Can someone please create more hours in a day? Truly, I struggle to get everything on my 24-hour agenda done while getting the needed hours of sleep.
Even when I do sleep, the events of this day or the next create restlessness by invading my dreams or interrupting the dark of night with too many should-be-sleeping hours. And, no number of sheep is solving the problem.
Can you relate to that?
Busy lives and the stress that accompanies them wreak havoc on sleep hours and patterns. Yet, sleep is vital for our health, productivity, mental power and creativity.
What are we to do?
While a change of lifestyle is likely in order, a good night smoothie may just be the immediate answer.
Importance of a Good Night Sleep
Culturally, overstimulation and running to catch the illusive American dream often leaves us scrambling to catch a few hours of shut eye.
While we may think we are getting more done in by extending our wake hours, it is time to think again.
Unfortunately, lack of sleep leads to problems throughout our waking activities. And, the quality of our sleep impacts our functioning during these hours as well.
Quantity of sleep
Sleepiness proves to be an obvious result of sleeping less hours than needed. A panel of sleep experts has determined the following guidelines for how many hours of sleep you really need:
- Newborns - between 14 to 17 hours of sleep
- Infants - between 12 and 15 hours
- Toddlers between 11 and 14 hours
- Preschoolers between 10 and 13 hours
- School aged children - between 9 and 11 hours
- Teenagers - between 8 to 10 hours
- Young adults and adults - between 7 to 9 hours
- Older adults - between 7 to 8 hours
But that’s not all…
Even more mental and physical effects threaten to undo any efforts we make toward our goals as well.
Check out these negative consequences that too few hours of sleep bring:
- High blood pressure, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, diabetes and growth problems in children as healing, repair and growth occur during sleep.
- Cognitive functions - Inability to concentrate, difficulty learning new things, lack of focus, issues with memory, decreased creativity and problems with decision-making as busy neurons do not get needed rest and new pathways cannot form without adequate shut eye.
- Shortened temper and mood swings plus depression also result when our nervous system is fatigued.
- Weakening of the immune system - no time to rebuild your body’s forces without sleep - leads to more frequent illness and longer recovery from it.
- Decreased libido or interest in sex due to less energy and sleepiness.
- Increased wrinkles, dull skin and dark circles due to increased levels of cortisol and decreased human growth hormone which otherwise find balance in sleep cycles.
- Weight gain due to the raising of appetite stimulant and lowering of appetite suppressant hormones as well as raised insulin levels which accompany too few hours of rest.
But, there is hope.
After all, the opposite holds true. Increase the hours spent snoozing and these negatives transform to their positive counterparts.
Quality of sleep
While you may be stuck as to how to increase your hours of shut eye, improving the quality of your sleep reaps benefits.
After all, some weeks simply require the work gets done, even at the expense of catching your Zs.
Recognize that quality time in the sweet snooze department reaps these benefits:
- REM and deep sleep cycles occur, which increases recovery benefits of sleep and stimulates learning
- Interruptions are minimized, which decrease fatigue, mood swings and the risk of depression.
- Increased occurrence of deep sleep promotes optimal emotional and social functioning during the day by taking a rest from these activities in the night.
How Does a Good Night Smoothie Help?
Several healthy components of smoothies lead to restorative sleep. Consider the role of these healthy essentials in your pre-bed routine.
A hormone naturally secreted in the body, melatonin promotes and helps maintain sleep. In other words, this hormone recognizes that it is dark and tells your body it is time to end the day.
Some foods such as tart cherries prove a natural food source of this needed hormone.
Suggested Smoothie Ingredients: Tart cherries, bananas and oats.
Deficiencies of magnesium lead to nervousness, an enemy of quality rest, as well as shallow sleep levels and frequent waking in the night.
On the flip side, this mineral calms nerves, relaxes muscles and improves body-brain signals which aid your ability to get optimal shut eye.
Suggested Smoothie Ingredients: Leafy greens, carrots, sweet potato, bananas and kiwi.
Acting as a relaxant or a sedative, calcium prepares the body for sleep by reducing anxiety and stress. On the contrary, a lack of this mineral causes restlessness and wakefulness.
Suggested Smoothie Ingredients: Milk, yogurt, broccoli, spinach, almonds and chia seeds.
Converted into serotonin, the amino-acid tryptophan naturally enhances sleep. Furthermore, this food component improves the body’s ability to release melatonin which regulates sleep-wake cycles.
Suggested Smoothie Ingredients: Leafy greens, bananas, almonds, chia seeds and yogurt.
The sleep initiator, serotonin, is made from amino-acids such as tryptophan. Important for falling asleep and staying there, this naturally occurring neurotransmitter increases REM and deep sleep. (Note: Food choices boost serotonin production. They do not contain it.)
Suggested Smoothie Ingredients: Bananas, kiwi, spinach, flax seeds and cashews.
