Nutrition plays a role in how we feel. Depending on what you eat, you may find you are more alert when working night shifts and that you can sleep better. Having a meal rich in protein boosts concentrations of chemicals in the brain which can stimulate activity. Eating meals rich in carbohydrates increases concentrations of serotonin, a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain. However, there are other vitamins and minerals that one should know about, especially if you are having difficulty sleeping. The following is a description of vitamins and minerals that can help you sleep:
- The B vitamins: These vitamins regulate the body’s use of amino acids, including tryptophan. Some studies have shown that Vitamin B-3, enhances the effect of tryptophan. Tryptophan is one of the 22 amino acids found in protein. Tryptophan is the substance from which the sleep-inducing brain chemical serotonin is made. This vitamin is reported to be effective in alleviating the type of insomnia suffered by people who fall asleep readily but who are unable to fall back asleep after awakening later in the night. The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin B-3, which is found in high-protein foods such as fish, liver, kidney, chicken, peanuts, milk and eggs is 15 milligrams a day. Other research indicates that some sleep problems can arise from a deficiency Infalic acid, which is a member of the Vitamin B family. This can be found in asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, green peas, kidney and lima beans, beets, sweet potatoes, whole-grain cereals and breads, oranges, cantaloupe and organ meats. The RDA is 180 micrograms per day. B vitamins can be easily leached from our body through cigarette smoking, alcohol, birth-control pills and stress.
- Calcium: This mineral is a natural relaxant that has a calming effect on the central nervous system. Some studies have shown that even a minor calcium deficiency can cause muscle tension and insomnia. Stress also rapidly depletes our bodies of calcium. Therefore, you should take enough calcium daily. The RDA is 800 milligrams daily. If you are allergic to milk or just do not like it, try supplemental forms of calcium, like mustard greens, dandelion greens, broccoli, spinach and sardines.
- Magnesium and potassium: Magnesium (which is found in potatoes, whole-grain bread, milk, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits), is a natural sedative. Studies have shown that magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia. The RDA is 280 milligrams a day. Potassium (which is found in meat, milk, potatoes, bananas, oranges, apricots), in combination with magnesium has also been found effective in alleviating chronic fatigue.
- Zinc: A deficiency in zinc can contribute to insomnia. This mineral can by found in oysters, herring, meat, milk, eggs, whole grains, peas, beans soybean curd, raisins, dried figs and apricots. The RDA is 12 milligrams per day.
- Iron and copper: Recent studies reported that a deficiency in either copper or iron has an effect on sleep patterns. Women who received insufficient amounts of copper or iron, reported that they found themselves sleeping longer than usual and also waking more frequently during the night. They also reported that they would awaken tired and not refreshed. There is no RDA for copper. However, it can be found in whole-grain cereals and breads, shellfish, nuts, organ meats, eggs, poultry, dried beans and peas and leafy dark-green vegetables. The RDA for iron is 15 milligrams a day. It is found in organ meats and dark-green leafy vegetables, as well as in beef, sardines, oysters, prunes and other dried fruits, peas and lima beans.