, diet tips, weight loss, weight gain and so on. A foodie herself, she believes in the Hippocrates quote,” Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” A fitness enthusiast, she believes that the combination of diet and exercise can work wonders. When she is not sharing her valuable knowledge about food and fitness, she likes to spend quality time with her family members, do some healthy baking and listen to soft soulful music.
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