Sleep Promoting Nutrition

Sleep Promoting Nutrition

Three of the major foundations for mental and emotional well-being are nutrition, exercise and sleep.  At the core, eating healthier, sleeping well, and staying active helps you cope with and rejuvenate from daily stressful situations.  In addressing sleep issues specifically, some foods interfere with good sleep hygiene and other foods can better regulate neurotransmitters which aid in restful sleep. There are a couple of major components that we should discuss in achieving optimal sleep.  Melatonin and serotonin are found to have a significant impact on quality of sleep.  Serotonin is instrumental in mood regulation, for decreasing anxiety, eliciting calm, and for sound sleep.  Melatonin is a hormone released by the pineal gland and helps to control and maintain your sleep and wake cycles.  Without melatonin, your brain would not recognize the necessity to wind down and relax when necessary.  The neurotransmitter serotonin plays a critical role in communicating accurate messages to the brain. In order for your body to produce serotonin, it requires the amino acid tryptophan, usually found in protein rich foods.  If protein is absent in one’s diet, neurotransmitters like serotonin can’t be built. In general, a well balanced diet, is optimal for good sleep.  Most importantly, the first two meals of the day should include lean protein which further aids mood stabilization and cognitive functioning.  Before bed though, you should consider a different approach.  Large portions of red meats block the synthesis of serotonin, and thus, decreases the likelihood of sleep initiation and uninterrupted sleep. In considering what snacks to eat before bedtime, let’s first discuss what you shouldn’t eat.  Simple carbohydrates, such as white rice,...
Don’t Let Sleep Deprivation Bring You Down

Don’t Let Sleep Deprivation Bring You Down

Many people catastrophize the issue of not sleeping well.  Most patients suffering from sleep disorders actually sleep more than they believe they did, but since they remember waking many times throughout the night, the hours just don’t add up.  In actuality, if you were monitored in a sleep lab, tracking every precious restorative minute and brain wave in detail, you would be surprised how much rest you are actually getting. However, without this method available to most, we end up believing the worst about our sleep quality. With an alternative positive perspective, we can start viewing the previous night in a more beneficial light, thus enhancing the day’s events. If you magnify daytime consequences of poor sleep, it increases resentment, stress and anxiety surrounding poorer sleep.  Let’s review core sleep requirements to help you identify a different way of looking at decreased sleep. How much sleep do we need?  Generally, each person needs 7- 9 hours of sleep in order to maintain wellness and mental alertness. Of course, there are some that need 4 – 5 hours of sleep, and others that need 10 – 12 hours of sleep.  The first 3-4 hours of NREM sleep are highly important as they restore the physiological functions of the body.  The last few hours of REM sleep restore the mental and emotional aspects of the brain.  Studies have shown that only 3-4 hours of core sleep may not result in performance degradation and you may even thrive, as long as you don’t focus on the negative impact of missing the last few hours of sleep.  Missing those hours should not drive...
Benzodiazepines Addiction

Benzodiazepines Addiction

Millions of American are prescribed benzodiazepines each year in order to help with sleep issues. Of those millions, thousands are pregnant mothers depending on the prescribed drug to help them sleep or lesson high anxiety.  It is now understood by many that benzodiazepines are highly addictive and can cause severe withdrawal symptoms.  Unfortunately, many prescribed patients are unaware of the effects of these drugs before they become addicted or pregnant. Benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Klonopin, Valium and Librium and Xanax are prescribed for insomnia, anxiety, seizures, muscle spasms and sleep issues.  They aid in producing sedation, inducing sleep and relieving anxiety by slowing down the central nervous system.  In general, benzodiazepines are safe and effective in the short term although aggression or impulsivity may be present as a side effect.  In addition, it is quite easy to build up a tolerance to the prescription leading to increased dosages and usage.  Most concerning is the long-term affect and addictive quality of the drug. The withdrawal effects that people experience while trying to decrease dosages are extremely uncomfortable and may include increased anxiety, muscle pain or burning, depression and prolonged insomnia.  These symptoms may last from days to months, depending on several factors such as the length of time the drugs have been taken and the dosage. Since these drugs are passed through the placental wall to the newborn during pregnancy, all newborns are affected by withdrawal symptoms as they are essentially quitting the drug cold turkey.  It is never advised to quit using benzodiazepines suddenly. To do so would put you at risk for withdrawal seizures resulting in death, coma,...
Drug Cocktails Don’t Mix

Drug Cocktails Don’t Mix

In September of 2010, the Drug Enforcement Agency held their first national prescription drug take-back program. The program was created in an effort to raise awareness of lethal and addictive qualities of prescription drugs. The statistics and dangers of prescribed drug use are astounding and although thousands of old prescriptions were voluntarily collected by the DEA, not enough people are aware of the dangers of mixing pharmaceutical drugs. The Centers for Disease Control has reported that more than 20,000 people die from accidental prescription drug overdose annually. The news is full of celebrity deaths as a result of pharmaceutical cocktails including Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson. Heath Ledger died from a devastating combination of pain killers, depression and anxiety aids including, oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam, diazepam, temazepam and doxylamine.  To some, mixing drug prescriptions, what we call drug cocktails, may seem to some the only feasible way to deal with common disorders such as depression, anxiety and sleep issues. There are many variations of over the counter sleeping pills and sleep aids combined out of desperation, in hopes of producing better sleep. Alcohol is commonly found in antihistamines such as Nyquil or Benadryl and widely understood to initiate a quick sleep but will actually interfere with deep restorative functions. In fact, drinking alcohol keeps your body from progressing to Stage 3 or 4 sleep and you will awaken more frequently throughout the night. For even those of us who are able to breath normally during sleep, we all have apneic events throughout the night. Unfortunately, alcohol can increase apneic events by repressing respiratory function in the brain. ...