EDIBLE OR DRINKABLE REMEDIES
Having the right thing in your tummy, in your system, can truly help. These are INGESTIBLE REMEDIES - that is, you either eat them or drink them. Of course we urge you always to use common sense and good judgement with regard to any suggested remedy - from any source. And it's not a bad idea to check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication or herbs. Herbs can be quite potent and many have side effects and also can interact with prescription medications. And the truth is, even the experts don't know everything about herbs. If you're pregnant or have high blood pressure or any other kind of medical condition, you should not take any herbal preparation or over-the-counter medication without discussing it with your medical doctor.
Bottom line here: we urge caution, moderation and common sense - at all times.
HOT MILK OR COCOA
Try drinking a mug of hot milk or cocoa with a teaspoon of honey in it just before bedtime - (but go easy on the cocoa part - it's got caffeine in it). Just plain warm milk is very effective because it's got calcium in it, a natural calming-agent - and L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid that also helps to calm you down - and the warmth feels good in your tummy - and the association with warm milk - need we spell it out? - lying in Mother's loving, protective arms while being nourished from her in every way... An all-in-one sleep-inducing remedy.
[When we go to a coffee house with friends in the evening, we don't order a latte or cappucino - but a steamed milk, sometimes flavored with Italian almond syrup. Slightly exotic, delicious and truly calming.]
Milk, buttermilk, yogurt and cheese are all good because of the L-tryptophan and calcium. But to facilitate the absorption of calcium, you also need Vitamin D and the mineral magnesium which you can get in a vitamin pill or through such foods as nuts, seeds, spinach, beets, dates and prunes, sea salt and kelp.
You can get the calming amino acid L-triptophan from food sources such as general protein, milk, cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, turkey meat and other meats including poultry, eggs, tuna, bananas, figs, nuts, almonds, dates and soybeans are all ideal sources of triptophan. Also some fruits and vegetables, such as green peas, spinach, lima beans, peanuts and peanut butter. (They used to put this stuff - L-tryptophan - into pills which were wonderfully effective in our experience. But because some tablets, from foreign sources, were found to be contaminated several years ago (and did cause some deaths) the substance was taken off the market - banned entirely - and has not returned since - which is a pity, so far as we are concerned. That stuff really worked!)
[Note - We've been e-mailed that it's back - in the form of 5HTP which you can get at health food/vitamin shops.]
[After that, we got another e-mail saying: I would like to advise you that the e-mail you received stating that L-Tryptophan was "back in the form of 5 HTP" is not true !! 5HTP is a different product and creates seratonin "outside the brain" -- it can be very toxic and dangerous. ]
As we say: We caution you to be careful using herbs and over-the-counter remedies! - REALLY!
As we understand it, adding honey or other carbohydrates, like pasta or bread, facilitates the entry of the natural tryptophan present in the foods, into the brain - which is where you need it to go to work. Therefore, drinking a mug of hot milk with a bit of honey or eating a turkey sandwich brings a good dose of natural triptophan into your system, facilitated by the carbohydrates. This explains why cookies and milk is truly an effective nightime snack. (But don't overdo it on the sugar - sugar is essentially empty calories and presents many complications all by itself - not the least of which is all those empty calories, tooth decay, sugar-highs and stuff like that.)
ADD B VITAMINS - ESPECIALLY VITAMIN B6. It aids in the absorption of L-tryptophan. The B-vitamins are also good for fighting stress. Foods rich in the B vitamins include organ meats, fish, whole grains, wheat germ, walnuts, peanuts, bananas, sunflower seeds, yeast, dairy products and blackstrap molasses. But be careful of drinking too much caffeine - it destroys B Vitamins. Brewers yeast is especially rich in the B Vitamins.
BEST TO EAT YOUR PROTEIN AT MIDDAY, AND CARBOHYDRATES AT DINNER -
Because the protein helps to wake you up, while the carbohydrates calm you down and make you sleepy.
Perhaps you would prefer a banana milkshake - that is, a banana and about a half a cup of milk put through the blender ‘til it's frothy. You can also add a few spoonfuls of your favorite fruit yogurt to this. It's a truly delicious and refreshing way to ingest L-triptophan and the necessary sugars to help you get to sleep - and probably more desirable during the hot weather than a warm glass of milk. You can also try adding a few strawberries or a peeled fresh peach (or even a canned peach) to the mixture. Delightful!
[One of my personal favorite remedies is to take a valerian/passionflower capsule and then drink a banana shake. Almost always does the trick when I wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back asleep right away - (and, assuming I'm not extremely upset about something, in which case I find it difficult to sleep no matter what I take - though adding an over-the-counter sleeping pill (diphenhydramine - 25 mg) can help.)]
If you wish to avoid milk, simply eat a banana, apple or other kind of fresh fruit with Triptophan and carbohydrates in it.
Certain herbal teas are especially calming:
Peppermint (Peppermint also aids digestion and is good for headaches.)
All are said to be good for insomnia, especially if you add a bit of honey.
