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Whether you realize it or not, how well you sleep impacts how well you feel.  Sleep is one of the most important elements of longevity, mental health, physical well-being and quality of life.

When you sleep your brain is preparing for the next day by building neural pathways and helping you remember information.  On a physical level, are a multitude of the ways that the quality of your sleep can support your body. The more sleep deprived you are, the more you increase your risk for several different imbalances.

Here are some of the ways that sleep support your body:

  • Sleep is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Sleep deprivation can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease,
  • Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested; potentially increasing your risk of obesity.
  • Sleep affects how your body reacts to insulin.  Sleep deprivation increases your risk for diabetes.
  • Sleep supports healthy growth and development by releasing the hormone that promotes normal growth, boosts muscle mass,  and helps repair cells and tissues; playing a role in fertility and immune system health.
And, it goes without saying that sleep deprivation will affect how well you function the next day.  When you’re tired, you tend to be less productive and more forgetful.

It’s vital to ensure quality sleep to maintain your health.  Many foods contain naturally occurring substances that bring on sleep; here are some of the best choices to help you settle down for a quality rest.

Walnuts

Walnuts are a good source of tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid that helps make serotonin and melatonin, the “body clock” hormone that sets your sleep-wake cycles. Additionally, University of Texas researchers found that walnuts contain their own source of melatonin, which may help you fall asleep faster.

Almonds

Almonds are rich in magnesium, a mineral needed for quality sleep. A study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine found that when the body’s magnesium levels are too low, it makes it harder to stay asleep.

Lettuce

A salad with dinner could speed up your bedtime since lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties and affects the brain similarly to opium. You can also try this brew from the book Stealth Health: Simmer three to four large lettuce leaves in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add two sprigs of mint, and sip just before you go to bed.

Tuna

Fish such as tuna, halibut, and salmon are high in vitamin B6, which your body needs to make melatonin and serotonin. Other foods high in B6 include raw garlic and pistachio nuts.

Cherry Juice

A glass of cherry juice could make you fall asleep faster, according to researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Rochester. Cherries, particularly tart cherries, naturally boost levels of melatonin. In the study, subjects who drank cherry juice experienced some improvement in their insomnia symptoms compared to those who drank a placebo beverage.

Chamomile tea

Steeping a cup of stress-busting chamomile tea will help you sleep. According to researchers, drinking the tea is associated with an increase of glycine, a chemical that relaxes nerves and muscles and acts like a mild sedative.

Raw Honey

The natural sugar found in honey slightly raises insulin and allows tryptophan to enter the brain more easily. A spoonful before bed or mixed with chamomile tea could give you a more restful sleep.

Kale

Green leafy vegetables like kale are loaded with calcium, which helps the brain use tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. Spinach and mustard greens are other good options.

Hummus

Chickpeas are also a good source of tryptophan.  A light lunch of hummus and whole-grain crackers (to help the tryptophan reach the brain), could be a good way to head into an afternoon nap.


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