Well-being & health living goes beyond eating a balanced diet & regular exercise. Its about feeling good & taking care of yourself; a responsibility that is often neglected when juggling the rigorous demands of every day life living in the 21st century.

I’ve heard many people say that they’re struggling to fall asleep at night. There are many reasons for this.  If it’s not a dog sprawled across the bed,  graciously allowing us to take up a tenth of our very own bed,  a partner snoring so loudly that they sound like a John Deer tractor, or as in my case the neighbours cockatiel screeching like my future mother-in-law. (Kidding dear)

If however, it’s none of the reasons above, I may just have the solution for you. . .

Firstly, let’s take a look at the hormones that relate to sleep. As we age our bodies produce lower levels of growth hormone, which very likely leads to a decrease in the amount of deep sleep that we observe at night. Growth hormone directly influences our “sleeping hormone” melatonin. Less melatonin will cause fragmented sleep and interrupt our sleep cycles. Circadian rhythm is commonly known as our internal clock which tells us when to sleep and also when to wake up. Our circadian rhythm changes with age, and as we get older we start fatiguing earlier in the evening and we tend to wake up earlier in the morning.  Paying attention to these signs and going to bed when experiencing tiredness will aid in improving sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid that gets converted into serotonin (the feel-good hormone) and also plays a vital role in maintaining melatonin levels. The pineal gland is situated near the centre of the brain, between the two hemispheres tucked in a groove where the two rounded thalamic bodies join. The pineal gland converts serotonin into melatonin at night. Melatonin plays a role in other conditions besides sleeplessness, including fighting viral and bacterial infections, cancer, sexual dysfunction and heart disease.

All of the above is just a basic breakdown as to what compounds are essential for good night’s  rest and it shows just how important it is to give our bodies what it needs to function optimally.. I’m a firm believer in good quality foods and supplements, and having said this I’ve decided to share different types of food that will increase melatonin production:

Food Sources:

Bananas

Ripe bananas contain melatonin and ideally should be consumed after physical exercise.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes contain melatonin and help with irritable bowel syndrome. So it’s a great idea to consume tomato based foods during dinner.

Rice

Rice is a great source of energy and is very effective for dieting purposes. Jasmine rice and white basmati rice are my personal favourites and play a crucial role in my own daily nutrition as well as my clients.  Plants in the rice family contain one of the highest sources of melatonin. Rice has been proven to help individuals fall asleep faster because of its ability to increase the blood’s concentration of tryptophan (a compound that converts into melatonin). Consuming rice four hours before bedtime has proven most effective.

Minerals:

Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the most essential minerals needed to maintain a healthy nervous system and supply nutrients to the brain. A shortage of magnesium may interfere with the production of key neurotransmitters that help to balance one’s mood and improve sleep.

Calcium

Calcium plays an important role to improve sleeping patterns and is absorbed best to the body’s advantage when magnesium is present. Calcium and magnesium should be taken together an hour before bedtime.

Thank you for reading this short article.  I hope it has proved to be of value to you.  I have had clients hooked on prescription drugs to aid sleep and after changing their nutritional habits they are no longer dependant on such medication.  So let’s try the healthy alternative and add years to your life.

matthew-fincham-mr-south-africa

About The Author

Matthew Cole Fincham  is a Training, Fitness & Nutrition Specialist.  He is currently a finalist in the Mr South Africa 2013 Competition and has competed in seven fitness shows, always placing in the top five.  He won FAME Nationals in 2007 and went onto compete in Canada on the world stage.  He won Mr Pretoria 2011 & Beeld Bachelor of the Year in 2012.  Matthew is a Health fanatic and believes in Wellbeing as a complete lifestyle and giving back to his community.  He is the Champion of Bramley Children’s Home as well as a Committee member for Child Welfare Tshwane. You can follow him on the Web, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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