Calendula flowers, California poppy, Hops, Lavender flower, Linden flower, Skullcap, St Johns Wort, Vervain - are helpful herbs that might be included. Make sure the tea does not have caffeine or other stimulating ingredients included in it. Many of these herbs also come in capsule form which is stronger than taking them as tea and perhaps more convenient.
Note: Don't drive or operate machinery when you've been "sedated" - even lightly - with these calming herbs. ]
Taking the herbal root valerian can be quite effective. It has been shown by research to have a sedative effect on the central nervous system and to relax muscle tissue without causing serious side effects or dependency (so far as we know at this time). Valerian is available in capsule and tea forms at health food stores and pharmacies. It's quite popular in Europe as a mild sedative and as a cure for insomnia. (It's been called "19th century 'Valium.'") We personally have found valerian to be quite helpful. It's very gentle - subtle, you might say - though it smells AWFUL. We take a capsule whenever we feel the need.
[Note: It's not a good idea to take valerian (or any other herb or substance) every single night for months on end. Try to get by without it most nights, if possible, and reserve it only for the nights when you really need help.]
You can get valerian in a capsule with passion flower, which is even more effective, in our experience.
WARNING: ONE HERBAL-SUPPLEMENT CAUTION
If you're having trouble sleeping and you've been taking the herbal supplment EPHEDRA, perhaps to lose weight - be advised that it might be adding to your sleep problem! It's a stimulant and several people who have taken it have found they now have trouble getting to sleep. BE WARNED! And BE CAREFUL when taking herbal supplements! Ephedra seems to have many potential dangers to it! We say stay away - but - it's up to you and your doctor...
JONELLA'S TRIPLE WHAMMY REMEDY
It's 3 in the morning. You've been tossing and turning for hours, you've read some of your book and watched some old movie on tv and still you're not asleep. But you've GOT to get to sleep! - you've got important things to do in the morning. Here's what I take under such circumstances:
1. One valerian/passion flower tablet.
2. One over-the-counter sleep tablet (diphenhydramine - 25mg - it's an antihistamine - the same as Benedryl but you can get it in generic form quite cheaply now.)
3. One banana shake - (milk and a banana, whipped up in blender).
4. Get back into bed and pick up a good book or find a good, old movie to watch, 'til you nod off... If this doesn't do it, in my experience, nothing will. (Well, sometimes you're just too upset and truly, nothing will work.) (Sometimes, though, this takes a while to work - maybe even an hour - and then, boom - you're sound asleep - 'til you're rudely awakened by the alarm clock. Damn! I hate that!)
This is also a calming herb, but because it's a diuretic, it can cause you to need to get up to urinate - usually, we have found, just as you're drifting off to sleep. Also - there have been warnings about it recently - caused some serious problems for some people. Once again we say, Be careful! - Be prudent! - Always talk with your doctor about this stuff - and never take a lot of anything!
Some people find that taking a melatonin pill just before regular bedtime is effective - if medically advisable and permissible. Melatonin is a hormone natural to humans that, along with light rays, regulates the internal sleep clock. It is available over the counter in most drugstores. But don't take it at any time other than the time you want to normally go to sleep or it will reset your internal clock to get sleepy at the wrong time! That is, if you awaken regularly in the middle of the night and need help getting back to sleep - don't take melatonin in the middle of the night for more than one night. It will reset your internal sleep clock to go to sleep in the middle of the night! - just exactly what you don't want (we presume.) For this reason melatonin is often used to re-set your internal clock when trying to prevent jet-lag. Be sure to read the label carefully before taking this or any other medication or sleep aid. Also, because melatonin is classified as a dietary supplement, its production is not overseen by the FDA and therefore some melatonin formulations may be of questionable purity.
Over-the-counter sleep remedies can be quite helpful - though, in general medications, either prescription or over-the-counter, should be used only for short periods of time - during a crisis or period of stress - but not on a regular, nightly basis. Over-the-counter sleep remedies and the p.m. forms of pain-relievers can also be effective, as they contain antihistamines - usually dopodramamine or diphenhydramine - that cause drowsiness and are safe for most people, with few side effects besides a bit of dry-mouth for some and of course, drowsiness, which is the desirable effect in this case. But check with your doctor first and be sure to read the label before taking any over-the-counter medication. We have found that one dose of the regular size (25 mg) dose of diphenhydramine (available over-the-counter) works quite well for us. It appears to be harmless and really helps us get a good night's sleep when used occasionally. And if you get the generic form it's not expensive at all - comes out to maybe 6 cents a pill.
VITAMINS & MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS
Vitamin and mineral supplements can be helpful - especially for those with a deficiency. Calcium, as we have mentioned, is very calming. (Best to take it with magnesium and also Vitamin D.)
The B-Vitamins, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, calcium with magnesium and zinc seem to be helpful for some people. Taking a multi-vitamin with mineral supplements on a daily basis should provide for any deficiency in these vitamins and minerals. If you take calcium - or should be taking calcium - you might include taking one of the capsules at bedtime as it aids in calming you for sleep. Again, we advise caution before taking any dietary supplement and always read the label, follow directions on the bottle and be moderate in your use.
