By Shelley Alexander, D.O.
Sleep issues are an epidemic in America. While many people are looking for answers in laboratories, not enough are looking in their local produce section for healthy sleep.
First, let’s look at the commonly used over-the-counter, drug-based sleep aids like Zzzquil, Benadryl or Tylenol PM. These products are inexpensive and easy to get and that’s a tempting combination for a sleep-deprived person.
There’s a common belief that since these products are cleared by the FDA, that they are safe. Unfortunately, this is not the case. These products contain the drug diphenhydramine. Over time, diphenhydramine can produce the same symptoms as Alzheimer’s. Are you willing to make that trade for a little more shut-eye?
How about prescription sleep aids like Ambien? According to a 2013 survey by Harris Interactive, only 25% of Americans would be willing to take a prescription sleep aid to improve sleep quality. The majority of Americans (71%) would rather use other means to get a good night’s rest. That means 71% of Americans are exercising good judgment. The primary reasons for not wanting to take prescription sleep aids are the adverse side effects and fear of addiction.
Ambien has an infamous side-effect profile that includes eating or driving while asleep as well as drug impairment lasting into waking hours. It can also get into the wrong hands and be abused.
Fortunately, there are natural ways to cure insomnia. My personal favorite is by consuming a few proven sleep-inducing superfruits.
Consumption of goji berries daily can improve sleep patterns. This high-antioxidant fruit, also known as wolfberry, has been used in the Himalayas for centuries as a traditional treatment for emotional disturbances, including anxiety and insomnia. In a study published by the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, participants drinking goji reported better sleep, easier awakening and higher energy levels than people who were drinking a placebo. Goji berries are a rich source of two nutrients that are necessary for healthful sleep: Magnesium and Thiamin (B1). Magnesium is a mineral that reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves the quality of sleep. Thiamin is found in the hulls of grains, but is missing from diets that mostly contain refined grains. Thiamin also improves mood, alleviates depression and increases energy levels.
Montmorency (Tart) Cherries
In a study published by the European Journal of Nutrition, consumption of tart cherry improved sleep duration and quality and appeared to help with managing disturbed sleep. Tart cherries can reduce insomnia because they contain natural melatonin. Tart cherries provide a healthy way to increase melatonin levels. Melatonin helps regulate sleep, but the optimal dosage is just 0.3 mg according to neuroscience researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Most melatonin supplements give the buyer a large overdose of the hormone which over time can lead to decreased amounts produced by the body.
Passion Fruit has a mild sedative effect on the human nervous system, which promotes a feeling of calmness and relaxes the mind. According to the African Journal of Plant Science, it has traditionally been used to treat anxiety, insomnia and restlessness.
It is considered reliable and gentle, without drug-like effects or hangover. Passion Fruit also contains serotonin, which helps regulate sleep. Passion Fruit is native to several South American countries. Amazonian tribes are said to have used Passion Fruit medicinally for centuries, including to help with difficulty sleeping. Passion Fruit is commercialized in Brazil under several brands for use as a mild sedative.
Superfruits are Healthy and Effective
Before resorting to drugs to end your insomnia, try superfruits. They are healthy and effective. Taking them offers peace of mind instead of a foggy head. A new product called Berry Sleepy combines all three of these superfruits and is now on the market at www.berrysleepy.com.
About the Author
Shelley Alexander, D.O., is the founder of New You Health Studio, www.newyoukc.com, in Leawood, Kansas. Dr. Alexander is an eleven-year veteran of healthy aging in Kansas City and has impressive credentials within this emerging field in Kansas City. In addition to her continuous education of Anti-Aging through American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) conference attendance and affiliated coursework, Dr. Alexander has achieved the following certifications that contribute to her expertise in Healthy Aging: Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Board Certified in Internal Medicine, and Board Certified in Geriatric Medicine.