I hope everyone had a wonderfully blessed Thanksgiving this past week. Time spent with family and friends is such a blessing, not to mention all the great food. I ate entirely too much food as usual, and it was a great holiday for sure.
The discussion about the old myth that “eating turkey makes you tired” came up after we all ate more than our fair share of food this past Thursday. This myth has long been disproved. Contrary to popular belief, eating turkey isn’t the real reason you feel sleepy after the big Thanksgiving meal.
Turkey does contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which forms the basis of chemicals in the brain that make you tired. But turkey doesn’t cause sleepiness any more than any other food. Tryptophan is a component of the chemical serotonin which gets converted into the well known sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Poultry and many other foods also contain tryptophan in similar amounts as turkey. Cheddar cheese actually contains more tryptophan than turkey does.
By itself, turkey and its sleep causing tryptophan won’t make you tired. The amount of amino acids allowed into your brain are strictly regulated by the brain’s own defenses. However, eating large amounts of carbohydrates along with turkey causes the body to react by producing much more insulin than normal. Insulin destroys most amino acids, but does not destroy tryptophan. This is why it gets into your blood and eventually to your brain and makes you sleepy.
Since I’m the family’s “natural cure guru” of sorts (translation… I am too cheap to buy into all the corporate solutions to everyday problems), the discussion of a natural cure for insomnia came up. I have long suffered with insomnia. It’s not at all uncommon for me to go 72 to 96 hours with only a couple hours of sleep at most. My brain just doesn’t seem to want to turn off and let me get the sleep my body needs. It’s a horrible medical condition and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
While I’m no doctor, I do have plenty of experience battling this condition and hopefully the info below will help you too.
Melatonin is an over-the-counter drug seems to be gaining in popularity as a natural sleep aide. I strongly caution against this drug though. It is well known to cause a spike in blood sugars of those who take it. In my own experience, my average blood sugars went from 118 each morning (fasting) to over 180. People with diabetes should really consider something other than this poison in my, not so humble, opinion.
Unfortunately most people without diabetes rarely check their blood sugars. If you have a sleeping disorder, I strongly encourage you to take your blood sugars regularly. This information can be valuable in trying to figure out why you can’t fall asleep. Note: the clinical definition of being diabetic is any three consecutive days with a fasting blood sugar of 125 or more. Meters are cheap. Check your blood sugar.
Another common side effect of melatonin is that it produces vivid (a/k/a wild) dreams in the vast majority of people who take it, according to multiple medical studies. I didn’t enjoy the experience whatsoever.
What I have found that works the best for me is taking 500mg of magnesium and 100mg of vitamin B-6 about thirty minutes before bed time. These two drugs work great on most nights.
I have also found a tea made from the Passionflower plant works well. Passionflower was first discovered in the 17th century and has been used for a variety of issues like gastrointestinal upset as well as difficulty sleeping. It naturally soothes the mind and helps with issues like nervousness and insomnia. It actually slows your brain’s activity through the production of a chemical called GABA. Some studies show passionflower is only effective for a week to ten days at a time however.
Another excellent tea can be made out of Oat Straw. While most people are familiar with the cholesterol-reducing benefits of eating oats; the stems, flowers and milky seeds of the oat plant (called outstraw) are a highly effective treatment for many ailments ranging from helping broken bones heal much faster to sexual dysfunction to insomnia. It’s also good for bone, skin and nail health.
Oatstraw is known as nervine, meaning it soothes and nourishes the central nervous system. As such, it is often used to treat insomnia, anxiety and nervousness. Clearly, if you have issues with gluten, this isn’t the route you should go.
And lastly… when I just can’t get to sleep, I often take a couple Benadryl allergy pills. The sedative effects of diphenhydramine help on those nights when I just can’t get to sleep. I’m not a fan of this method, but sometimes it’s the best I can hope for. I first learned of this method when living in London. There, diphenhydramine is actually marketed as a sleep aide and not just an anti-allergy drug.
I would love to hear about other home remedies you may have found effective for your insomnia. Please write to me with any that you have.
Vern Six is a freelance computer programmer and entrepreneur. He is a United States Army certified survival expert and former Christian missionary. Vern has been a hobby blogger for nearly five years and now has his “According to Vern” blog published in numerous newspapers around the world. You can learn more about Vern by visiting his website at http://AccordingToVern.com