Sleep Awareness

Get More Tryptophan for Better Sleep, Moods & Fewer Headaches

Posted: November 20, 2017
By: Dr. Josh Axe

Tryptophan - Dr. Axe

One of the things often overlooked when people are trying to improve their overall health, have more energy, lose weight and sleep better is the importance of obtaining enough amino acids from different protein foods. Amino acids, including tryptophan, are the building blocks of proteins, and without a wide enough array of them in our diets, we actually cant even survive, let alone thrive.

We must get all the essential amino acids (like tryptophan, histidine, leucine and lysine, for example) through our diets since we cant create on them on our own, but even other nonessential amino acids have many critical roles in the body. Essential amino acids help the body produce the kinds that are nonessential, and together theyre important for building and repairing muscle tissue, helping with neurotransmitter functions, supplying the brain with enough energy, and balancing blood sugar levels, for example.

Of these amino acids, tryptophan plays an important role. So what is tryptophan, and why do we need it? Thats what were about to find out.

What Is Tryptophan?

Tryptophan (also called L-tryprophan) is an essential amino acid that acts like a natural mood regulator, since it has the ability to help the body produce and balance certain hormones naturally. Supplementing with tryptophan-rich foods or taking supplements helps bring on natural calming effects, induces sleep, fights anxiety and can also help burn more body fat. Tryptophan has also been found to stimulate the release of growth hormones and even reduce food cravings for carbohydrates and help kick a sugar addiction in some cases.

An important byproduct of tryptophan is 5HTP (5-hyrdoxytryptophan), which works in the brain and central nervous system to boost feelings of well-being, connection and safety. It does this by increasing production of one of the bodys main feel-good hormones, serotonin. (1) Serotonin is the same calming chemical released when we eat certain comfort foods like carbohydrates, which is why supplementing with tryptophan has been shown to help control appetite and contribute to easier weight loss or maintenance.

How tryptophan, 5HTP and serotonin work:

Serotonin works by transmitting signals between nerve cells and altering brain functions that affect mood states and sleep. (2) In fact, supplementing with 5HTP (made from tryptophan) has been shown to lower depression symptoms as well as many prescription medications can.

Amino acid therapy is somewhat of an emerging field, which is based on the fact that certain amino acids have been found to be very helpful with treating conditions like sleep disorders, depression, fatigue, anxiety and sexual dysfunctions. Amino acids in general are a nutritional requirement for everyone: children, adults, vegetarians, omnivores and everyone in between. The best part about using targeted amino acids to help resolve health conditions and ease symptoms is that theyre completely natural, require no prescription and the vast majority of the time cause no side effects whatsoever.

Because of its ability to boost serotonin levels, 5HTP synthesized from tryptophan, and consuming more L-tryptophan itself, has been used to help treat numerous disorders, including:

sleep disorders
mood disorders like depression and anxiety
migraines and tension headaches
binge eating disorder
learning disabilities like ADHD
PMS and menopausal symptoms
and more

5 Tryptophan Benefits

1. Helps Improve Sleep Quality

There's evidence that tryptophan has natural sedative effects that can help you sleep better, and as a result it can help improve overall health. A lack of sleep is a risk factor for problems like depression, decline in motor coordination, reduced concentration and memory, muscle aches, weight gain, and more. Tryptophan offers a natural remedy for getting better sleep and reducing problems associated with sleep apnea or insomnia, all without the need for sleep-inducing prescriptions that can cause many unwanted side effects. (3)

The strongest benefits for treating sleep disorders with L-tryptophan have been found when using supplements, rather than just food sources of tryptophan alone. Supplements have been found to help decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, improve mood the day next following better sleep quality, decrease teeth grinding during sleep (called bruxism) and decrease sleep apnea episodes during sleep (periodically stopping breathing throughout the night).

2. Lifts Your Mood and Reduces Depression and Anxiety

Not only can tryptophan help you sleep more soundly, but its also been shown to be a natural mood lifter and offer protection against depression, anxiety and the numerous negative symptoms associated with high stress levels (like irritable bowel syndrome and heart disease, for example). Many studies have found that L-tryptophan converts to calming serotonin in the brain and helps make other essential amino acids more available, which in turn helps control someone's moods and turn down production of stress hormones.

Some studies have even shown that tryptophan and 5HTP supplementation can work as well as prescription antidepressants. Preliminary studies indicate that 5HTP is beneficial for treating people with mild to moderate depression just as well as medications like fluvoxamine (Luvox). Among 63 participants in one study, 5HTP did just as well as those who received Luvox for lowering depressive symptoms. (4)

Some research has shown that reduced intakes of tryptophan can cause significant reductions in certain brain activities that promote happiness and that low serotonin levels are more common among people with anxiety and depression. Study results show that patients are often successful at lowering negative symptoms related to mood disorders, addictions or hormonal problems like PMS/PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) when taking six grams of L-tryptophan per day. This amount taken for several months has been shown to decrease mood swings, restlessness, tension and irritability. (5)

Tryptophan vs. melatonin - Dr. Axe

3. Can Help with Recovery from Addictions

Supplementing with a combination of calming, anxiety-reducing amino acids and herbs such as L-tryptophan, St. John's wort and 5HTP has been shown to help people overcome addictions by increasing serotonin and melatonin production. L-tryptophan is often given to people trying to quit smoking in order to improve the effectiveness of conventional treatment programs that teach people to control impulses and their emotional states better. (6)

4. Reduces Headaches and Migraines

Studies have found that tryptophan depletion worsens pain associated with tension headaches and migraines, plus can cause aggravated nausea and sleep problems experienced by many migraine sufferers. Increased brain synthesis of serotonin seems to offer natural relief for headaches and migraine symptoms, including sensitivity to light, indigestion, pain and more.

One study conducted by the Murdoch University School of Psychology in Australia found that five to eight hours after consuming a drink with a complete array of 19 different amino acids, including tryptophan, symptoms of migraines were significantly reduced. (7)

5. Can Help You Maintain a Healthy Weight

Tryptophan supplements can be used to help someone stick to a healthy diet and work toward the goal of losing weight. Increased serotonin levels promote calmness, clarity of mind, control over cravings or impulses, and even better metabolic functioning, which all boost weight loss.

L-tryptophan is needed for the synthesis of niacin (vitamin B3) through its role as a provitamin, and niacin is important for the conversion of macronutrients in our diets (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) into useable energy that supports the metabolism. Niacin/vitamin B3 is also crucial for cognitive functions, including the synthesis of important neurotransmitters and enzymes that control our appetite.

Another interesting benefit is that tryptophan helps improve physical performance and fights fatigue, which means it can keep you motivated to improve your fitness levels and regularly get enough exercise. Its been used by competitive athletes for many years since its known to improve training results, lower performance anxiety and help people stay motivated to reach their goals.

Tryptophan vs. Melatonin: Which Helps with Sleep More?

L-tryptophan is amino acid that plays a part in the synthesis of both serotonin and melatonin, two hormones highly involved in our natural sleep cycle and ability to control our stress response. Melatonin supplements are often taken to help people fall asleep more easily, feel calmer in general and wake up more rested, but they arent recommended for long-term use because this can interfere with how we much melatonin we wind up producing on our own. Long-term use of melatonin beyond about two to three months can also become habit-forming, hinder normal metabolic functions and interfere with reproductive hormone levels. (8)

L-tryptophan supplementation can help you get a good nights sleep and maintain higher energy levels during the day just like melatonin supplementation can, because it keeps the level of serotonin produced fairly constant during the day and then also facilitates with the production of melatonin at night. In other words, it improves our bodies natural ability to allow us to get tired at the right time of night, drift off and get the sleep we need.

