By: Lauren Iacono, OMS-II
Although sleep may seem like a luxury for medical students, it is actually essential for the learning, memory and application process which are crucial elements for a medical student while also making us less irritable and groggy throughout the day and can help us fight weight gain and sugar high cravings as well!
Now that I may have grabbed your attention, you may be one like I who will hit the pillow and yet lay there wide awake and frustrated knowing I have to be up in less than six hours for class, lab or rounds.
Well, did you know that “late night snack” could actually help you reach slumber land?
I, being the health foodie that I am and a suffering med school insomniac, decided to learn of some nutrients that can be put together for the best late night snacks that may help you feel more calm and relaxed decreasing that hyper-sympathetic stimulation and allowing you to drift into your dreams.
Best combination – protein and complex carbs with some healthy fats that help slow digestion and keep your blood sugar level maintained throughout the night. However, avoid heavy meals before bed time; they can actually keep you awake or may you feel worse the next day.
Some other helpful tips I have learned of things to avoid as they can worsen one’s sleep include triggers that may keep you feeling wide awake – caffeine (chocolate, coffee, caffeinated teas); sugary and processed treats; strenuous exercise within at least two hours of sleep; oh and I cant forget – that blaring light of your alarm clock, keeping the sound on LOUD on your phones and way too much computer time (iPad, Tablet… tech of choice)… before you hit the sheets!
Melatonin is a hormone naturally found in the body produced by the pineal gland and is produced based on the body’s natural clock; however, when your internal clock feels like it has been on overdrive, melatonin has been shown to help get it back on track… it is recommended to be taken 30 minutes before your intended sleep time
Natural sources of Melatonin
Cherries – no, not the kind you find in your cocktails…
Cherry tea (sleepy time brand is my favorite!)
Magnesium – Has been found to have a calming affect on the nervous system, and levels were reported low in those with sleep disturbances and anxiety!
Some Sources include
Almonds (healthy fat)
Peanut Butter (healthy fat)
Whole grains (complex carb and fiber!)
Tryptophan – An essential amino acid necessary to form serotonin and melatonin, both of which aids in the sleep and relation process.
Some common foods include
Milk and products
Nut, rice and soy based milk alternatives
Some ideas to help get you started…
Greek style or naturally sweetened low sugar yogurts (or dairy free yogurt such as almond or coconut). Add some almonds and cherries and you have yourself a late night Sundae
Frozen cherries, frozen banana, lowfat dairy/ dairy alternatives and nut of choice (almond or peanuts)
Banana dream boats
Slice banana in half, add nut butter of choice (peanut or almond) and warm in microwave for 30 seconds (based on strength of micro)… enjoy with glass of milk and you will be sailing into dreamland with this one…
And some of my other favorites…
Whole grain cereal and almond milk, with a banana and/or almonds
Pistachios and dried cherries
Whole grain rice cakes and nut butter
There are also some other natural aids that may aid with sleep if you don’t find yourself hungry before bed; these include herbal teas such as Lemon balm, Chamomile, Cherry teas and Valerian; each of these may help with both anxiety and insomnia and does not leave you feeling groggy when you wake up the next day!
Ok, Ok… so you’ve had your snack, your tea and you avoided all those triggers and you still can’t seem to get your mind to quiet down. Instead of shutting it, here are some techniques that help you refocus your thoughts and allow you to wind down and ease the mind so that the only thing left is the desire to dream.
Yoga – my favorite is Tara Stiles; she has a variety short yoga routines for sleep on YouTube that you can do right from your bed!
Meditation – This is great for focusing the mind on your breath, a mantra or something that makes you happy!
Relaxation techniques – such as belly breathing, a gratitude journal, focusing on your goals and the PRESENT moment, visualization of a beautiful scene – I tend to fall asleep to a beach sunset – and so much more!
Believe in yourself and believe in your dreams. Focus on the present moment and yourself living presently. Stop and enjoy a moment. Get fresh air. Drink plenty of water. Remember to continue doing what you love. Get Sleep. And “Oh, the Places you will go!”
“Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one”. Dr. Seuss
**Disclamier – this information is meant to inform and aid in sleep awareness. If you are having true concerns regarding your sleep please contact your physician.
“Coping with Excessive Sleepiness: Natural Sleep Aids.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/sleep-supplements-herbs
“How Magnesium Helps you sleep.” Nutritional Magnesium Association. http://www.nutritionalmagnesium.org/articles/insomnia/309-how-magnesium-helps-you-sleep.html
“Living With Insomnia: Get a goodnight’s Sleep.” WebMd. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/living-with-insomnia-11/natural-solutions?page=1
Wong, Cathy. “Natural Sleep aids.” 2012. Alt. Medicine. http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/conditionsitoq/a/Insomnia_2.htm