With all of the chaos of the past year, one of the most frequently asked questions I received came from highly stressed individuals who simply couldn’t fall into a deep sleep—or even if they could, they’d still wake back up in those awful early-morning hours and never fall back into the sweet snoozing state I call “stacking the Zzzs.”
“Zzzzs” was popularized in comic books during the 1940s when it was used to indicate a person was snoring or sleeping soundly. There are numerous stories as to its origins, so I won’t belabor the point further than that. Suffice it to say that we all can identify with—and envy—people who can stack the Zzzs no matter what’s happening in their life. Hopefully this article will get you get back on track to some very peaceful sleep. (Yawn)
The Dangers of Melatonin
First, I would like to address a very important topic. Unfortunately, many of us seek the fastest way possible to fall asleep and stay sleeping throughout the night. One of those means is the increasing use of melatonin. I cautioned my readers that there may be serious consequences to taking this hormone in my recent article “Disturbing Facts About Melatonin.” Please read the blog post if you are taking this drug or considering trying it. End of my admonition. (Smile)
I would also like to quote from “Insomnia Relief,” another of my blog posts about sleeping well:
“I recently came across an interesting little quip stating there are two types of people who can sleep like logs no matter what else is happening in their lives. The first type makes their living by farming, and the second type works in construction or has some other physically demanding job. Why? Because this type of heavy physical labor brings on the most natural form of exhaustion, preparing the body and mind for genuine sleep and rest. What this also proves, in my humble opinion, is that there’s no getting around the Natural Law (Mother Nature) when it comes to sleep. When we’re genuinely exhausted from doing one of the most necessary things known to our existence—hard physical work—the payoff is uninterrupted, deep, restful sleep. It’s that simple.”
But this begs the next question: What about those of us who don’t engage in hard physical labor all day long? Well, dear readers, that’s the subject of the remainder of this blog post, so please read on…
Muscles: The Key to Better Sleep
The three different types of muscle tissue are visceral, cardiac, and skeletal. I would like to quote below from a detailed discussion of the muscular system from the website InnerBody Research.
“The main function of the muscular system is movement. Muscles are the only tissue in the body that have the ability to contract and therefore move the other parts of the body…
“Another function related to movement is the movement of substances inside the body. The cardiac and visceral muscles are primarily responsible for transporting substances like blood or food from one part of the body to another…
“The final function of muscle tissue is the generation of body heat. As a result of the high metabolic rate of contracting muscle, our muscular system produces a great deal of wasted heat. Many small muscle contractions within the body produce our natural body heat. When we exert ourselves more than normal, the extra muscle contractions lead to a rise in body temperature and eventually to sweating.”
I recommend reading the entire discussion to learn more about this complex and important portion of the body. It goes a long way towards explaining why sleep won’t come or stay until you achieve true (nonmedical) muscle relaxation.
In order to sleep well, the muscles must first be totally relaxed and/or exhausted from some type of physical labor or exercise, as noted above. Below are some suggestions on how to achieve this goal and experience ongoing and pleasant nights of sleep.
Interestingly, our muscles are trainable. When they are not being used (and many of us do the bare minimum to keep our muscles strong), they naturally become flabby and therefore function poorly. In my blog post “Muscle Memory” I discuss how to keep your muscles in good condition. Quoting from the article, here is one important facet of muscle memory to keep in mind:
“I learned that when we faithfully practice some type of resistance training, our muscle fibers begin to add nuclei cells. In turn, these special cells force the muscle to grow and become strong. In my studies I discovered that walking, although very good for the heart muscle, is not as beneficial for the leg, arm, and back muscles as resistance training, which involves free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, and your own body weight.”
Bottom line: If you exercise your muscles properly with resistance training or physical labor, you will experience one of the benefits of physical exhaustion, much like the farmer or construction worker I mention above.
Thankfully, not all of us need to be farmers or construction workers to achieve phenomenal sleep. If you absolutely cannot avail yourself to do resistance training, just do your best to get as much muscle training as you can. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us resist muscle training. If you’re serious about resolving your sleep dilemma, at the very least try to follow my food, supplement, and mind-training recommendations below. You will hopefully achieve at least 50 percent of what you need to do to snooze through the night. (If you have a night job and must sleep during the day, the principles remain the same.)
If worry causes sleep problems for you, please read recent my blog post on how to be worry-free. I discuss some great supplements, foods, and a mind-relaxing technique. This is a must read as your mind has a “worry muscle” that you need to train to be calm so you can be confident that all is well.
The Best Foods for Promoting Muscle Relaxation
The foods that I most recommend to augment muscle relaxation are high in magnesium and calcium. These are powerhouses for many reasons—muscle relaxation is just one of them.
To begin, here is a handy chart of magnesium-rich foods. (Personal note: I must caution against chocolate bars and shredded wheat, which are both on the list. These are not whole and healthy foods from a nutritionist point of view. Chocolate bars contains theobromine, a stimulant for the adrenals, as well as refined white sugar and other non-nutritive chemicals. Shredded wheat consists of processed grains, which is no longer considered a whole food.)
Also, here is a chart of calcium-rich foods. (Please note, however, that I do not recommend any soy product or foods. As I mention above, I also do not recommend refined, processed, and sugary foods like chocolate bars, shredded wheat, or powdered milk.)
The Best Supplements for Promoting Muscle Relaxation
I can personally testify to the efficacy of Standard Process whole food supplements. Finding an SP practitioner in your area is the best way to learn which supplements would work for your particular sleep issue as well as other health issues. That being said, I list the combination of Standard Process supplements that I personally use for total muscle relaxation, and it works for me within 20 minutes. With my compliments, I hope it works as well for you.
Raw Milk Smoothie
I recommend taking this smoothie on an empty stomach (at least two hours after your last meal or snack) before bedtime or if you awaken in the middle of the night.
½–1 cup raw milk or good-quality organic whole milk (raw milk contains tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid)
Calcium Lactate Powder: 1½ teaspoons
Inositol Powder: 1 teaspoon
Cataplex F Tablets: 3–4 tablets
Magnesium Lactate: 2–3 capsules, opened and emptied into milk
Min-Chex: 2–3 capsules, opened and emptied into milk
Mix thoroughly and drink it down. Go to bed and read a good book or pray—soon your eyes will keep closing as you drift off to your personal Shangri-La.
It is my hope that you are now prepared to get those marvelous muscles strong with a consistent program that includes a diet rich calcium and magnesium, a mind free from worries, and, last but not least, a nighttime smoothie made from the best natural supplements on the market.
It may take one or all of the suggestions in this blog post, but I can assure you that making this program an intricate part of your life will help you sleep peacefully and wake up to each new day with the assurance that another good night’s sleep awaits. Now that’s what I’d call winning the good-sleep lotto! (Smile)[xyz-ihs snippet=”Begin-Authors-Note”]
Afterthoughts from the Traditional Cook
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Anxiety and Fear: What If They’re Caused by Bad Habits?” I hope this article is a little something extra you can read to help your emotions relax.[xyz-ihs snippet=”End-Authors-Note”]
Disclaimer from Maria Atwood, CNHP: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor or health practitioner prior to following any recommendations I make in my blog posts or on my website.
Images from iStock/monkeybusinessimages (main), gpointstudio (woman in the gym), bit245 (food).