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8 Essential Vitamins And Minerals to Help You Sleep Better

8 Essential Vitamins And Minerals to Help You Sleep Better

If you are like most people, you probably can resonate with some bits of it:

You start the day off feeling pretty good after a cup of coffee. You get through the morning – maybe you catch a quick lunch workout, then around 2 or 4pm, you hit a slump. You feel like you could spend 4 hours in the staff nap room, but you know you have 24 more emails to get through before you can even begin to start winding down your workday. You promise yourself you’ll go to bed early, and if you wake up you won’t stare at your phone until the wee hours of the morning.

You have another cup of coffee on the drive home from work, start dinner, sit with the kids and family, load the dishwasher, and still have to put together the summary of a presentation for tomorrow morning. You feel more tired and overwhelmed, so you catch an episode of your favorite show and spend an hour wrapping up your presentation only to find its 10:30pm and you are exhausted.

You go to bed, but you just haven’t had the time to wind down so you lie there looking at the ceiling, listening to your partner snore like a chainsaw. When you do finally get to sleep, you wake up four hours later in the wee hours of the morning, and can’t get back to sleep…

You’re tired, so why can’t you go back to sleep?

Sometimes, our bodily sleep cycles get a little mixed up due to the poor nutritional choices we make in our day to day lives. We eat fast food on the run and miss out on important nutrients our bodies need to function properly and run smoothly. A body can only function properly for so long with an improper diet then at some point something has got to give.

This article will show you 8 vitamins, minerals and supplements to help you get a better sleep and increase your energy and productivity to help you look and feel your best!

A Word of Caution:

It is always important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist prior to using vitamins for sleep or adding supplements to your diet, as some of them you can overload on – such as iron, and the fat soluble Vitamins A, D E & K.

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A doctor, pharmacist or dietician can give you specific advice about how much of any supplement you may need as some supplements are not suitable for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have certain medical disorders.

1. Vitamin D

Most experts agree that Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin but rather, a hormone made in the body with the help of sunlight.

In a meta-analysis published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, it was found that Vitamin D deficiency is in fact associated with a higher risk of sleep disorders and that with less than 20 ng/mL Vitamin D could increase the risk of sleep disorders.[1]

You can get Vitamin D from supplementation, and sunlight! Some foods high in Vitamin D are eggs, salmon, tuna fish, and mushrooms.

Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see what your current Vitamin D level is and how much you should be supplementing. Because Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, it can get stored in your body and become toxic if the level is too high.

Want to know how much sunlight is safe and when to get it to produce your own Vitamin d? This app maybe able to help.

2. Vitamin E

A 2011 study looking at the neuroprotective effect of Vitamin E showed that Vitamin E can prevent sleep deprivation-induced memory impairment, as well as normalizing hippocampus antioxidant mechanisms during sleep deprivation.[2]

In addition to this, Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant – protecting the body tissue from free radical damage, and playing a role in healthy aging.

It also helps to keep the immune system strong, is important in the formation of red blood cells and helps the body use Vitamin K.

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Sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ oil are foods that contain Vitamin E in relatively decent amounts. You can also buy it in capsule form at most pharmacies.

Vitamin E is another of the fat-soluble vitamins, so check in with your doctor or pharmacist to assess your needs.

3. B Vitamins

There are 8 B Vitamins that are vital to your health which together are called the B -complex Vitamins. Some emerging research shows that certain B-Vitamins – B3, B5, B6, B9 & B12 to be exact – help regulate the body’s supply of Tryptophan, which in turn helps the body produce melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced in your body to make you sleepy. (More on Tryptophan and Melatonin later).

The B-Vitamins are typically included in most multivitamins, or you can purchase B-Complex on its own in supplement form. A healthy, well rounded diet with plenty of whole grains, meats, fruit and veggies often provides a good base amount for the body.

4. Calcium & Magnesium

These two minerals are often recommended together just before bed as they both play a role in muscle contraction and relaxation.

It is believed that a lack of Calcium and Magnesium can cause numerous sleep interruptions throughout the night, and Calcium works with Tryptophan (another hormone involved in sleepiness) to produce Melatonin which helps induce sleep. Chronic insomnia is also one of the initial symptoms of Magnesium deficiency.

A diet rich in greens, nuts and seeds will ensure you get Magnesium and Calcium as well as you can buy a supplement containing both at any pharmacy.

5. Theanine

Theanine is an amazing amino acid that is found in tea leaves – particularly green tea – and some types of mushrooms.

Theanine boosts some of the chemicals in the brain (such as dopamine, GABA, and serotonin) which help to regulate sleep. It also lowers chemicals in the brain that have an excitatory effect.

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Experts believe it helps induce sleepiness and speed up the time it takes to fall asleep as well as improving sleep quality.[3]

As mentioned, you can get Theanine from green tea. However, you can also find it in supplement form at many pharmacies.

6. Iron

The number one symptom of low Iron levels is fatigue and sleep disturbance. Low iron levels are thought to be a major risk factor in Restless Leg Syndrome, which can cause sleeplessness or insomnia.

Low iron can also contribute to feelings of anxiety which can make sleep tough as well.

Have your doctor check your iron levels. If you are low, they will recommend a supplement. Did you know that your body absorbs 2 to 3 times more iron from animal sources than from plant sources?

Hack: Vitamin C helps your body absorb Iron, so try taking any recommended supplements with apple or orange juice!

The following foods are high in iron:

Lean beef, oysters, chicken, turkey, beans and lentils, tofu, baked potatoes, cashews, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, fortified breakfast cereals, whole-grain and enriched breads.

7. Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body, which makes you feel sleepy.

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If you are having trouble getting to sleep, you can also find it in supplement form and typically taking it for a short period (two weeks or so) can help reset your circadian rhythm and let you fall asleep faster. Experts recommend trying it for a short period then stopping supplementation and seeing how your body has responded.

You can help melatonin do its job by “setting the mood”. Turn the lights low, shut off screens, and get cozy.

And if you still have trouble getting to sleep, you can find its supplement at almost any pharmacy.

8. Tryptophan

You know how after Thanksgiving dinner, everyone heads for the recliner or couch and falls asleep? Studies have shown over and over again that tryptophan can induce sleepiness and help you fall asleep faster.

You can buy tryptophan supplements at most pharmacies. You can also get it from many foods such as: nuts, seeds, poultry (not just turkey), milk, spinach, eggs and salmon.

Conclusion

Healthy sleep is imperative for overall bodily health, yet it is not uncommon to experience sleep issues at different times in your life – for many different reasons.

Whether it is stress, or hormone related or otherwise, there are many things that can assist you to improve your sleep.

More Articles About Sleep

Featured photo credit: Phuong Tran via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Laura Barr

Laura is a registered clinical massage therapist & certified fitness consultant specializing in holistic nutrition, injury & weight management.

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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