Rock A-Bye Baby

Posted May 9 2011, 3:00 am

Stress is a part of our daily lives, there’s no denying that reality. And stress can be the chief culprit for the occasional challenge to falling and staying asleep. We know to avoid caffeine and nicotine before bed, as well as a heavy meal laden with all our fave heart-burn-inducing foods. Alcohol should also be avoided (say it ain’t so!) to ensure a restful sleep. But did you also know that regular exercise can help you catch quality ZZZs? Even if you’re a total morning person and get your workout done before six in the morning, besides being a freak of nature, you’ll sleep better. 

Other tips for a soothing slumber include keeping your bedroom cool, dark (duh!) and quiet. My hubby and I like to use a white noise maker because it masks the cars driving by or our twenty-one-year-old coming home at zero-dark-thirty. Try to not nap, but to sleep only at your usual time. Keep a bedtime ritual; it works for small children AND adults. Once you’ve laid down, if you’re not asleep in say twenty minutes, get up and do something else. Read a book or play solitaire on the computer. Just don’t lie there stressing about how you’re not sleeping. The only thing that will accomplish is to keep you from, well, sleeping.

Try not to use sleeping pills, whether prescription or over-the-counter. Prescription pills are being proven to have a plethora of side-effects and most over-the-counter remedies are only effective in the short-term. Our bodies can become quickly accustomed to the habitual use of melatonin or antihistamines thus compromising their usefulness.

Try instead eating fresh or dried cherries before bed. They’re a natural source of melatonin which is better absorbed by the body. Or snack on a banana at bedtime. It’s rich in potassium and magnesium – two natural muscle relaxants. Maybe you’re in the mood for a slice of toast or a small bowl of oatmeal. Both trigger a rise in your blood sugar which, in turn, causes an increase in insulin production. A spike in insulin releases two brain chemicals, tryptophan and serotonin, that will speed relaxation and hopefully sleep.

Finally, take your mama’s advice and drink a glass of warm milk. Milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which turns into 5-HTP in the brain, which then promotes the discharge of relaxing serotonin. Milk also has calcium – and calcium encourages sleep.

What tricks or tips do you have for getting some quality shut-eye? Please share. Or email me at

Have a great week!



12 responses to “Rock A-Bye Baby”

  1. Jen T. says:

    Who knew, healthy snacks before bed encouraged sleep! Thanks for sharing Lynda! As always, your topic is magnificent!

  2. Hi Lynda,
    Loved the info about the healthy snacks. And it was fascinating to learn about calcium and magnesium. My question is: I take both calcium and magnesium as supplements. Would it make a difference to take those in the evening rather the morning? (Not that I’d remember them as faithfully–but I’d try if it was a good idea.)

    I also have to put in a huge plug for a dark room. I never paid attention to that, especially because we lived in Alaska for several years and never once pulled our blinds at night, even in the summer when it was mostly light all night. I blamed my insomnia on hormones, but I realize now it also had a lot to do with never having darkness.

    Huge kudos to you — this was a great column for me, partial insomniac!

    • lynda says:

      Lizzie, roomie!
      Taking calcium and magnesium supplements in the morning to help keep our bones strong is great. However, I don’t think supplements would have the same affect at bedtime as eating a banana with a glass of warm milk. I believe your body would be more willing to absorb the naturally occuring calcium and magnesium, plus you have the added benefit of spiking your insulin production – another way to relax you and encourage a restful slumber.
      Glad the post helped you out a bit.
      Thanks for popping in!

  3. Norah Wilson says:

    Great sleep tips! I’ve used ’em all. You might also try having a hot bath twenty minutes or so before you want to sleep. The process of your body bringing its temperature back to normal sets you up for sleep. Exercise is another great one, but not too close to bedtime or it may be counterproductive. My last – best?- tip? A guided meditation on you iPod. I’m usually asleep before I get half way through it. ,-)

  4. Suzanne says:

    Turkey also has lots of tryptophan. Is that whay all the men fall asleep after Thanksgiving dinner–or they just trying to get out of doing the dishes?

    Keep up the great blogs!


    • lynda says:

      Thanks, Suzanne!
      Yes, turkey has tryptophan, but the amount isn’t really all that unusual. It’s probably all the OTHER food that’s consumed on Turkey Day which causes the sleepies.
      Glad you dropped by.

  5. Diana Sprain says:

    I use aromatherapy – essences of lavender oil, rose, and a little sandlewood. Experiment to find the essential oil combinations that work for you. BTW, getting a warmer, and using oils in a little bit of water can help with other health conditions. One wod of caution: ONLY lavender is safe to apply directly to the skin, all other essential oils should be mixed with a carrier oil (coconut, jojoba, etc.) first.

    A silk (black) eye mask, and sometimes incense.

    Another helpful sleep enhancing mood is a device that places sounds: ocean waves, night creatures (crickets, etc). birds – you get teh drift.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site contains content that might be considered offensive and/or inappropriate to some. If you are under 18, or are easily offended, please click the "exit" button.