To sleep or not to sleep

Posted by Candace Cable in Life After Paralysis on February 16, 2017 # Health

I’ve noticed that lately my blogs have made references about how I am or I am not dealing with stress, and tips on how to chill before the stress takes me out, I mean get sick in one way or another. I’ve realized I’m clicking the “mad” emoji more and using stress as energy get stuff done. Using stress as energy is hindering my sleep in my advanced age. This energy stress and age coupled with new erratic bedtimes, hormone changes, and worrying about not getting enough rest goes around and around in my mind as I endlessly count sheep.

My meal times are all over the place too, so I thought maybe I can manipulate my energized and relax times with a bit of food and drink, just as I did when I was a competitive athlete. My research showed that I could create a plan for getting better rest through the chemistry of food. All can have a good night's sleep as long as we watch what we eat around bedtime. Drinking enough water also makes a positive difference in our health. Here is an ultimate guide to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Let’s first look at an amino acid that hinders sleep, Tyramine. Tyramine works as a vasoactive substance, which means it affects the dilation or constriction of blood vessels and prompts the brain to release alertness chemicals. Foods that are aged, like the hard cheeses Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago contain high levels of tyramine. Also fermented or pickled foods like soy sauce, tofu, miso, teriyaki sauce and processed meats from the deli counter contain enough tyramine to keep us up at night. So if you want a late night sandwich use a soft cheese, lettuce and some turkey full of tryptophan.

Two other sleep inhibiting amino acids are Taurine and Tyrosine. They both increase alertness and elevate our heart rates, like caffeine does. Taurine is found in animal proteins and sulfur-rich vegetables, such as onions, garlic, cabbage, brussels sprouts, turnips and in most energy drinks. And of course the big bad stimulant caffeine, found in coffee and black/green teas should be x'd off the bedtime list.

Other foods like red pasta sauces or hot peppers like cayenne can create heartburn or acid reflux when it’s time for bed. Try to steer clear of the depressant alcohol. It will prevent your brain from reaching deep stages of sleep, like sleeping pills.

Now to the good part, foods that help me sleep, oh yeah! Dark chocolate can be eaten any time because it contains serotonin that relaxes your body and mind. Add almonds to your chocolate because they contain tryptophan and magnesium, which help support muscles in the heart. While you’re adding to your chocolate, have some cherries too. They increase your melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate our sleep cycles.

One of my favorite comfort foods in the evening is oatmeal, it's rich in melatonin and by adding some nuts, a banana rich in magnesium and potassium which both are muscle and nerve relaxants, with a tablespoon of honey that contains glucose, it’s almost sure to wipe my cares away.

The glucose helps because it tells my brain to shut off orexin, a chemical known to trigger alertness. Whole grains like oats, breads or pastas help raise blood sugar slowly and naturally due to the B complex vitamins and fiber which can make you feel sleepy. Vitamin B6 converts tryptophan into serotonin, which increases our relaxation, ah!

Lastly, you can also take calcium/magnesium (cal/mag) supplements at night to ensure even more restful ZZZ's. Adding a nice hot cup of tea, with the right ingredients, can put me down for the count in one, two, three. Herbal teas that promote relaxation and sleep like chamomile, passionflower, hops, and lemon balm should be what we reach for in the evening.

Making sure I get enough sleep is a huge challenge and seems more important as I age because it’s a bigger battle to stay healthy and active. Having a disability takes a great deal of energy, which is why I sometimes to take to my bed for extended rest. I hope these tips can help you deal with your stress and get some rest! Sweet Dreams.

Blessings to All, in joy,

Candace