Compared to melatonin, L-tryptophan has other important roles beyond inducing sleep, including supporting the immune system, since it acts as a precursor to chemicals called kynurenines that help regulate immune responses and inflammation. When needed, L-tryptophan can also be converted in the body to niacin (also called vitamin B3), a type of essential B vitamin that helps support the metabolism, circulation, a healthy central nervous system and the production of enzymes needed for digestive functioning. (9) Since a lack of sleep can also mean a lack of weight loss, tryptophan has benefits for people looking to lose weight too.

How Much Tryptophan Do You Need?

There can be large differences in the actual needs of individuals when it comes to daily tryptophan intake. That's because factors like someone's age, weight/body composition, level of activity and digestive/intestinal health all affect how much is absorbed and used. In general, if you simply get amino acids from foods rather than supplements, you aren't at risk for consuming too much tryptophan, although supplements can raise this risk.

Research suggests that most healthy adults consume around 3.56 milligrams of L-tryptophan per kilogram of body weight through their diets most days. Dieting, being chronically stressed, consuming too little calories, exercising a lot, and having any form of inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders or liver damage can all lead to less tryptophan being absorbed and therefore a possible deficiency. If you eat enough calories in general, vary your intake of protein and plant foods, and aren't dealing with an intestinal disorder, chances are youre acquiring enough. However, you might benefit from consuming more if you notice signs of moodiness, irritability, fatigue and trouble sleeping well.

According to the University of Michigan Health Department, the dosages below are general guidelines for supplementing with tryptophan based on your goals: (10)

for sleep disorders/insomnia: 12 grams taken at bedtime
for chronic pain or migraines: 24 grams per day in divided doses
for treating PMS or PMDD: 24 grams daily
for helping to alleviate depression or anxiety: 26 grams daily (it's best to work with a doctor)
for lowering appetite and cravings: 0.52 grams daily

Tryptophan foods - Dr. Axe

Top Tryptophan Foods

A benefit of consuming tryptophan from natural food sources is that this can help with absorption and also offer other benefits, such as providing other essential amino acids and healthy fats. Research shows that your diet can play a major role in helping you synthesize enough serotonin and controlling your moods, sleep and stress response. Doctors now recommend that the best way to obtain tryptophan from your diet and take advantage of its benefits is to vary the sources of proteins and carbohydrates you eat, since this allows for the most serotonin to be produced overall. (11)

Whole food sources of amino acids like tryptophan can raise serotonin production and also provide needed calories (energy) that prevent fatigue, low blood sugar levels, cravings and other problems (especially if the meal contains both carbs and proteins). One way to make sure you get enough tryptophan and other amino acids in your diet is to aim for having about 2030 grams of protein with each meal, varying the types of high protein-foods or snacks you eat since different types offer different levels of amino acids. Both plant and animal foods provide tryptophan, but in general animal foods are a more concentrated and complete sources of all amino acids/proteins you need.

For the best results and strongest calming effects, combine the protein foods below with a small serving of unrefined carbohydrates (like potatoes, veggies, beans or even fruit) in order to help tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier, where it can boost serotonin levels.

Some of the foods that provide the most tryptophan and therefore help raise 5HTP/serotonin levels include: (12)

cage-free eggs (especially the whites)
wild-caught fish like cod and salmon
pasture-raised poultry (including turkey, which is well-known for inducing sound sleep after a big Thanksgiving meal!)
organic, ideally raw dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cottage cheese or raw cheeses
sesame seeds, cashews and walnuts
grass-fed beef or lamb
100 percent whole grain oats, brown rice, corn or quinoa
beans/legumes, including chickpeas and green peas

Tryptophan Supplements & Side Effects

Some research suggests that consuming purified tryptophan through supplements might be a better way to increase serotonin levels compared to eating tryptophan-rich foods, due to how the bodys amino acid transport system works. Complete protein sources, meaning those that contain all essential and nonessential amino acids, provide tryptophan along with many other essential amino acids, which all compete with one another to cross the blood-brain barrier at the same time. Because many protein foods cause tryptophan to have a lot of competition when it comes to selection and uptake in the brain, these foods don't always raise blood plasma levels of serotonin as much as we might hope for.

For people struggling with mood disorders, insomnia or addictions, supplementing with 5HTP can be a good way to directly increase serotonin. Low doses should be taken at first, and you should look for out side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, drowsiness, lightheadedness, headache or dry mouth.

Tryptophan or 5HTP taken as supplements also have the potential to cause serotonin syndrome when combined with sedatives or antidepressants (such as MAOI or SSRI class drugs) so if you take any mood-altering prescriptions, dont take tryptophan without first talking to your doctor. Supplements also shouldnt be taken by pregnant women, women who are breast-feeding, or anyone with active kidney or liver disease since this can cause complications.

Final Thoughts on Tryptophan

Tryptophan (also called L-tryprophan) is an essential amino acid that acts like a natural mood regulator, since it has the ability to help the body produce and balance certain hormones naturally. Supplementing with tryptophan-rich foods or taking supplements helps bring on natural calming effects, induces sleep, fights anxiety and can also help burn more body fat.
Because of its ability to boost serotonin levels, 5HTP synthesized from tryptophan, and consuming more L-tryptophan itself, has been used to help treat numerous disorders, including sleep disorders, mood disorders, headaches, binge eating, learning disabilities, PMS and menopausal symptoms, fibromyalgia, and more.

It also helps improve sleep quality, lifts your mood, reduces depression and anxiety, can help with recovery from addictions, reduces headaches and migraines, and can help you maintain a healthy weight.

Some of the best tryptophan foods include cage-free eggs, spirulina, wild-caught fish, pasture-raised poultry, raw dairy, sesame seeds, cashews, walnuts, grass-fed beef or lamb, whole grain oats, brown rice, corn, quinoa, beans/legumes, potatoes, and bananas.


Natural Relaxation Tips to Help You Sleep

Posted: November 15, 2017
By: Jennifer Nelson (Mother Nature

Even if you sleep like a baby most nights, you’ve probably had at least the occasional bout of insomnia. Whether it’s that late-night snack that keeps the sandman away, stress or something less sinister, here are six relaxation techniques to try when sleep eludes you:

1. Guided visualization
Lie in bed and tell your body to relax from head to toe, suggests Joshua Jacobi, MD, an interventional cardiologist in Pasadena, California. “Forehead relax, eyes relax, cheeks relax,” and so forth down until your toes. “Then, I picture lying on a beach. I bring in all the sensory awareness to the setting. So I feel the sand in my toes, the warmth of the sun, a cool breeze. I see the waves slowly coming in to the shore. I see palm trees waving in the wind. I hear the sound of the waves as they come in,” says Jacobi. Picture this scene or something else that is relaxing for you.

2. Analyze your sleep cycle
Take a page from the Quantified Self movement and start recording your sleep data, says Ari Meisel, founder of Less Doing More Living, a productivity hack blog for optimizing, automating and outsourcing everything in your personal and professional life from fitness to email management.

His favorite sleep tracker is Basis Band, which includes sensors for constant heart rate monitoring, skin temperature, and even perspiration so you can get an incredible level of insight into the way you move through your various sleep cycles (light sleep, deep sleep, REM). “While your perceived level of exhaustion may have you convinced you are getting no sleep at all, a pattern most likely will emerge,” says Meisel. Once you identify that pattern, exploit it. “Simply knowing that you average three-hour stints instead of the 15 minutes you thought you were getting can be a huge psychological windfall.”

