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Eat better, sleep better

By Danielle van Wyk

You’ve tried everything from counting sheep and aromatherapy oils to soft music and even sleeping tablets. But you’re still struggling to sleep, and quite frankly it’s affecting everything! Sound familiar? According to the South African Society of Sleep medicine (SASSM) as many as a third of patients seen by local GP’s experience occasional difficulties in sleeping. But what if simply changing your eating habits could be the difference between being well-rested and exhausted?

Phytotherpaist dr Charlene Pieterse says that the way you eat can completely change the way your body functions. When it comes to sleeping well, the foods that matter are foods rich in vitamin B, calcium and magnesium.

“Calcium & magnesium are natural relaxants and help ease tension. Hence milky drinks at night if you do not suffer from a lot of mucus build-up in the nose and throat works wonders. Also consider consuming more foods like bananas, cheese, yoghurt, tofu, avocados, steamed spinach, red kidney beans, and almonds,” adds Pieterse.

Another key when it comes to gearing your body towards sleep is digestion. Pieterse advises against sleeping on a full stomach. This as it not only impairs sleep but also put strain on your digestive system.

Other things you should be avoiding at least an hour before bed is strenuous exercise, alcohol, tobacco, stimulating drinks, reading and watching TV in bed.

Pieterse says that any material that stimulates the mind is not advised close to bed time. Instead do gentle exercises and indulge in warm relaxing baths, after having foods that stimulate relaxation.

Now let’s deal with the infamous eight-hour myth. How many times have you either been advised or read somewhere that if you’re not getting a full eight-hours sleep, you’re doing it all wrong. Pieterse however says that the amount of sleep is dependent on how much your body needs to repair itself.

“Pay attention to your body and how long it needs for you to wake up feeling rested. This will often differ depending on your age,” Pieterse explains.

Another way of getting goodness in is through using and consuming herbs that will relax, tone and strengthen the nervous system. Examples of these are chamomile, lemon balm, catnip, hops, valerian and passionflower to name but a few. While these may sound like hard ingredients to come by, herbal teas often boast with these and so much more. Depending on the individual's need drink at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

Investing in your health is arguably one of the best things you can do for yourself. Whether it’s incorporating more gym time or drinking more water or in this case planning for a better night’s rest. So, go on, why not try swapping out counting sheep for a hearty steak. You have nothing to lose!

 

 

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