EAT PLENTY OF CALCIUM which is good for your bones and therefore important - and good for calming you down and making you sleepy. Foods that contain lots of calcium are: Dairy products - milk, cheese, buttermilk, yogurt, etc., Leafy green veggies, Almonds, Eggs, Seaweed, Tofu, Fish, such as salmon & sardines.
PUMPKIN - An old folk remedy says eat pumpkin to avoid insomnia - which is an especially nice remedy if you like pumpkin - which we do. There's the classic pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins or even pumpkin soup, which, in case you've never tried it, can be incredibly delicious.
VINEGAR & HONEY - (We saw this in a book of cider vinegar remedies we thumbed through in our local health food store. We've never tried it, but perhaps it'll be helpful to some.)
Add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and two teaspoons of honey to a glass of boiling hot water. Drink. Another version, from Vermont: Mix 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with one cup of honey. Take two teaspoons at bedtime. If needed, take two more an hour later.
(This from Katherine A. Albert's excellent book, Get a Good Night's Sleep.) PUEBLO INDIAN REMEDY - Eat mushrooms. CHINESE REMEDY - Make a mixture of chopped ginseng and orange peel, mixed with honey. GYPSY REMEDY 1 - Cook lettuce in a half-pint of boiling water with a little salt. GYPSY REMEDY 2 - Mix lemon juice, orange juice, two tablespoons of honey and hot water. You could also add some grapefruit juice. SCOTTISH REMEDY - Oatmeal gruel with honey. BALKAN CURE - Take buttermilk half an hour before bed. FOLK REMEDY 1 - Raw onion on toast at bedtime (- there goes the sex...) FOLK REMEDY 2 - A teaspoon of olive oil taken with the evening meal and a second teaspoon before bed. FOLK REMEDY 3 - Take a mixture of malted milk, olive oil and hot water no less than an hour before bed. (This group was taken from Katherine A. Albert's book, Get a Good Night's Sleep.)
COMING DOWN WITH A COLD?
If you're awake because you're coming down with a cold we recommend a steaming mug of hot lemonade. It's easy to make - you simply pour boiling water into a mug that contains the juice of half a fresh lemon along with a teaspoon of honey or sugar - quite delicious and soothing besides.
TRY A GUGGLE-MUGGLE - a traditional cure from the old country. Here is New York's former Mayor Koch's family version: Take the juice of one grapefruit, one orange and one lemon. Bring to a boil, stir in a teaspoon of honey and a jigger of your favorite liquor - or liqueur. Absolutely delicious and effective - but only if you've got a nasty cold. Otherwise we do not recommend liquor as a remedy for insomnia.
SLEEPING PILLS - In general we are not enthusiastic about prescription sleeping pills though the new ones may not have the side effects or addictive qualities that older medications had. If you feel you need to take medication to get yourself to sleep, we recommend that you take up the matter with your physician. There are also new tranquilizers on the market that are quite effective but only available through prescription. A tranquilizer is often more helpful when you are dealing with a great deal of stress because of a temporary crisis or situation in your life. Consult your doctor about the possibility of taking a small dosage temporarily. There are newer, better medications coming out all the time - with fewer and fewer side effects. Probably worth a try if you've got a stubborn case of insomnia and haven't yet deciphered the fundamental cause. But before going to Prescription, we say try the over-the-counter anti-histamines which we find quite effectives and very cheap: Basically they're Benedryl but come in Generic form for as little as $1.00 for 24 pills!: Diphenhydramine 25 mg.
HAVING TO PEE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
Try limiting the amount of liquid you drink a few hours before bedtime so that you lessen the need to wake up to urinate, which can cause you to lie awake for a while - perhaps a long while - before sleep comes back to you. The need to urinate in the middle of the night, while normal for many, can be a sign of various medical conditions - from prostrate cancer to elevated blood sugar or diabetes - another reason to check with your doctor if you're having trouble sleeping. These are serious conditions that require medical treatment and should not be left untreated.
Awakening before you've completed your sleep needs can be a sign of depression or anxiety and if the problem persists it should be addressed by an appropriate professional.
TROUBLE GETTING BACK TO SLEEP
If your problem is not so much falling asleep in the evening but awakening in the middle of the night and being unable to get back to sleep, you might try any of the 99 suggested remedies that seem appropriate, once you're awake - or use the time to be productive.
GET OUT OF BED AND BE PRODUCTIVE
Once you've been awake in the middle of the night for more than 20 or 30 minutes, it's best to get out of bed and do something productive. Once you get involved in an activity, you're likely to find that you'll get tired again (eventually) and can return to sleep. We present many possible activities in the segment COPING ACTIVITIES.
DON'T RE-SET YOUR CLOCK TO THE WRONG TIME!
As we've stated elsewhere, do not take a melatonin pill in the middle of the night because it will start to reset your internal time clock so that eventually you will not get sleepy until the middle of the night! - which is probably not what you intended to do.
This completes our list of Ingestible Remedies.
If you have been up for a while now and it's late - too late to get a good night's sleep - we offer some TECHNIQUES to help get you through the day when you feel wretched from sleep deprivation.
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