I like to experiment on myself to see what works. Things that have helped me to sleep include some unusual things, like avoiding MSG before bed, not over-using my brain before bed, and certain foods that help make serotonin … mmm.. tofu!
I made the mistake last night of overdosing on excitotoxins. They sound really exciting but they are not really that great. They are found in MSG and artificial sweeteners. They cause the brain cells to get so excited that they jump up and down until they die. Not quite, but I’m not a scientist, hence my basic explanation.
My breathing was already affected when I went to sleep. I noticed I would just stop breathing every few breaths. When I woke up too early in the morning my brain was over-active, my stomach in a knot, and I could see small spots in front of my eyes periodically. It was a really awful feeling. I also felt anxious for no reason, which I found really interesting. I wonder if MSG could be a factor in anxiety? It is hidden in so many processed and fast foods.
I ate some vegetarian ‘duck’ from the Asian grocery store, loaded with MSG, plus soup with lots of stock cubes (marked ‘no added MSG’ – yeah right, they are liars with their pants on fire), plus fizzy drink with artificial sweeteners.
I found a couple of helpful links this morning, and there is a wealth of information online about MSG and other things that prevent good sleep.
A few foods that help sleep:
Magnesium rich foods such as pumpkin seeds
Foods that contain tryptophan (because tryptophan helps us make our favourite happy drug – serotonin):
Tofu – the highest in available tryptophan! Hooray, I love tofu!
Gluten (note: lots of processed gluten products contain MSG)
Oats and brown rice
B vitamins (Note: a lot of B vitamin fizzy tablets contain aspartame)
Foods and substances that have kept me awake and or disturbed my sleep or given me nightmares:
One night I ate a big, spicy curry, followed by a huge Cookie Time cookie (go NZ!) full of chocolate chips just before bed. That was one of the best cookies ever, and one of the worst sleeps (or lack of sleep plus nightmares).
Chocolate (Nooooooooooo! Actually not only does chocolate have tonnes of sugar, and contain caffeine, it contains another stimulant, theobromine, which is also a stimulant and causes mental unrest)
Sugar (not including fruit – this is aimed at processed sugar)
High protein foods just before bed
High fat foods just before bed
Spicy foods – especially just before bed.
I would also like to add that the brain needs a break sometimes. From my own personal experience too much mental stimulation has affected my sleep, including:
Movies – especially just before bed
Studying and googling stuff just before bed
Doing any kind of work requiring a lot of mental concentration – such as calculations, paperwork, paying bills just before bed
The mind needs a rest too!! How do you think your legs would function if you spent the entire day running with no rest?
Many people are too addicted to constant mental stimulation. We have to be texting, calling, googling, gaming, watching movies, watching TV, listening to music, looking at photos, reading, checking facebook, etc.,
Taxing the brain constantly without giving it a chance to wind down caused me a lot of sleep problems.
Here is what I do if I want my mind to have wind-down time before bed:
Go for a walk in the evening with the kids and watch the sunset
Do some light cardio exercise to reduce stress
Do some simple weight-bearing exercises – i.e. push-ups
Ask my husband for a shoulder or foot-rub
Take a relaxing shower or bath
Pray and read the Bible (for some reason reading the Bible does not stress or tax my mind, but calms it. I believe there is a difference in mental activity between entertainment reading and reading that uplifts spiritually, but I won’t go into depth here or I could write a novel)
Do a foot soak
Have a good, positive conversation with someone
When I see the evening as a connecting and relaxing time – with God, other people, and with the outdoors, I feel refreshed, I sleep better, and I awake with mental clarity and power to think and accomplish things.
I haven’t suffered any loss by avoiding the completion of work and projects at night. I leave it, rest my brain, and then do the hard mental work in the morning.
This (as well as prayer from members of my prayer group) has greatly reduced my anxious thoughts at night, has helped me fall asleep, and has helped me think clearly.