The presence of protein in your diet reduces stress hormones and insulin levels which aids in sleep.
Plus, protein aids in muscle repair during the night hours while also acting as a building block for tryptophan.
Suggested Smoothie Ingredients: Nuts, seeds, and oats.
Healthy sleep results when carbohydrates make the amino-acid, tryptophan, available to the brain. Just think back to the sleepiness you experienced after your last carb-heavy meal.
Suggested Smoothie Ingredients: Warm milk, starchy vegetables, whole grains and oats.
Smoothie Ingredients for Inducing Sleep
Choosing the right foods would help you get a better sleep by boosting the amino-acids and minerals discussed above.
Combining these ingredients in a smoothie allows them to work together and create a delicious taste even when you might not like all of the flavors of these veggies or fruits.
Cherries, particularly tart versions, contain melatonin which works to regulate sleep cycles. In fact, the boost in melatonin from this fruit fights insomnia and improves sleep quality.
Bananas offer potassium and magnesium to any smoothie which relaxes muscles and restore cells. Furthermore, this fruit’s tryptophan converts to serotonin in your body which regulates sleep cycles.
The high levels of antioxidants and amino-acids in kiwi are linked to better sleep. In fact, through the work of serotonin, this fruit helps you fall asleep better and stay asleep.
Kale packs a punch with plenty of amino-acids. These vital health components, including tryptophan, convert to serotonin which regulates sleep cycles and releases melatonin to induce sleep
Spinach and Swiss Chard boost the important sleep-inducing mineral, magnesium, in your body. In fact, an increase in this mineral may also help reduce Restless Leg Syndrome, a disruptor of sleep.
Momma always says, “Eat your greens!” As it turns out, turnip, mustard, and collard greens pack a calcium punch to help your body process tryptophan and release melatonin for peaceful sleep.
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds and almond butter boast high levels of the mineral magnesium to relax muscles and aid in sleep. And, protein helps muscles recover and stabilizes blood sugar through the night hours.
Pumpkin and sunflower seeds increase the magnesium which relaxes muscles through improved blood flow.
Dates and cashews offer another source of tryptophan which, again, releases serotonin and melatonin for a drowsy feeling and a healthy sleep cycle.
Flax seeds reduce stress and anxiety, the enemies of a good night’s sleep, through high levels of omega-3s. Plus, tryptophan tops off this powerful sleep aid.
Milk, yogurt and other dairy products aid sleep with the presence of tryptophan and calcium. These components convert serotonin and make use of melatonin to bring you sweet dreams.
Soy milk, almond milk and non-dairy yogurts may be substituted for traditional dairy products in smoothie recipes.
Oats add oomph and the potent combination of magnesium and calcium. This duo effectively fights insomnia by encouraging deep, uninterrupted sleep.
Nutmeg changes up a smoothie’s flavor. But, it also naturally relaxes the body and induces sleep.
Honey offers a bit of natural sweetness to smoothies especially when using other tart ingredients such as cherries. However, the natural fructose to glucose ratio helps stabilize blood sugar which wards off the munchies, an obvious sleep disturbance.
To hear it another way, check out this video for a healthy, sleep enhancing smoothie to balance your sleep-wake cycle or recover from jet lag:
Ingredients to Avoid in Sleep-Inducing Smoothies
Beware that some foods disrupt sleep. Keeping these ingredients out of your smoothies also promotes a solid night’s sleep.
While a cocoa flavor might tempt your nightly sweet tooth, beware that the caffeine in cacao may keep you alert longer than you like.
Sensitivity to this ingredient is personal so give it a try if chocolate is a must.
The vitamin C of oranges and other citrus fruits enhances energy and alertness. These ingredients are best left for your morning smoothie.
Spicy or Acid-Based
Heartburn and other physical discomforts cause restless sleep. Consuming spicy or acid-based foods before bed increases your chances of the kick hitting right before you intend to doze off.
So, how can you actually use this information?
Good Night Smoothie Recipes
With a list of sleep-inducing ingredients at the ready, it’s time to find a combination that tantalizes your taste buds and gets the job done.
Try one of these quick and easy recipes tonight to encourage sweet dreaming.
And, feel free to experiment. Mix up the fruits and veggies or add in a few seeds and nuts for an extra boost in drowsiness. Remember to refer to the lists above to get the most sleep-inducing power out of your ingredients.
While adding hours to the day proves an impossibility (much to my disappointment), a good night smoothie offers valuable benefits to improving the quantity and quality of our sleep.
Plus, choosing the right ingredients makes the process easy.
A quick pick of two to three melatonin and serotonin-boosting foods such as bananas, leafy greens, nuts and seeds combine to create delicious bedtime smoothies.
Ready to give it a try?
Please be sure to share your tips on how to fight fatigue with a good night’s snooze in the comments below.
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