Healthy sleep patterns play a role that is every bit as important as nutrition for your overall health. Mental health, immunity from disease, productivity, and fitness are all dependent on sufficient sleep. That’s why it’s so alarming that over 50 million people in the United States suffer from sleeping disorders. Unfortunately, some of the most common pharmaceuticals used to treat those disorders are dangerous and addictive.
The Danger of Prescription Sleep Meds
Besides the fact that they can be dangerously habit-forming, the FDA recently announced that many prescription sleep medications may be truly hazardous to your health. In fact, manufacturers of these drugs will now be required to print warnings on the packaging of said medications, much like those warnings printed on opioid and alcohol packaging. This is yet another reason to seek out natural, wholesome alternatives to pharmaceutical sleep meds.
Magnesium: A Crucial Mineral for Sleep (and Everything Else)
One simple way to promote better sleep is to improve overall nutrition – namely, your intake of magnesium. Magnesium plays a vital role in the human body, from heart and bone health to basic cellular function. This mineral also contributes to the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood, hormones, stress responses, and sleep patterns. Because of this, a healthy intake of magnesium may not only help you sleep better, it can also help to lower high stress levels that can disrupt sleeping patterns. These are some foods that contain high levels of magnesium:
- Dairy products
- Leafy greens
- Seeds and nuts
- Unprocessed whole grains
If you’re afraid that your diet may not provide enough magnesium, you can also take all-natural supplements like these Magnesium Oxide capsules by the Dr. Clark Research Association.
The Role of Melatonin
You’ve probably heard of this hormone since it’s one of the most popular supplements in drugstores right now. Melatonin is the naturally produced hormone that your body releases at nightfall to remind you that it’s time to rest. You could call it your body’s own natural sleep aid. Certain lifestyle factors – like screens or electronic devices in the bedroom, high stress levels, and smoking – can dramatically reduce the amount of melatonin your body produces, ultimately ruining your sleep patterns. Here are a few ways to increase your melatonin levels naturally:
- Keep it dark. Once the sun sets, keep artificial indoor lights to a minimum and use a blackout curtain to block street lights.
- Put away that screen. Not only do electronic devices and screens produce artificial light, exposure to the Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) they produce can also be detrimental to melatonin production.
- Get some sun. The health benefits of good old sunshine far outweigh its risks to the skin. Spend as much time as possible soaking up the sunshine each day, using the proper skin protection, of course.
- Reduce stimulant intake. Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can increase stress levels and reduce melatonin production.
- Relax. The “stress hormone” cortisol can block melatonin release, so look for ways to relax and reduce stress in the evening. Try a warm bath, a massage, a relaxing workout, deep breathing; find an activity that releases tension and relaxes your body.
- Go to bed earlier. The body begins releasing melatonin at sunset, but if you don’t fall asleep within a few hours, your body will be programmed to release less melatonin or to release it later every night.
Of course, melatonin supplements are also an option, but they are usually only recommended for several days at a time as a way to reset your body’s natural sleep rhythm.
Remember, healthy sleeping habits should be just as high on your priority list as a nutritious diet and exercise. What natural methods do you use to improve your sleep? Let us know in the comments below. You can also shop other natural supplements or read more about healthy lifestyles on the Living Clean blog: