By Esther Boateng
I have a confession to make. I’m one of those annoying people who can fall asleep anytime, anywhere. I used to joke that I had narcolepsy (self-diagnosed, of course). But a sleep disorder is no laughing matter, and you could be storing up trouble for later: diabetes, depression, obesity, hypertension, and the list continues. Left untreated, sleep disorders will almost certainly take you to your grave sooner than you’d like, unless you take action. Pronto.
Real results require real action. Slapping a Band-Aid on your sleep issue – or any other health challenge – does not fix the root of your problem; it only scratches the surface. So, if you’re one of the 9 million or so Americans who rely on prescription drugs to help you get 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye each night, roll up your sleeves, because you have work to do, my friend. Alternatively, if you sleep like a baby, log out, put your feet up, and enjoy reruns of Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, while you sip on a cup of healing bone broth, because y-o-u a-r-e- s-o-r-t-e-d.
Okay, so you’re going to tell us to drink chamomile tea, sniff patchouli, and sing kumbaya before bed in lotus position? Perhaps. If tried and tested methods work, absofrigginlutely use them. If not, you may need to invest time and effort, and be willing to dig deep into your pockets, to discover what works for you.
It’s impossible to cover every sleep hack known to man, but I’d be remiss not to mention the impact food has on sleep quality. Arm yourself with some of the following nutrient dense foods, and you might slay your sleep dragons once and for all.
Foods rich in magnesium, zinc, calcium, and vitamin B are generally known to help with insomnia. Magnesium is a potent mineral that helps you relax. It improves melatonin production, and has been shown to improve the quality and duration of sleep. Zinc also scores highly when it comes to sleep regulation and sleep quality. Combine magnesium with zinc, calcium, and B complex vitamins, and you’re off to the races.
No doubt, you already make wise food choices, especially if you’re consuming a diverse variety of vegetables. So why not make a special effort to include the following foods in your evening meal?
Walnuts, squash, pumpkin seeds, and kiwi fruit are all front-runners when it comes to tackling sleep. Walnuts contain the hormone melatonin, which induces and sustains sleep. Roughly, a cup of squash provides around 40 mg of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds are high in both magnesium and zinc. And if you think eating kiwi fruit before bed sounds slightly odd, think again. A study showed that adults who ate 2 kiwi fruits an hour before bed saw marked improvements in sleep time, sleep onset, and sleep duration.
Green leaves (especially spinach and chard), salmon, trout, organ meats, eggs, milk, beef, clams, mussels, chicken, and turkey are all star players when it comes to vitamin B rich foods. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t have the capacity to store B vitamins, except B12, so it’s essential to replenish regularly.
If you’re like me and prefer a sweeter approach to keeping vitamin B levels steady, add a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg powder - freshly grated is optimal - to your nightcap, about an hour before bed. Abundant in magnesium, B1, B6, and so on, it’s often used as a strong sedative to treat insomnia. Nutmeg seeds contain myristicin, a compound that inhibits the release of an enzyme that can cause stress. Even though nutmeg seeds are generally considered safe, the seeds contain myristic acid, amongst other things, which can cause intoxication in high doses (a spoonful, for example). In this instance, less is definitely best. Cacao is chock-full of magnesium. Pair it with nutmeg, and watch the magic unfold. Or better still, add it to pancakes made with Dr. Cowan’s Garden Squash powder for a real treat.
As exciting as it is to use food as medicine, there’s a lot to be said for keeping things simple and sticking with time-honored traditions. Frequent movement during the day, plus exposure to sunlight, preferably first thing in the morning, is conducive to a good night’s sleep. Moderate sunlight exposure boosts your mood and gives you energy. Don’t be afraid to expose your bits to the elements, (in a tasteful manner).
Sleeping in a completely dark, quiet room, with a reasonably cool temperature, free from Wi-Fi disturbances, will serve you well. One of our Deep Sleep Grounding Bags placed on your bedroom floor should make a noticeable difference to your sleep. The pink, hand-mined Tesla crystals let off a negative ionic charge to facilitate healing and recharging, thus promoting deep uninterrupted sleep. If you want to go full on and really splash your cash, you can invest in a temperature-controlled mattress that keeps you cool at night, a pair of blue light blocking glasses, or an Oura ring.
I can live without a cooling mattress. But life would be hateful without my yellow-tinted blue light blocking glasses, which make me feel like a rock chick; as night approaches, on they go. If this item isn’t on your wish list, stick it on there, now. It protects your precious eyes from damaging junk light, so your body can produce important hormones. It helps you feel less fatigued, and helps keep your circadian rhythm in check. You naturally feel sleepy as nighttime approaches, you wake up feeling refreshed, and your energy hums along nicely. Boom.
You can only hack what you track, so for gadget geeks who take their sleep seriously, an Oura ring, (aka, The Oracle), is a must-have item. I use it to track the time I fall asleep, monitor how much deep restorative sleep, light sleep, and REM sleep I get each night, and check how well my body has recovered from the previous day’s activities, and so on. Whenever my husband asks, ‘how did you sleep?’, much to his annoyance, my answer is invariably, ‘hold on love, let me check The Oracle’. Love me. Love my Oura. That’s how I roll.
As you can see, you’re spoiled with choices when it comes to sleep hacks. But this is by no means an exhaustive list. It is, however, a point from which you can start cultivating new habits. We’ve moved our clocks forward; now it’s time to move our bodies and shift our minds. Remember, "if you throw enough mud at the wall, something will stick.” Happy experimenting.
If the thought of eating a carrot cake makes your heart sing, I should probably warn you that this smoothie might induce a happy dance. Feel free to put on your favorite track, clear your dance space and start blending your way to happiness.