What to Eat to Treat Insomnia
Insomnia affects the nervous, glandular, musculoskeletal, and respiratory immune centers.
Don’t toss and turn—simmer and sip. Forty million of us, including 30 percent of seniors, don’t get forty winks regularly. That’s bad; failure to get a full night’ sleep for a period of a month constitutes chronic insomnia. A majority are women, who are twice as likely to have di~fi- culty sleeping as men, and it’s even worse for postmenopausal women whose hormones keep them awake. If you’re wide-eyed and wired when you should be winding down, sipping soup or tea can help.
Why White Nights?
Those “white nghts” (what the French call insomnia) that put you in a black or blue mood can have many causes, starting with cortisol imbalance (your levels of this hormone should be low, not on high alert) caused by inflammation somewhere in the body, which in turn depresses DHEA and causes sleeplessness. Have both hormone levels tested to be sure. Other causes include stress and all-American anxiety, depression, poor diet, excess caffeine, food allergies, and a number of medications whose side effects include disturbed sleep, or any combination of these. Of course, simply being middle-aged means you sleep less and sleep less well. Menopause also disrupts sleep patterns—and that’s not good. Full insomnia leads to a reduced ability to process information, slowed reaction time, reduced creativity, and increased risk of accidents.
Americans (who get less than the therapeutic seven hours a night of sleep) spend more than $2 billion on prescribed sleep inducers with all of their attendant risks. Sleep deprivation is no small dysfunction, since the body conducts most of its repair functions nocturnally. Worn or damaged cells that go unrepaired can lead to pain and illness. Poor sleep patterns even affect the health of your connective tissue, which is repaired during sleep. Poor healing may lead to joint instability, according to the National Institute of Chiropractic Research. Short-form snoozing may lead to weight gain.
Studies show that getting only four or five hours of sleep nightly increases your risk of being overweight or obese by more than 50 to 70 percent, since it decreases the levels of a natural appetite-suppressing hormone and increases levels of an appetite-stimulating hormone. It also lowers testosterone levels in men, reduces immunity, and may even increase the risk for coronary heart disease and high blood pressure, says the American Council on Collaborative Medicine. Inadequate sleep also ages us by depriving bodies of oxygen, elevating blood pressure, and increasing levels of stress hormones. As well, it can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
What to Eat
The Fluids Rx. Fortunately, there are ways to get that shut-eye, starting with soup, juice, and tea. The best soup-bowl ingredients for regulating sleep-inducing hormones include fresh fruits, especially bananas, figs, and dates; fresh vegetables, especially lettuce and the juices of carrots, celery, and spinach; whole grains and nuts, especially cashews, almonds, and walnuts; low-fat dairy products, including yogurt; and foods or ingredients rich in neuromuscular nutrients (calcium and magnesium), such as yogurt and kefir. Sleepy-time teas include catnip, chamomile, kava kava, passion flower, and hops.