3. Treat your anxiety
Address the root causes of your anxiety -- lack of nutrients in your diet or a food allergy/intolerance could be playing a part, as well as lifestyle factors like a stressful work environment or relationship.

4. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate Nostril Breathing encourages deep relaxation by balancing the left and right sides of the brain while calming the nervous system, says Amita Patel, founder of Aligned Holistics, a coaching services company that combines nutrition, physical activity, relationships, career and personal philosophy.

Here’s how: Rest your right ring finger and thumb on either side of your nostrils, lightly touching them. Take a big breath in and a big breath out, then close off the right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril for a four count. At the top of that breath, close off the left nostril with your ring finger, hold and retain for a count of four, and then release the right nostril and exhale for four. Repeat as many cycles as comfortable until relaxed ending with the left nostril, recommends Patel.

5. Count backward
While lying in bed, start counting backwards from 100. Do it slowly, about once a second, 100...99...98. Take your time. “The trick is this: If you get lost or forget what number you’re on, you need to start over again from 100. Every time you get lost, gently start over. Don’t allow yourself to become frustrated, just be gentle with yourself and start back over from 100,” says Phillip Mandel, a hypnotherapist in Beaverton, Oregon. Why does it work? It’s both monotonous and mildly hypnotic. “Note that it’s not hypnosis in the usual sense, such as ‘you are getting sleepy’. Rather, you’re just doing something monotonous with your mind that will have the effect of making you sleepy,” says Mandel.

6. Guided imagery
“Guided imagery, a close cousin of meditation and hypnosis, can shift brain wave activity, and specific images can be learned that promote the brain’s movement toward deep, restful sleep,” says Leslie Davenport, a psychotherapist and author of “Healing and Transformation through Self-Guided Imagery.”

To try it, imagine a small ball of yarn. See this ball of yarn as holding the last bit of residual tension you have. Find the tip of the yarn and watch as the ball begins to roll slowly, unwinding as it moves. See the strand of yarn unfurling and resting on the floor, becoming longer as it continues to roll slowly. “Sense the decompressing. Feel the spaciousness around it now,” says Davenport. “As you watch the yarn, feel also the unwinding of any residual tension within you. Like tiny muscle fibers softening, watch as the ball continues to release from its very core, the soft yarn now stretched out, open, and completely at rest.”

Of course, this list is just a sampling. Other relaxation techniques include Progressive Muscle Relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing each major muscle group to create awareness of tension and relaxation; somatic exercise, in which gentle, soft stretching and movements are done while lying on a mat to help shift your central nervous system to create new muscular habits that alleviate pain and tightness. And finally pandiculation, a brain reflex action pattern similar to how a dog gets up from rest, putting his front paws out and lengthening his back as he relaxes his belly. Pandiculation can wake up the muscular system at the brain level and provide deep relaxation. One or more of these may help you find that elusive 40 winks.

Full article here:

Sleeping Like A Baby

Posted: October 25, 2017
By: Sarah Ockwell-Smith


No other word can generate such an emotive response in so many parents of young children. The baby sleep industry is worth millions a myriad of products from pharmaceutical to musical, mechanical, and material adorn the shelves, luring in tired new parents with the promise of peaceful nights. Thousands of professionals earn a living from exploiting the vulnerabilities and exhaustion of sleep-deprived parents around the world, training babies and toddlers to sleep through the night. To add to this, the media regularly reports on surveys showing how the sleepless nights of babies and toddlers lead to breakdowns in relationships.

Appearing in Issue #55. Order A Copy Today

Sleep is a big issue in our society, and an enticing moneymaker. Is our species so flawed that we must forever be on the verge of a nervous breakdown for the first three years of our offspring's life? Or does our obsession with infant sleep show a more troubling need to better understand the norms of our evolutionary biology? If parents were truly educated about the sleep behaviors of normal babies and children, and the illusion of the perfect contented little baby sleeping 12 hours at night by as many weeks was shattered and replaced with realistic, evidence-based information, then everything would change. It would change how we are with our babies and children, it would change the value of motherhood, and it would change the support we give to young families. I do not think I am being over dramatic to say that in turn it may then just change the world.

Our society is not supportive of young families. We parent miles away from our own families, no longer embraced by a support network. We are under pressure to have it all, to be a yummy mummy with a perfect figure, a perfect house, perfect clothes, and a perfect job. It is however, just not possible to live up to this ideal while also responding to the normal and natural needs of our infants. Something has to give, and very often it is the needs of our children. We sleep-train our children in order that they fit into our modern lives more easily. We fool ourselves into believing that it is our offspring that have sleep problems, rather than opening our eyes to the real problem the disharmony between the primal needs of our young and the expectations of the modern world. Whose problem is it, really? Babies and toddlers don't sleep like adults. They wake a lot and this is perfectly normal.

When a baby is in utero, he borrows the circadian rhythms (body clock) of his mother as melatonin is passed to him via the placenta. Once born, however, he's on his own, and it takes his body a while to be able to do what his mothers did. In fact, it takes him until at least 4 months to get anywhere close, and even longer until he begins school to really get the same effect.

That's not all, though. Not only do infants lack the hormonal regulators of sleep of an adult, but a baby's sleep cycle is hugely different, lasting about half as long as an adult sleep state. This makes perfect biological sense: It keeps our tender young offspring more alert should a predator threaten their lives. But what predator will come and gobble them up in their nursery? Nature might be clever, but not quite clever enough to evolve us that quickly, so for now we still possess the same innate responses that kept our hunter gatherer predecessors safe. Imagine, then, that a baby goes through a sleep cycle twice as quickly as an adult. That means they wake at least twice as often as we do during the night. In fact, they move into a light sleep state around once every 25 minutes. That means there is a likelihood of their waking fully every 25 minutes, if something alerts them.

In addition to this, babies and toddlers have a greatly underdeveloped neocortex compared to an adults brain. This frontal section of the brain is responsible for rational and analytical thought as well as the regulation of emotional responses. Because of this, babies do not yet possess the skill of emotional self-regulation, or as the sleep trainers like to call it, the skill of self-soothing. The self-soothing referred to in mainstream books is anything but that. It is a myth perpetuated to make parents feel better about ignoring their baby's needs. The way to boost emotional self-regulation in an infant is to be responsive to him when he needs it, so that in time, when his brains connectivity matures, it will hardwire the pathways necessary for true self-soothing.

Modern science supports the notion that our sleep expectations are anything but realistic, with recent research suggesting that at least a third of 15-month-olds still wake regularly; most children don't sleep through the night until they are 2 or older. If sleepless nights are still so common in toddlerdom, why do we consider it a problem if our babies and toddlers do not sleep all night? Why do so many inquire about our childrens' sleeping habits and suggest methods that do not meet their needs in an attempt to fix their sleeping problems? Indeed, even the U.K.s National Health Service website recommends controlled crying. But it immediately contradicts itself with this passage: By the time your child is 6 months old, its reasonable to expect them to sleep through most nights. However, up to half of all children under 5 go through periods of night waking. Surely if so many children under 5 go through periods of night waking, then night waking in children must be normal, and not really a common sleep problem at all?

