Sleep: it’s a word and a subject matter that seems to be everywhere. Arianna Huffington wrote a book about it. The National Sleep Foundation was founded to improve health and well-being through sleep education and advocacy. Apps have been created to track our sleep, help us sleep better and to wake us at our body clock’s optimal “end sleep” time. And last year, the World Health Organization declared a sleep deprivation epidemic.
And yet for some reason many of us don’t seem to get enough sleep or are looking for ways to fall asleep faster or to stay asleep through the night. That last part applies to me, or to my dog more specifically, as he thinks he needs to go outside in the middle of every night and when I oversee that activity, I often have problems falling back asleep. The dog, on the other hand, is back out in z-land in seconds.
Professor Vicki Culpin at Hult International Business School released a report about how tiredness affects you at work. She equates being tired at work with being drunk, saying tiredness can affect your speech, motor functioning, your levels of aggression and impulsiveness, your memory, your decision-making and your problem-solving skills.
Lack of sleep can also cause work tardiness and an increase in mistake-making. And, as PsychCentral reports sleep deprivations alters a brain connection and causes fear and anxiety. And researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have connected sleep deprivation to increases our risks of cancer, heart attack and Alzheimer’s.
The Hult study says that in order for people to create a healthy sleep environment, they need to leave work at ‘home time’ and don’t respond to e-mails after hours, exercise each day, consider flexible working hours so people can work when they are most productive and to eat tryptophan-rich foods like bananas and milk. On that last part, I reached out to consult a friend who is graduating in June with a doctorate in naturopathic medicine and who works at two health clinics in the San Diego area, as I wanted to understand exactly what tryptophan-rich foods do and why they are recommended for healthy sleep.
Amber Krogsrud, who owns Naturopathic Secrets, said, “Some foods that are the best sources of Tryptophan are fish that are wild caught like cod and salmon, pasture-raised poultry (turkey included!), cage-free eggs (whites, especially), spirulina and organic dairy products (such as milk, yogurt, cottage cheese or raw cheeses).”
Krogsrud continued, “Serotonin, your happiness neurotransmitter, is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan, so including these foods into your diet could have a side effect of stabilizing mood as well as helping you sleep better. However, it’s not as simple as just adding these foods. You need to have sufficient B vitamins and other nutrients. Without sufficient levels of the cofactors vitamin B6, vitamin C, folic acid (vitamin B9) and magnesium, the body will not effectively convert tryptophan to serotonin. Talk to your doctor about including a quality multivitamin, intravenous nutrient supplementation or ways to strategically include these in your diet. Sometimes a supplement can be your best bet, because the soil vegetables are grown is commonly deplete in many nutrients with repetitive farming of land, but choosing organic or growing your own produce can help to mitigate this!”
Serotonin is the precursor to melatonin that regulates sleep rhythms Researchers at Columbia University say that the quickest way for tryptophan to be transformed into serotonin is through ingesting it alongside carbs (or anything that is or converts to sugar).
In addition the tips above, the National Sleep Foundation says to sleep better, develop a sleep schedule and stick to it even on weekends, practice a bedtime relaxation ritual, make sure your room is cool (between 60 and 67 degrees) and free from light and noise as much as possible and that you’re lying on a mattress and pillows that you find comfortable. They also recommending avoiding alcohol, cigarettes and a heavy meal right before bedtime. You can also sprinkle some fresh lavender or lavender oil on your pillow case and listen to a relaxation meditation video on YouTube as part of your bedtime, wind-down routine.
Getting more sleep will not only help your work performance and put you in a better mood, it will help prevent disease, too.
Photo by Kekka