Sleep deprivation is a form of torture – something which new parents will surely attest to.
With three children I’ll be the first to admit there have been more than a few sleepless nights. Even though I eat a healthy paleo diet, this isn’t enough to outweigh stress and sleep deprivation. The suffering soon sets in.
Sleeping pills may seem like an easy solution but they come with a long list of consequences. Convincing yourself you’ll return to normal sooner or thinking you can relive your reveled college days is just going to make things worse.
Surprisingly though, the “natural” solution of melatonin isn’t a good insomnia treatment either.
What Can You Do to Improve Sleep?
Before trying any sleep supplements for curing insomnia, I recommend fixing your diet. Often times, a real foods paleo diet is all you need to get your sleep back in check.
You probably already know that stress can make it hard to sleep. And, as the National Sleep Institute points out, lack of sleep can cause stress — so it is a terrible vicious cycle. These stress management techniques can help get things going back in the right direction as well.
Obviously, you’ll also want to avoid caffeine and alcohol and try to stick to a set bedtime routine.
But what if even after several days of doing all the obvious things you’re still dragging? If you’re tossing and turning and not able to get some actual shuteye, then it is time to turn to sleep supplements.
The Melatonin Misconception
When I asked on my Facebook page what supplements people take to help get to sleep I was surprised to read melatonin several times.
We do produce melatonin naturally, so I see how it can be misconstrued as a benign supplement to simply pop in your mouth and start counting sheep.
As talked about in the book The Sleep Solution, melatonin is associated with sleep because it’s produced as a stress hormone to cope with darkness. Sleep is the body’s natural antidote to the stress that melatonin causes.
Here is what it looks like:
We’re stressed by the dark —> we produce melatonin —> sleep relieves the stress.
You say you’re feeling sleepy when taking melatonin? Well, the melatonin’s merely inducing limpness in your body where blood is restricted to the brain and heart and your general cognitive function is impaired. Um, yikes!
Deliberately slowing down the blood supply to my vital organs isn’t something I really want to do in order to get to sleep!
Although melatonin may help induce sleep in the elderly, there is no solid scientific evidence to support melatonin’s effectiveness for treating insomnia in young and middle-aged adults.
However, there are many possible side effects of melatonin consumption:
- Vasoconstriction of the brain, organs, and heart.
- Shrinks and involutes the thymus gland
- Shrinks sex organs Increases heart rate and perpetuates the stress cycle
- Inhibits fertility
A Better Sleep Supplement: Magnesium
In the body, magnesium moves calcium out of the muscles and puts it back into the bloodstream where it can be mobilized elsewhere.
By removing calcium from the muscles, magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer.
Magnesium also has another role in sleep: It induces those sleepy states that you feel before actually falling asleep.
These reasons are why drinking a glass of milk is good for helping you get to sleep. Milk contains a lot of magnesium. However, because of the digestive issues it causes, I would never recommend drinking milk to help get to sleep.
How to Use Magnesium as a Sleep Supplement
Although you may think you’re getting an adequate supply of magnesium in your diet, our digestive system actually has a tough time at taking full advantage of magnesium, absorbing only 50% of the magnesium we consume.
You could take magnesium supplements to help you get to sleep. However, because the body doesn’t absorb it well, you wouldn’t be getting the full benefits of your supplement.
A better method of using magnesium for sleep is to take it through your skin.
- Take a bath in Epsom salts (I like these Epsom salts)
- Rub magnesium oil on your skin before going to bed (I like this magnesium oil)
Want to learn more about natural ways to help sleep?
Order a copy of Go to Bed: 14 Easy Steps to Healthier Sleep. Written by renowned health expert Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, the guide gives you really valuable information about the science of sleep, why you aren’t sleeping, and how to get to sleep by taking a few easy steps.
Have you tried magnesium for sleep? What are your best sleep inducing tips and tricks? Do you struggle to get adequate sleep?
Resources for this article:
Benfit, Emily. The Sleep Solution.