national sleep awareness week
Image: Taisiia Shestopal via Unsplash

7 Natural Ways to Improve Sleep Without Melatonin Supplements

From dark chocolate to tart cherries.

The worst possible moment to realize you’re tired is when you just started a 4+ hour drive by yourself and you’re yawning before you even break your zip code. With March being National Sleep Awareness month, let’s look at a few ways to help us be well rested for what life throws at you without the need for melatonin supplements. Sugar and alcohol negatively impact sleep due to the sharp rise and fall of blood sugar levels. You will notice that you will not sleep deeply or become ‘awake’ at 2 am (or just too early for your liking) because of the adrenaline rush due to reactive hypoglycemia. Additionally, though alcohol might help you fall asleep, it also disrupts every sleep phase causing you to not sleep deeply. We interviewed Dr. Teralyn Sell, a psychotherapist and brain health expert who shared five great foods to keep in your stomach to help with drowsiness and improve sleep quality. Keep reading to learn more about how to fall asleep easily without melatonin supplements. Here are Dr. Teralyn Sell’s top five foods to help promote a better nights sleep naturally.

national sleep awareness day
Image: Danny G via Unsplash

Seven Natural Ways to Improve Sleep Without Melatonin Supplements

1) Collagen Protein

Proteins such as collagen protein and poultry, have amino acids that break down into tryptophan. Tryptophan eventually creates serotonin and then melatonin which helps you sleep. Protein that is consumed before bed also helps to stabilize blood sugar keeping you asleep all night. Try a protein powder smoothie next time you are having a sleep issue and see if it helps you out. Remember to keep a sleep journal and track your progress to see if any of these methods work for helping improve your sleep.

2) Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is a calming herb that has been shown to help with insomnia or disturbed sleep. It has been studied and found to be an anxiolytic and an antidepressant. Adding a bit of raw honey can add a layer of protection since honey has been linked to supporting the immune system. This is one of my favorite teas to have before bed time to make sure that I get a good night’s sleep. Drink it hot to really get into the liminal space between sleep and waking life.

3) Dark Chocolate

For my chocolate lovers, this one’s for you all so you don’t have to feel as guilty when you realize that half the box is gone. Didn’t think you could eat dark chocolate to reap the benefits of better sleep? Think again! Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium. Magnesium is a natural relaxer. Taking a magnesium supplement before bed or soaking in Epsom salts can help you relax before bed and fall asleep easier. Magnesium has also been shown to help reduce restless leg syndrome which can impair sleep.

4) Tart Cherries

Several research articles have been published that link drinking tart cherry juice to improved sleep. Tart cherries have a concentration of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate circadian rhythm and can help to promote healthy sleep. Try this method out next time you feel a little more awake than usual or restless.

5) Oatmeal for Breakfast

Oatmeal is a great meal to have for the plethora of health benefits that it provides outside of sleep. However, for our specific topic, oatmeal is considered an anxiolytic, which can be very calming and help you relax before bed.  It can also help to stabilize blood sugar levels so you can experience a restful night’s sleep. Plus, there are so many different ways you can make this dish delicious. My favorite is to add fruits, chocolate, coconut, and a little bit of honey. Sounds so delicious and like a yummy health food to me!

6) Our Caffeine Use

Another thing that Dr. Sell suggests is that we need to limit our caffeine use because it impacts our sleep, starting in the morning. Caffeine is a stimulant that dampens your adrenals (you know the organ that helps you manage stress). Drinking one cup of caffeine six hours before bed reduces your deep sleep by one hour.  Caffeine has a half life of three to five hours. This means that if you start drinking caffeine in the morning, you will likely still have caffeine in your system as you try to sleep. Try to cut it out so you can get really good sleep, as it it pertinent to your health and wellbeing. Sleep can improve and lengthen your lifespan greatly, as well as make sure that disease doesn’t creep into your life.

7) Take Magnesium Supplements

If you aren’t eating magnesium-rich foods (greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish), it’s important to take a magnesium supplement like BiOptimizer’s Magnesium Breakthrough to help with your body’s nervous system. According to the Cleveland Clinic, magnesium may help regulate neurotransmitters that are directly related to sleep—“Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit messages between nerve cells in your brain and body”.

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