Sadly, we have such incorrect expectations of normal infant behavior in society. We try to fix babies: We sleep-train them, we wean them early, we give them hungry baby formula to make them sleep for longer, and we follow routines of baby experts to train them to sleep through. However, it isn't our babies who have sleep problems. They are sleeping normally; quite simply they sleep like a baby.

Rather than fixing our babies and toddlers, isn't it time we looked to fix ourselves?

If we have realistic expectations, we realize that what we really need is not to train our babies and toddlers, but to build a network of support once again for parents -- a village, as some say. The issue really is a problem belonging to adults and society. What really needs fixing? We need to respect what a huge honor parenting is, and we need to support mothers as much as possible so that they can concentrate on the most important thing they will ever do raising their babies. How do we return respect to motherhood and provide that necessary support? We must get our leaders and policy makers to understand that what a family really needs is support to be just that a family. We need to begin with a change in expectations; we are lucky that science is on our side, someday soon it will be impossible to ignore the research any longer.

As mothers, we also have the opportunity to gently re-educate from a grass-roots level. I call it the Maternal Revolution. When the mothers of the world reclaim their power I believe they can do anything. Will you join the revolution?


Pathways Issue 55 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #55.

7 Natural Sleep Aids That Work

Posted: October 25, 2017
By: Dr. Josh Axe

Natural Sleep Aids

We have a natural sleep-wake cycle called circadian rhythm. By being in sync with that rhythm, we can easily improve our sleep. A regular sleep/wake pattern helps you feel refreshed and ready for your day.

Having good sleep hygiene is crucial, such as avoiding stimulants like too much coffee to prevent caffeine overdose, and we've all been told to get those electronics far from the bedroom both for better sleep and to avoid nomophobia.

Thankfully, good sleep hygiene combined with natural sleep aids can make all the difference in getting some body-craving restful sleep. Calcium, magnesium, valerian root and a few more Ill talk about below all help to naturally put you to sleep.

1. Food Is Medicine!

It's a well-known fact that having a heavy meal just before bed can cause you to have a poor night of rest, but did you know that there are some foods that could help you sleep better? That doesn't mean you need to add calories necessarily or eat a huge meal right before bed, but it could mean that you can incorporate some of these foods into your dinner or as a small after-dinner snack.

Probably the most commonly known characteristic that can help through food is tryptophan yes, that sleepiness from the Thanksgiving turkey is no joke. Tryptophan is an amino acid that can help the brain get into a relaxed state, similar to serotonin and melatonin. You can obtain tryptophan and serotonin from carbohydrates, particularly 100 percent whole grain oats, brown rice, corn or quinoa.

A study published in Sports Medicine out of France was conducted to help better understand ways to improve the sleep of elite soccer players given their chaotic schedules, late-night games and need for recovery through a good night of sleep. The study found that by consuming carbohydrates such as honey and whole grain bread and some forms of protein, especially those that contain serotonin-producing tryptophan like turkey, nuts and seeds, it helped promote restorative sleep. Even tryptophan-filled tart cherry juice, which also contains healing properties like antioxidants, could be a great option. (3)

2. Calcium for Relaxation

Did you know that calcium has an affect on our sleep cycle? Its true.

According to the European Neurology Journal, calcium levels are at their highest during our deep rapid eye movement (REM) sleep periods. What this means is that if you never get to the REM sleep phase or if its limited, it could be related to a calcium deficiency. Researchers indicate that the calcium is important because it helps the cells in the brain use the tryptophan to create melatonin a natural body-producing sleep aid. (4)

A glass of warm goats milk kefir could do the trick by providing calcium and magnesium, both of which work best when consumed together.

3. Magnesium May Help You Get the Slumber You Need

Now let's roll into more about magnesium and how it can help with that your sleep state. If you have trouble sleeping, it could be due to a magnesium deficiency.

Studies have shown that higher magnesium levels can help induce a deeper sleep, and as I noted, this is especially true when taken together with calcium for better absorption. Research from the Biochemistry and Neurophysiology Unit at the University of Genevas Department of Psychiatry indicate that higher levels of magnesium actually helped provide better, more consistent sleep since magnesium is a calming nutrient. In addition to the goats milk kefir, foods like spinach, pumpkin seeds and even dark chocolate can help since theyre loaded with magnesium. (5)

Here are a few snacks to consume for getting a good night of sleep: (6)

  • Half a banana with a few almonds
  • Crackers with almond butter
  • Gluten-free oatmeal with honey and dark cherries
  • Small Ezekial wrap with turkey and cranberries
  • Small glass of warm goats milk kefir with turmeric and a dash of cinnamon
  • Chamomile, passion flower and valerian tea
  • Small glass of tart cherry juice

4. Essential Oils for Sleep

Its no secret that essential oils are a natural method for just about anything you can think of, and sleep is no different. Prescription medications can cause numerous side effects and make you feel jet-lagged upon waking, among other negative side effects. Essential oils, on the other hand, don't cause these adverse reactions.

A study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice was conducted with cancer patients, a common group that has serious issues with sleeping well, to better understand whether aromatherapy using essential oils could help provide some much-needed healing shut-eye. Aromasticks were given to patients over a 13-week period. Of the participants, 94 percent reported using the aromasticks with 92 percent reporting that they would continue use. Bergamot oil and lavender oil, in addition to sandalwood, frankincense and mandarin, were combined to create the useful sleep-inducing blend. (7)

5. Passion Flower for Calming and Restful Sleep

In my article about passion flower, you can see the numerous benefits, including calming and anti-anxiety effects. When we have anxiety, it can greatly affect how we sleep because you just cannot seem to turn the brain off especially while youre trying to rest. Passion flower can provide the calming effect needed to help stop that vicious circle of thought.

Clinical trials have shown that passion flower can reduce anxiety as effectively as the prescribed drug known as benzodiazepine oxazepam. A four-week, double-blind study of patients with generalized anxiety disorder compared passion flower to the common anti-anxiety drug. While the oxazepam worked a little faster, both were the same in terms of effectiveness however, the passion flower did not cause problems with job performance, such drowsiness while on the job, unlike the oxazepam. (8)

This shows that passion flower is one of the most powerful anti-anxiety natural sleep aids that doesnt cause lingering tiredness the next day.

6. Valerian Root to Induce Sleep

Valerian root is a plant with roots that contain many healing properties, in particular for a relaxation and sedative effects. Its often found in combination with chamomile in a tea. By increasing the amount of gamma aminobutryic acid (GABA), it helps calm the nerve cells in the brain, resulting in a calming effect. GABA works by blocking brain signals that cause anxiety and that ongoing trickle effect that can come from it. This calming effect has made it a favorite natural remedy for anxiety too. (9)

If you're not fond of the tea, you can go with a capsule form that can be found at your local health food store.

7. St. John's Wort May Help Provide Sleep Through Less Depression

Depression is a common characteristic that can lead to lack of sleep. St John's wort may be able to help.

More recent studies indicate that chemicals, such as hyperforin and adhyperforin, are found in St. Johns wort, acting as little messengers in the brain that drive mood and work as powerful antidepressants. (10)

The National Sleep Foundation reports that insomnia is common among those who are depressed and notes that people with insomnia have a much higher risk of becoming depressed. (11) Research from the Department of Psychology at the University of North Texas shows that depression may affect many aspects of sleep, from getting to sleep to staying asleep. By treating depression using St. John's wort, you may be able to find that restful sleep your body and mind longs for. (12)

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

It's no secret that good sleep provides better function at work and home, along with even better fitness and athletic performance. The National Sleep Foundation released a poll taken in 2015 that clearly indicated quality of life is far better for those who had a good night of sleep of at least seven hours. (13, 14)

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amount of sleep for varying age groups: (15)

Newborns: 1417 hours
Infants: 1215 hours
Toddlers 1114 hours
Preschoolers 1013 hours
School-aged children: 911 hours
Teens: 810 hours
Adults: 79 hours
Older adults: 78 hours

Symptoms of Insomnia

How do you know if you have a true case of insomnia? This may seem like a silly question, but its common that most people experience some form of insomnia, known as acute insomnia, without it truly being a chronic problem.

Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and is often considered chronic if it happens at least three nights per week for three months or longer. The question remains: How do you know if you have insomnia that requires treatment?

While sleeping pills can seem to be the perfect quick fix, you might be surprised to learn that there are numerous natural remedies for insomnia, with little to no side effects, that provide better sleep long term.

The National Sleep Foundation suggests these guidelines, which were derived from a physician group.

If you have one or more of the following symptoms, you may need to seek some sort of treatment and take more natural sleep aids: (16)

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep throughout the night
  • Trouble getting back to sleep
  • Waking up too early
  • Not feeling refreshed after sleep (non-restorative sleep)
  • Feelings of fatigue, low energy or being always tired
  • Struggles concentrating
  • Mood swings, aggression and irritability
  • Problems at work, school or in relationships

Problems with Sleeping Pills

As I mentioned above, sleeping pills are a quick fix, but why use them if natural sleep aids can solve the problem better? Its really important that you take the time to understand why sleeping pills may not be the best idea.

They're placed under a category called sedative hypnotics and include benzodiazepines and barbiturates. You've probably heard of the benzodiazepines, or psychotropic drugs, called Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Librium, which are also known as common anti-anxiety medications. Because they can induce drowsiness, they can help people sleep, but these drugs can be addictive too and that's not a good thing.

Barbiturates can cause a sedative state because they relax the central nervous system. These are more commonly called sleeping pills and usually the drug of choice for heavy sedation in anesthesia. There are also less powerful, yet still sleep-inducing, drugs that are over-the-counter prescriptions, such as Lunesta, Sonata and Ambien.

If you know me, you're well aware that I always suggest a natural remedy over a synthetic option, and the reason is pretty clear. In the case of sleeping pills, they typically slow your breathing and may cause you to breathe much more shallow than normal. This could be problematic, and even dangerous, for someone with asthma or other lung-related problems like COPD, a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that makes it hard to breathe.

Sleeping pills also commonly have numerous side effects, such as: (17)

  • Burning or tingling in the extremities, such as hands, arms, feet or legs
  • Changes in appetite
  • Gas, constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Dizziness and problems with balance
  • Drowsiness during the day
  • Dryness in the mouth or throat area
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Difficulty doing common tasks the next day
  • Trouble with memory
  • Stomach pain
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • Affected dreams
  • Feelings of weakness

Recipes for Natural Sleep Aids

There are several different ways you can create your own natural sleep aids. Start with the following recipe:

Bedtime Kefir with Turmeric and Cinnamon


1 cup goats milk kefir
teaspoon ground turmeric
Dash of cinnamon to taste
Dash of nutmeg to taste


  • Place the kefir in a mug.
  • Add the turmeric and blend well.
  • Top with cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Sip before bedtime.

If you decide to warm the kefir, make sure you dont boil it. Regardless, heating it causes loss of useful probiotics, but it wont cause the loss of the natural sleep aids magnesium and calcium.

Here are a couple more recipes that double as natural sleep aids:

Precautions with Natural Sleep Aids: Always make sure you start with small amounts of any new food, herb or essential oil, as different people have different reactions to certain foods. If you notice anything unusually, stop the treatment immediately. Also, if you have been on prescription medication for sleep or any other medication, please consult your doctor first.

Full article can be found here:

Sleep Deprivation A Growing Problem for Teens and Young Adults

Posted: October 25, 2017
By: Dr. Josh Axe

If you're someone who regularly gets less than the recommended amount of sleep, you're at a higher risk for many different health problems. This includes health problems that are mentally and physically harmful. These can include: brain fog and fatigue; increased susceptibility to accidents or injuries; loss of productivity at work; irritability and moodiness; relationship problems; and even a greater risk of death due to problems affecting your heart and immune system.

  • Sleep deprivation is the condition that occurs if you don't get enough sleep. This is also sometimes called sleep debt or sleep deficiency. It's associated with problems including: fatigue, headaches, reduced productivity, mood issues, weight gain and higher risk for many chronic diseases.
  • Some of the common causes of sleep deprivation are high amounts of stress, having a condition that causes wakefulness or pain, hormonal changes, pregnancy, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor diet.
  • Natural ways to prevent or treat sleep deprivation include managing your schedule and stress load, adjusting your diet and stimulant intake, exercising, spending more time outside, and creating a nighttime routine to help you wind down.

Here are some eye-opening sleep deprivation and sleep deficiency statistics:

  • Between 50 to 70 million Americans are estimated to have some type of chronic sleep disorder. This is around 1 in every 5 or 6 people.
  • Approximately 8-18 percent of the general population struggles with insomnia.
  • Sleep deficiency has been found to be more common among adults between 40-59 than any other age group. Those between the ages of 20-39 are also likely to be suffering from a lack of sleep. (2)
  • Data from the National Health Interview Survey showed that about 30 percent of adults get on average less than 6 hours of sleep per day. The same study found that only about one-third of high school students report getting at least 8 hours of sleep on school nights.
  • Around 35 percent of certain survey respondents report getting less than 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period. Forty-eight percent report snoring. Around 38 percent report unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the preceding month. In adults over 65, more than 44 percent say they fall asleep unintentionally somewhat regularly due to fatigue.
  • About 5 percent of drivers say they occasionally nod off or fall asleep while driving at least once per month. The National Department of Transportation and CDC estimate that drowsy driving is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the United States.


Sleep Deprivation in Teens & College Students:

Sleep deprivation affects more than just busy, stressed adults. Its also a growing problem among teenagers and college-aged young adults too. Sleep deprivation negatively affects their performance in school, moods and behaviors.

Some research suggests that college-aged individuals get on average about 67 hours of sleep per night. This is due to an overload of activities such as studying, socializing, working and staying up late using the internet. (3) What percentage of high school students are sleep deprived? Stanford University researchers have found that up to 87 percent of teens (almost 9 of every 10) are sleep deprived! (4) According to work done by the University of Georgia, students who get six or fewer hours of sleep per night report feeling more tired, stressed and sad. Theyre missing out on how adequate sleep restores our energy, helps us think clearly and creatively, strengthens memory, and produces a more positive mood and better performance throughout the day.

Reasons Your Teenager May Not Be Sleeping Well:

Some of the reasons your teen may not be getting good sleep include:

  • Staying up late using the computer, their phone, or watching TV.
  • Wanting more time at night to wind down and relax after a demanding day, especially if homework takes a while to complete at night.
  • Feeling stressed and overwhelmed in general, which interferes with sleep.
  • Due to the effects of a poor diet, too little exercise during the daytime, and a lack of sunlight exposure.
  • Engaging in stimulating activities before bed. For example, playing video games, doing something active that gets their heart rate up, or reading something that increases alertness.

