I’ve always been one of those ‘sleep anywhere at anytime’ type of people, however lately I’ve been struggling to nod off and it’s no fun at all. Instead of counting sheep I took to my laptop (which I discovered is not a good thing to do when trying to catch some zz’s – hello blue light!) and started researching natural ways to get a better nights shuteye.
Minimise caffeine after midday
Start preparing for a good nights sleep at lunch time by cutting off caffeine consumption. This means no 3pm coffees at work to get over that slump! Caffeine is metabolised by the liver, and takes a certain amount of time to work through your system. Studies have shown that the half-life of caffeine in healthy adults is 5.7 hours. This means if you consume 200mg of caffeine at mid-day, you will still have 100mg in you at around 5.45pm. However, some people can take over 11 hours to metabolise it. This means that if you drink a coffee at 3pm, it may still be having a stimulating effect at 2am the following morning!
Eat a tryptophan-rich dinner
Tryptophan is a type of protein. It serves as the raw material for your body’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Eating a dinner that’s rich in tryptophan can therefore help you to drop off more easily at night.
Many different protein-containing foods are good sources of tryptophan. Some of the best sources loaded with tryptophan are:
- Organic dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese)
- Poultry and eggs (turkey, chicken)
- Seafood (shrimp, salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines, cod)
- Nuts and seeds (flax, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, cashews, peanuts, almonds, walnuts)
You can also supplement with tryptophan or one of the molecules it produces, such as 5-HTP and melatonin.
Magnesium is a mineral that’s involved more than 300 chemical processes in your body. It’s also known as ‘nature’s tranquilliser’ for its calming effect on muscles and nerves. On a chemical level, magnesium aids the sleep inducing process by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for getting you calm and relaxed helping your body prepare for sleep.
Upping your intake of magnesium is a useful tactic to help you wind down in the evening. You can increase your intake of magnesium through eating magnesium rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
Alternatively, magnesium can be absorbed through your skin, so you could try taking a bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) before bed. Bliss!
Get rid of the electronics
So the caffeine is out of your system by now, you’ve had a sleep inducing dinner, and a relaxing bath bath – it’s time to hit the hay! Now’s the time to avoid temptation and stay off the smartphone/tablet/laptop. Invest in an alarm clock so you can keep that phone away from your bedside! The artificial blue light emitted by these electronics can wreak serious havoc with your sleep. Many studies suggest that blue light in the evening disrupts your brain’s natural sleep-wake cycles, which are crucial for optimal health. When it gets dark, your pineal gland secretes the hormone melatonin, which tells your body to get tired and go to sleep. Blue light is very effective at inhibiting melatonin production, therefore reducing both the quantity and quality of your sleep.
Try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise
If all else fails this easy breathing exercise supposed to really work and should have you nodding off to the land of snooze in minutes. Firstly, place your tongue against your gums behind your upper front teeth and keep it there. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue (it might seem a bit awkward at first). Then follow these five steps:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Give it a go and let us know how you get on!
Written by Ché Miller
About the author
Ché has always had a passion for hospitality having completed a conjoint Bachelors Degree in International Business and Hospitality Management. She has spent the last 15 years working in the hospitality industry. This passion led her to working in a premier health retreat in Australia in her twenties. There she found the knowledge she gained there inspired her to start living a healthier life.
Now Ché loves to combine her two favourite things, hospitality and wellbeing. She scours the island for the best nourishing restaurants, products and services. Ché has been living in Mallorca since early 2017, having moved from her home in New Zealand. She absolutely loves the energy of the island and everything it has to offer.
Ché’s other interests include ashtanga yoga, boxing, reading, writing, and really good coffee.