Sleep deprivation has become a familiar dilemma. Work, stress or the continuous indulgence in a fast-paced lifestyle can quickly establish a sleep deficit. Doctors recommend six to eight hours a night for adults yet most adults rarely are afforded that many hours.
According to the CDC, more than 8 million people use prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids and although popular, they are characterized by half a night’s sleep, decreased libido, headaches, and unfortunate memory impairment, just to name a few. In fact, there are more than 2 dozen negative effects from prescription and OTC sleep aids, leading many people to look for natural ways to fall asleep.
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Best Natural Sleep Aids
When it comes to banishing insomnia the best natural sleep aid are nutrients derived from food.
L-Theanine; one of the most common supplements is an amino acid that helps your body relax and found in abundantly in tea. It’s a neurotransmitter that boosts serotonin in the brain and affects your mood. Tea goes back at least 5,000 years as a medicine and more than 1,000 years as a simple drink. Green tea is best as a natural sleep aid but black tea also has beneficial health effects. Black tea can lower potentially damaging lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, yet green tea contains a healthy amount of the amino acid L-theanine.
Tryptophan; The body uses tryptophan to produce serotonin and melatonin, two hormones that play an important role to improve the quality of sleep. Milk is a popular drink to help fall asleep and it’s abundant in tryptophan. Bananas, honey, turkey, tuna and salmon also are rich in tryptophan and signals the brain to relax.
Melatonin supplements; melatonin is an amino acid naturally found in the body and deficits almost always account for sleep deprivation. Research shows that melatonin helps the body fall asleep faster yet it doesn’t help you remain asleep.
The Top 5 Ways to Fall Asleep
When the underlying cause sleep problems are not obvious, the first thing doctors usually suggest is optimizing your environment.
1. Sleep in a completely dark room. The slightest bit of light can confuse your internal clock and disrupt the production of melatonin and serotonin. How bright is your alarm clock? Even the bright light that beams from a small alarm clock could interfere with your sleep. Close the door to your room and eliminate any night lights. You’ll also want to refrain from turning on any lights at night, even when you get up to go to the bathroom. Bright lights arouse the internal system telling your brain it’s time to wake up. This places your system in action-mode.
2. Unplug the bedroom television. The over-use of modern gadgets has significantly betrayed your inner clock. Many of us give in to late-night television making it harder to relax at bedtime. Developing a habit of turning the television off at the same time each night will help create a normal routine for sleep. Better yet, unplug bedroom televisions and make the bedroom a sleep-zone.
3. Adjust the room temperature. Many people keep their upstairs bedrooms too hot. Studies confirm that we sleep better when the temperature of a room is set between 60F and 68F degrees. As you sleep, your internal body temperature drops to its lowest level. By adjusting your room temperature you mimic the temperature of your body, thus helping you sleep better.
4. Remove all stimulants from your diet. Sugar and caffeine from sodas, cookies and other junk foods are stimulants and keep the body aroused for hours. Limit their consumption at least 2 hours before bedtime.
5. Relax the body. Yoga, a warm bath or relaxing music all contribute to a restful night by releasing energy, and improving circulation and oxygen flow.
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Developing Better Sleep Habits
Unfortunately, many people try everything and still suffer from insomnia only to learn they are really suffering from poor sleep habits. Regulating your sleep cycle allows the mind and body to prepare for sleep. Additionally, light exercise and reading helps release energy and adrenaline and better yet, its the best natural sleep aid without any side effects.