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Sleep Problems and Solutions

written by Marlene Watson-Tara June 17, 2020
Sleep Problems and Solutions

Anxiety causes, among many other issues, sleeping problems. Research suggests sleep deprivation can cause an anxiety disorder. Research also shows that some form of sleep disruption is present in nearly all psychiatric disorders. Other studies show that people with chronic insomnia are at high risk of developing an anxiety disorder. I hope for those of you who are having trouble sleeping since the outbreak of COVID-19 these ideas are helpful to you.

What are Sleep Disorders?

Sleep disorders are conditions that affect how much and how well you sleep.  The causes range from poor habits that keep you awake to medical problems that disrupt your sleep cycle. If you do not feel rested in the mornings then you should look at your overall health, as lack of good restorative sleep deprives our immune system from rebuilding which keeps us strong and full of vitality.

Restorative Sleep Tips

Learning to sleep well is known as sleep hygiene. Regular exercise should be part of the plan but the timing is important. Exercise in the late afternoon can make it easier to fall and stay asleep – just don’t let it get too late. If you can fit in a quick session, perhaps when you come home from work, even a ten-minute yoga stretch can make a difference. However, exercise within a couple of hours of bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep.

The Food/Sleep Connection

You’ve heard it a thousand times: if you want to fall asleep, you have to give up caffeine. Caffeine is certainly a challenge, but there are other dietary factors that can keep you tossing and turning in the night. In my latest book, Go Vegan, you will find over 80 delicious recipes that are calming to the nervous system along with some fabulous medicinal drinks that will strengthen your immune system.

Five Foods That Can Help You Sleep

  1. Pumpkin Seeds are a great source of magnesium, which serves to calm the body down. Magnesium helps to relieve the stress that can keep us up all night. Just 1 oz. of pumpkin seeds has 151 mg of magnesium, making it one of the most magnesium-rich foods out there.
  2. Soy Beans contain tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid that relaxes the entire body and mind. You can find tryptophan in tofu, tempeh, hummus, and lentils.
  3. Sesame Seeds are rich in tryptophan but they’re also high in carbohydrates with a medium protein content, perfect with an evening meal as a garnish.
  4. Brown Rice – Whole, unrefined grains like brown rice have a calming effect on the mind. They soothe the nervous system so that the mind stops moving a mile a minute and you can fall asleep.
  5. Dark Green Vegetables – Chlorophyll-rich foods like kale, spring greens and spinach help you get to sleep.

Five Foods That Promote Insomnia

  1. Refined Carbohydrates – These drain the body of vitamin B, which the body needs to release serotonin. When the body can’t get enough serotonin, tension, fear, and depression can keep you up all night.
  2. MSG – Monosodium glutamate (MSG), often found in Chinese food, causes a stimulant reaction in some people. MSG is almost always found in processed, prepared, and packaged foods and is used in Chinese restaurants.
  3. Bacon – Bacon contains tyramine, which increases the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant that keeps you up. Other foods that contain tyramine include chocolate, aubergine (eggplant), ham, potatoes, sauerkraut, sugar, sausage, tomatoes, and wine.
  4. Alcohol – While many of us drink to relax the body and mind, the fact of the matter is that wine, beer, and spirits can keep you up at night. This is especially true if you drink more than one. While alcohol can make you tired in the short run, you’re likely to awaken in the middle of the night.
  5. Chocolate – Chocolate can elevate your energy levels with bioactive compounds like tyramine and phenylethylamine. Chocolate also contains sugar, which wakes you up as well as the other obvious culprit, caffeine.

Beyond your diet, yoga is another great way to help you sleep as is full breath mediation.

Bedtime Rituals

You can signal your body and mind that it’s time to sleep by creating a bedtime ritual. This may include a warm bath, reading a chapter of a book, or practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing. Vital to good health and a very important factor that many people fail to recognize – switch off your computer at least one hour before retiring for the evening.

Apple Kuzu Drink

This is the perfect tonic to calm and relax the body and mind which will aid you in sleeping deeply. (Recipe below.)

Valerian for Sleep

For more than 2,000 years, valerian root has been used as a sedative and anti-anxiety treatment. Although it is not a pleasant-smelling herb, valerian can be taken in capsules.

A review of 16 studies showed evidence suggesting that valerian may help sleep come more quickly — and that it improves the quality of sleep. Valerian becomes more effective over time, so taking it nightly works best, rather than taking valerian only on random rough nights.

Since there are few adverse effects from valerian, it’s safe to try as a sleep aid.

Chamomile Tea for Sleep

For thousands of years, people have used chamomile tea medicinally. The tea and essential oil have been used for their calming effects and for insomnia relief. Chamomile tea raises the body temperature and makes many people feel sleepy. Chamomile is safe as a tea, but the trick is to make sure you are brewing it properly. Use two heaped teaspoons in a pot of boiling water. Then put a lid on the pot to keep oils in the water so you get the medicinal effects of the tea.

A few cautions: If you have an allergy to ragweed, don’t use chamomile. Also, don’t take chamomile tea if you are pregnant as chamomile may act as a uterine stimulant.

Diffusers Aid in Sleep

You’ll immediately begin to feel and smell the calming benefits. Oil diffusers emit aromatherapy vapours throughout any room. I often have a diffuser near my desk when I am writing. I would testify to the fact that you’re guaranteed deep sleep! I have used one for many years and always suggest my clients do the same. There are a lot of essential oils that help the mind and body relax. My favorite essential oils that support a great night’s sleep are vetiver, lavender, cedarwood, marjoram, Roman chamomile, bergamot, orange, frankincense, patchouli, and sandalwood. My personal favourite is vetiver.

Circadian Rhythm

Sleeping well is one of the cornerstones of optimal health, and if you ignore your poor sleeping habits, you will, in time, pay a price. In general, you will feel best and maintain optimal health when your lifestyle is in line with your circadian rhythm. It’s wise to establish healthy routines of eating, exercising and sleeping, and to stick to them every day, including the weekends.


Melatonin is a chemical closely tied to your circadian rhythm. It’s a pineal hormone and a very potent antioxidant, created in your brain during sleep.

Among its many functions, it slows the production of oestrogen and is well known to suppress tumour development. Melatonin also helps suppress harmful free radicals. Melatonin production can be severely disrupted simply by exposing yourself to bright light late at night. Just switching a bedside lamp on and off in an otherwise pitch-black room produces a drop in melatonin levels. This is why it’s so important to turn off the lights as the evening wears on, and avoid watching TV and working on the computer late at night.

Researchers have learned that circadian rhythms — the 24-hour cycles known as your internal body clock — are involved in everything from sleep to weight gain, mood disorders, and a variety of diseases.

Your body actually has many internal clocks — in your brain, lungs, liver, heart and even your skeletal muscles — and they all work to keep your body running smoothly by controlling temperature and the release of hormones. It’s well known that lack of sleep can increase your chances of getting sick.

Apple Kuzu Drink

De-acidifies and relaxes the intestines. This is a drink that I make for myself when I want to relax.

  • 1 cup apple juice
  • Small pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp. kuzu

Heat the apple juice and salt in a small pan over medium heat until bubbles form at the side. Dissolve the kuzu in a bit of cold water and add to the apple juice stirring constantly to avoid lumps forming.  Simmer until the kuzu thickens and the colour changes from chalky white to translucent.  Drink Warm.

In good health,


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