“I’ll sleep when I’m dead”
I first heard that statement when I was sixteen and had just started my first job.
Sleep in today’s modern world has become a luxury instead of a necessity.
As our lives become busier every day, sleep can be forced to take a back seat.
With recent studies suggesting that lack of sleep can lead to heart disease, diabetes, stress, depression, obesity and a weakened immune system (1), we may want to listen more to what our bodies are telling us.
In the first of my two part series on the effect diet has upon sleep, I discussed How To Improve Sleep with Kiwifruit.
This week I will be delving into the topic of natural foods vs sleep aids.
There are dozens of sleep aids on the market. Most offer some form of supplement ranging from synthetically engineered melatonin, benzodiazepines, magnesium powders, to Valerian root – which can smell like rancid, damp manure!
With many of the sleep-deprived reporting that sleep aids can leave them feeling groggy and drowsy the next day, or cause them to sleep through their alarm, shouldn’t there be a better alternative?
And it comes in the form of a spicy, sweet, chocolatey drink…
Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the centre of our brain, helps to regulate our circadian rhythms. Its levels increase slowly throughout the day coming to a peak in the evening causing us to feel drowsy.
However, as most of us lead busy, stressful lives the effect of melatonin can become masked by adrenaline – a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands in response to stress.
Adrenaline can accelerate heart rate and increase blood pressure, invoking the bodies natural fight or flight response.
This natural response to stress can leave us feeling wide awake after work making it difficult to unwind.
To give the body a chance to drift off naturally it could be beneficial to top up our melatonin levels.
Melatonin is not only produced in the pineal gland, but it is also naturally present in edible plants; and as melatonin can pass through the gut and into the bloodstream, eating plants high in melatonin can be a natural way to increase our blood melatonin levels.
However, don’t just take my word for it. A recent scientific study observed:
‘The use of physiological doses of melatonin to induce sleep has a number of advantages over conventional chemical hypnotics, such as the drugs benzodiazepines. Melatonin is naturally metabolised within hours of administration. Thus, methods of inducing sleep using melatonin, do not produce adverse residual effects the day following administration, as do conventional sleep-inducing drugs. Nor are there dangers of drug abuse and/or overdose, which are present with conventional chemical hypnotics. Moreover, because melatonin is a naturally occurring, endogenous substance, the doses of melatonin described herein would reasonably lack the potent amnesia-inducing effects of the benzodiazepines.’ (2)
What are the top 3 sources of naturally present melatonin?
Arriving in third place as the worlds most potent source of melatonin is… almonds.
Second place goes to raspberries (7th in our antioxidant food table).
But first place goes to goji berries with melatonin levels off the chart. (3)
If I’m struggling to drift off, I love to indulge with my Spiced Goji Berry Hot Chocolate. If you love a healthy, dark chocolate, and are struggling to sleep why not try the recipe for yourself. It’s super simple, and takes less than 5 minutes to make!
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