Do teenagers really need more sleep than adults? If so, what is the best time for teenagers to head to bed at night and to wake up in the morning? Studies show that teens need around 9 hours of sleep per night until their early adult years, when the need tends to fall by 12 hours (bringing most adults needs to about 78 hours). Because most teens need to wake up early for school, getting to bed at a decent time is usually essential, although most teens resist this type of schedule. Every teens routine will be a bit different, but sleeping from about 9:30p.m. to 6:30a.m. (give or take an hour) is usually a good goal. Stanford Medical School reports that surveys of over 3,000 high school students have found that those with higher grades report sleeping more, going to bed earlier on school nights and sleeping in less on weekends than students who had lower grades.

Studies have found that teens and college students tend to sleep less during the weekdays and then sleep more on weekends to try and compensate for their accumulated sleep debt. However, theres some evidence that this approach isnt undoing the damage associated with daily sleep deprivation. Even after sleeping in on the weekends, many teens report still waking up fatigued most days and struggling through the demanding school day.

Some of the most common negative effects of sleep deficiency include:

  • Higher risk for chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, cancer and overall mortality.
  • Trouble concentrating at work or school. This can include finding it harder to learn, focus, be creative, meet deadlines, remember information or take tests.
  • Difficulty driving, and sometimes being more prone to getting into accidents. The CDC has found sleep insufficiency is linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational error. (5)
  • Less motivation to be social, which can spill over to feeling more isolated and sad.
  • Higher likelihood of being more sedentary (less physically active), which can contribute to weight gain.
  • Increased appetite and higher risk for overeating, due to craving foods to help battle fatigue (especially processed, sugary or comfort foods).
  • Poor moods, irritability, and even increased risk for depression. People who lack sleep report feeling more cranky, overwhelmed, angry, frustrated and worried.

What are the long term effects of sleep deprivation?

Sleep not only causes changes in your brain, but can also impact your kidneys, lungs, heart and other vital organs. Some of the systems in the body negatively impacted by lack of sleep include: digestive, endocrine, central nervous and musculoskeletal systems.

Sleep deficiency can contribute to: kidney stones, IBS, fertility problems, heart disease, headaches/migraines, arthritis, thyroid disorders and many other conditions. Heart and lung function can be disrupted when youre not getting good sleep, and tissues in your muscles or GI tract may not be properly repaired.

Lack of sleep is associated with complications and worsened symptoms in people with respiratory problems, chronic lung and heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure. Sleep deprivation can increase the hormone called ghrelin, which is associated with hunger and cravings. Of course, it also disrupts brain function, reduces attention span, lowers willpower and makes you susceptible to poor moods. (6)

Can lack of sleep contribute to even more serious mental health problems in some instances, such as causing hallucinations or memory loss?

Research suggests that in people who are prone to mental or cognitive problems, such as due to a history of trauma or genetic factors, sleep deprivation may trigger or worsen symptoms. (7) Possible explanations as to why this occurs is due to increased inflammation, hormonal imbalances and alterations in the chemical called adenosine, which builds up in the brain during wakeful hours (as a byproduct of using energy) and can cause hallucinations in abnormally high amounts. A report published in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine & Environmental Health even states that The impairment of performance which is caused by 2025 hours of sleeplessness is comparable to that after ethanol (alcohol) intoxication at the level of 0.10% blood alcohol concentration.

Continue reading here:

Health Benefits of Camping Now Include Major Sleep Improvements

Posted: October 25, 2017
By: Dr. Josh Axe

Often called Americas Best Idea, the National Park Service could also soon be known as Americas Healthiest Prescription. (Especially if you're someone suffering from a sleep disorder.)

In fact, if you're searching for insomnia cures, it may be time to to turn to your tent. A 2017 study suggests the health benefits of camping now much healthier sleep. So what's the connection? Electronics are doing a real number on the natural sleep cycle. (And nature seems to reset it in a beneficial way.)

Modern life means less exposure to sunlight during the day and higher exposure to electronics and harsh lights at night. But instead of sleep meds with dangerous side effects, the solution is simple: camping.

Study Details: The Health Benefits of Camping

University of Colorado researcher Kenneth Wright, PhD, a professor of integrative physiology, found that today's unnatural light exposure leads to late circadian, resulting in delayed sleep timing.

This isn't the first time Wright investigated camping's potential to remedy the side effects of artificial light. His 2013 study investigated the health effects of camping on sleep in Current Biology. Results of that study showed participants camping in Colorado for a week during the summer helped improve their biological clocks.

The campers experienced four times more light during the day. At night, headlamps and flashlights were banned. The result? The rush of sleep-inducing melatonin arrived two hours earlier, around the time of sunset.

In contrast, the more recent 2016 study published in Current Biology sent participants camping in winter for either a whole week or a weekend. Wright tracked both sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. To track the circadian rhythm, researchers tracked participants melatonin levels.

Wright noted that before participants left, their sleep patterns didn't align with their natural internal clocks. He explained that while melatonin levels should rise right before we sleep and fall right after we wake up, in the modern environment, those melatonin levels fall back down a couple of hours after we wake up. Our brains say we should be sleeping several hours after we wake up.

The results of a week-long camping trip? After sleeping outside for a week, participants woke up two hours earlier. Participants melatonin levels no longer lagged, either. Levels rose as the sun went down and lowered as the sun came up. Even a weekend trip provided better hormones levels for healthy sleep. Just a weekend camping shifted the clock 69 percent of what we saw in a week-long study, Wright told the Denver Post. We can rapidly adjust our clock by being exposed to the natural light/dark cycle and getting rid of electrical lights.

Wrights work is another study in a long list of research that proves how essential the sun, fresh air and nature are to our overall well-being and health.

Sleeping Tips for Campers

Wondering how you're going to get a good nights rest while sleeping on the ground in the cold? To stay comfortable while camping, its important to choose a comfortable camping spot and bring the proper gear to stay warm and dry. In order to do that:

Find a smooth, flat surface to set up your tent. There's nothing worse than sleeping on a slant or dealing with a rock or stick poking you all night long. Also, look at the terrain and avoid pitching your tent where heavy rain might flow or pool.

Don't wear too many layers. In an effort to stay warm, its easy to overdress. Wearing too many layers can actually inhibit your sleeping bags ability to trap in your body's heat. Also, if you sweat during the day, be sure to change into dry clothes before crawling into your sleeping bag.

Put a blanket or pad underneath your sleeping bag. This will provide an extra layer of protection from the cold ground.

Other Health Benefits of Camping

If improved sleep isn't enough to make you pack your bags and grab a tent, camping also benefits your health in other ways. For instance, being in nature is beneficial for your mood and mental health. University of Michigan researchers found that even just a few minutes in nature may reduce the symptoms of depression. (2) Likewise, researchers at Stanford University found that time outdoors helps reduce obsessive negative thinking, or rumination. (3)

According to a 2008 article published in Environmental Health Perspectives, 30 minutes in the sun provides nearly a days supply of vitamin D through skin absorption. Vitamin D contributes to bone health, helps manage blood sugar levels, may prevent diabetes, helps fight heart disease, enhances the immune system, improves concentration, learning, memory and more. Needless to say, vitamin D is essential to the human body, and by going out into nature, you can soak in more than enough vitamin D to reap the benefits.

Other Natural Ways to Improve Sleep

Taking a week-long camping trip or even a weekend trip isn't feasible for everyone. Luckily, there are a number of other ways to naturally improve your sleep.

Avoid electronics in bed. Watching TV or working on your laptop in bed tricks your brain into thinking that your bed is a place of work and not a place of rest. Watch your nighttime shows in the living room and settle into bed with a relaxing book a half an hour or so before bedtime instead.

Adhere to a regular sleep schedule. This helps keep your circadian rhythm in check. You'll find it becomes easier to fall asleep and wake up naturally.

Exercise in the morning. The rush of endorphins you feel after working out is great until its the reason you cant fall asleep at night. Working out in the morning helps balance hormone levels without sacrificing your sleep.

Expose yourself to the natural light cycle or recreate it. If you have to stay inside for most of the day, sitting next to or being next to a window will help keep you on a natural cycle. You can also adjust your indoor lighting according to the time of day by using a light box early in the morning and dimming your lights as the sun goes down at night to mimic outdoor lighting. Try to dim your lights at least 30 minutes before going to sleep.

Avoid eating sugary sweets, simple carbs, juice or high-glycemic fruit. This is true especially right before bed. It can spike blood sugar, boost your energy and you can make you wake up feeling hungry. Instead, try a small amount of protein with vegetables or complex carbohydrates; these foods can boost melatonin and help you fall asleep quicker.

Final Thoughts on the Health Benefits of Camping

Sleeping outside with the natural light helped participants wake up two hours earlier and synced their sleep cycles with their natural internal clocks. By camping over the weekend, about 69 percent of the healthy sleep hormone shift seen in full-week campers could still occur.

Camping also benefits your health and happiness in other ways by reducing symptoms of depression, minimizing negative thinking and increasing levels of vitamin D in the body.

If you cant leave for a week or a weekend away, you can still naturally improve your sleep by sticking to a schedule, reducing electric use at night and in your bedroom, recreating natural light patterns and more.


The Essentials of Sleep

Posted: October 25, 2017
By: Dr. John Ferguson, Wellness Ne

The Essentials of Sleep

We should spend over a third of our lives sleeping, but many don't understand the significance or importance of getting a good night's rest. The majority of people are not aware that less than 5 hours of sleep per night has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease, migraines and even chronic pain. Sleep is an integral part of the wellness lifestyle.

What is sleep?

Sleep is typically defined as a state of unconsciousness from which it is possible to be awakened. There are two states of sleep that alternate in cycles. Each state of sleep is characterized by a different type of brain wave and these states are known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM).

In the past it was assumed that a sleeping person was inactive or in a completely passive state. Now its been determined that the brain is incredibly active during sleep. In REM sleep, the time typically associated with dreaming, the electrical activity recorded in the brain is similar to that recorded when awake.

A full night's sleep can be divided into three equal time periods; the first comprises the highest percentage of NREM, the second third is a mixture of both, and the last third is mostly REM. A person awakening after a full nights sleep will typically wake from REM sleep.

What is normal sleep?

The average adult should sleep about 8 to 8 hours each night.

In some cultures its normal to sleep 6 to 7 hours each night and take a nap of 1 to 2 hours a day. Rarely an individual can function perfectly normal on just 5 hours or some may require up to 10 hours a day but its important that each person sleeps as much as is needed for their body to properly function.

Infants have an overall greater total sleep time than any other age group. Their sleep requirements can be anywhere from 14 to 16 hours a day for the first 4 to 5 months. As they reach about 6 months they will typically sleep through the night and need at least one long nap in the middle of the day.

What is sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is defined as a reduction in the usual total sleep time for more than one or two days whereas chronic sleep insufficiency exists when an individual doesn't get the necessary amount of sleep required for optimal functioning on a routine basis.

Sleep affects physical and mental health and is essential to normal functioning of all the body's systems including the immune system. Just 24 hours of sustained wakefulness results in a decrease in body temperature, a decrease in immune system function as measured by white blood cell count, a decrease in the release of growth hormone and an increased heart rate.

Studies have shown that losing just 1 hour of sleep a night for one week can result in impairment of higher-order cognitive tasks such as driving or other tasks that require hand-eye coordination. Just 2 to 3 hours less over a week results in sleep deprivation and the sleep-deprived have proven to perform worse in similar tasks than those that are legally intoxicated.

Once a few hours of sleep have been lost for two or more nights this may create what is known as sleep debt and those hours must be repaid over the next few nights to avoid sleep deprivation. It should also be noted that caffeine and other stimulants are not successful in overcoming the drowsiness commonly associated with sleep deprivation.

What interferes with sleep?

Many times it's not a lack of action but actions that can interfere with sleep. The average person should be able to get into bed and drift off within 5 to 15 minutes. If this is not the case then something is interfering with the typical sleep pattern.

Sleep, or the lack thereof, is influenced by different neurotransmitters in the brain and some substances can change the balance of these causing sleep interference.

Caffeinated drinks or medicines (such as some diet pills) stimulate parts of the brain and can cause insomnia. Heavy smokers tend to wake up after 3 or 4 hours of sleep due to nicotine withdrawal and alcohol has been linked to insomnia. While alcohol consumption may help someone to fall asleep faster it keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep from which they can be more easily awakened.

Sleep affects physical and mental health and is essential to normal functioning of all the body's systems!

A common cause of sleep interference is diet. Eating late at night or eating foods that are high in sugar can affect a persons ability to fall asleep. Although not typically considered a stimulant, sugar and refined carbohydrates can interfere with sleep by triggering the fight or flight part of the nervous system causing wakefulness.

Sleep apnea can also interfere with getting a good night's sleep. Apnea literally means to stop breathing; an individual with sleep apnea may stop breathing in the middle of the night. When this happens the brain will trigger a response and breathing will resume with a loud gasp, snort or a body jerk. These episodes will interfere with sound sleep and sleep apnea is very dangerous as it has been linked with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, adult asthma and more.

Last, but certainly not least, is environment. A good night's sleep will be easily affected by a mattress that is either too firm or not firm enough, a poorly supportive pillow, and ambient lighting. Pain from a stiff back or neck while sleeping will interrupt sleep and once awake any light in the room may make it difficult to fall back to sleep.

How is sleep improved?

About 60 million Americans a year have reported frequent insomnia or difficult sleeping for extended periods of time. It tends to increase with age and affects about 40% of women and 30% of men. The typical medical response to insomnia is a prescription for sleeping pills, but most will stop working after routine use and all will have one or more of the following side effects: headache, muscle aches, trouble concentrating, dizziness, unsteadiness or rebound insomnia (a worsening of long-term insomnia if a patient stops taking the drug).


There are many things that can be done to improve sleep:

Some logical dietary options include not drinking caffeine after 3 PM, keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum (or not at all) and not eating late at night or right before bedtime. Another sleep improvement option includes unplugging at least an hour before bed. There are cells in the eyes that can affect the ability to sleep by registering if it is day or night. These cells cannot differentiate between real or artificial light and may be affected by light from a TV, computer or smartphone screen. Eliminating these sources of light (as well as the accompanying stimulation) at least an hour before bed may be wise.

The effect of light may also affect those who are awakened in the middle of the night by a call of nature. If possible, its important to rely on a night light or other softer light source as exposure to a bright light in the middle of the night may be enough to reset the body's internal clock and make it difficult to return to sleep.

Many times insomniacs report that their brains just wont shut down. This may be assisted with calming exercises prior to sleeping; for instance, reading a good book, meditating, gentle stretching or soaking in a warm tub an hour before bed.

Finally, a regular sleep schedule has proven to be conducive to a good nights sleep. Going to bed at a regular time and awakening around the same time each morning helps support the body's internal clock.

The Chiropractic Factor

Beyond the obvious discussion of proper mattresses and pillows to support your neck and spine, Dr. John can discuss other wellness options to support your sleep lifestyle. If you're having a difficult time going to
sleep and waking well-rested, wellness options should be considered before resorting to prescription drugs.

For more information visit

Top Secrets to a Good Night's Sleep

Posted: October 25, 2017
By: John M. Ferguson, DC

If you are having sleep problems, whether you are not able to fall asleep, wake up too often, don't feel well-rested when you wake up in the morning, or simply want to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep, try as many of the following techniques as possible.















Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars. This will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep.

Sleep in complete darkness or as close as possible or wear an eye mask. If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal glands production of melatonin and serotonin. There also should be as little light in the bathroom as possible if you get up in the middle of the night. Keep the light off when you go to the bathroom at night.

No TV right before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom or even out of the house, completely. It is too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep.

Wear socks to bed. Due to the fact that they have the poorest circulation, the feet often feel cold before the rest of the body. Studies have shown that wearing socks reduces night wakings.

Read something spiritual or religious. This will help to relax. If you often lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful to keep a journal and write down your thoughts before bed.

Keep your bed for sleeping. If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, you may find it harder to relax and to think of the bed as a place to sleep.

Get to bed as early as possible. Our systems, particularly the adrenals, do a majority of their recharging or recovering during the hours of 11 p.m.and 1 a.m. Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and which nature intended for human biorhythms as well. (See article on the Health Benefits of Camping)

Keep the temperature in the bedroom no higher than 70 degrees Farenheit. Many people keep their homes and particularly the upstairs bedrooms too hot.

Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan needed to produce melatonin and serotonin.

Also eat a small piece of fruit. This can help the tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier.

Reduce or avoid as many drugs as possible. Many medications, both prescription and over-the-counter may have effects on sleep. Sleep meds are horrible for your body!

Avoid caffeine. Even an afternoon cup of coffee (or tea) will keep some people from falling asleep hours later. Also, some medications, particularly diet pills contain caffeine.

Also, avoid alcohol as this prevents you from going into deep sleep!

Take a hot bath, shower or sauna before bed. When body temperature is raised in the late evening, it will fall at bedtime, facilitating sleep.

Avoid using loud alarm clocks. It is very stressful on the body to be awoken suddenly. Also, be sure to remove the clock from view. It will only add to your worry when constantly staring at it... 2 a.m. ...3 a.m. ... 4:30 a.m. ...

Don't change your bedtime. You should go to bed, and wake up, at the same times each day, even on the weekends. This will help your body to get into a sleep rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep and get up in the morning.

Make certain you are exercising regularly. Exercising for at least 30 minutes everyday can help you fall asleep.

Maintain a healthy weight. Studies also show being overweight can increase the risk of sleep apnea, which will prevent a restful night's sleep.

Go to the bathroom right before bed. This will reduce the chances that you'll wake up to go in the middle of the night.

Get a spine and nervous system check-up. Many patients who suffer with sleeping difficulties (including sleep apnea) have great success with chiropractic care. Call today 518-383-5595 or request your appointment online here to find out how Dr. John Ferguson can help you get a good night's sleep!

Is Your Sleep Position Affecting Your Health?

Posted: October 25, 2017
By: Dr. John Ferguson

Is Your Sleep Position Affecting Your Health?

Imagine you or your child sitting at a desk for six or seven hours at work or school...hunched over a computer
keyboard with legs tucked under the chair...the monitor at an improper angle. When you did finally try to get up, your entire body would mount a protest.

The same thing happens to the body after a night of improper sleep posture. When proper bedtime posture isn't maintained, spinal bones (vertebrae) become misaligned: a condition known as vertebral subluxation.

Back is Best

The optimum sleep position is back-to-mattress, with the head and neck cradled in a cervical or down-filled pillow. The goal is to keep the spine as close to its normal alignment as possible. The normal curves are cervical lordosis (c-shaped curve with apex in the anterior or mid-neck), thoracic kyphosis (apex in the posterior of the upper back) and lumbar lordosis (apex in the anterior of the low back). Sleeping on your back keeps your hips aligned evenly. When the curves are over-exaggerated or reversed, you risk vertebral subluxations and related disorders such as arthritis. After all, vertebrae are attached to muscles and other bones via tendons and ligaments. One glance at an anatomical diagram of the back and neck shows that, in one way or another, all the muscles and bones in this region are connected. A misaligned vertebra disrupts the intricate dance between muscles and bones. This disruption creates a state of imbalance, exerting stress on connecting structures and producing discomfort not to mention more serious stress to your nerves exiting from the spine that control organ function like your sinuses, ears, heart, lungs, stomach, gall bladder, reproductive organs, prostate...I think you get the picture. Its no wonder that vertebral subluxations trigger growing pains in little Johnnys spine, neck, hips, legs or feet that manifest themselves later in life as sciatic pain, digestive issues or infertility problems.

Stomach Snoozers

Sleeping on your stomach is the worst position for your spine. It torques the spine of the neck, reversing the normal curve, and
forces rotation. And that's not all. Stomach sleeping can lead to night bruxism, the grinding of teeth while asleep. This condition may be triggered by face pressure against the pillow, which is alleviated by back sleeping. Bruxism is associated with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Anything that upsets the normal position or alignment of the jaw can lead to this disorder including a misaligned neck, an uneven bite, orthodontic work, teeth grinding and sleeping on your side.

Side Sleepers

In addition to setting the stage for TMJ, sleeping on your side puts substantial pressure on the hips. A pillow between the knees helps to significantly straighten the spine.

Sleeping Like a Stone

A two-year study at the University of California at San Francisco has generated some surprising results: Men who consistently sleep on one side of their body are much more likely to develop kidney stones. Of the 93 patients all with recurring kidney stones 75 percent developed kidney stones only on the side they slept on.

Pillow Talk

In addition to correct body position, its important to ensure proper head position during sleep. And that means the
right pillow. Specialized cervical pillows are often helpful, as they provide optimum support.Old fashioned down pillows are also a wonderful option. The ideal pillow should be soft and not too high, should provide neck support and should be allergy-tested and washable. A neck pillow with good shape and consistency and with firm support for cervical lordosis can be recommended as a part of treatment for neck pain. (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1998;21:237-40.)

Sweet Dreams

The best way to ensure sweet dreams is by practicing proper sleep posture and selecting the right pillow and mattress. My best recommendation for spinal support in a mattress is a medium to firm density (memory foam is great I can recommend specifics). If you wake up stiff and sore in the morning, that's a sign that your body is stressed or malfunctioning so please write or call me about ways to modify your sleep behavior. And, if you haven't had a chiropractic check-up recently, make an appointment today to prevent sleep-related pain.

How Smartphone Light Affects Your Brain & Body (Infographic)

Posted: October 25, 2017
By: Arjun Walia -- Collective Evol

What You Can Do:

The first thing you can do is limit your screen time before bed, turning all screens off at least two hours before you plan to fall asleep. This is the perfect time to catch up on your reading.

You can also download an app called f.lux, which adjusts the colour of your computers display to the time of day warm at night and brighter during the day and cuts the blue light being emitted. There are similar apps for phones as well. All of us here at CE use these apps and have really noticed an improvement in our sleep quality.

HERE is a page from their website that provides more research into what staring at screens can do to your sleep, as well as the science behind the f.lux app.

Regardless of whether you are worried about your sleep, we can all benefit from a daily break from our smartphones and other screens.

Read the full article here: