Forget what they say about resting when you're dead, getting enough sleep is everything. And if you're not getting the right amount regularly, well, death could come faster than it should.
The truth is, there's nothing quite like sleep. Its restorative effect on the body and mind are unmatched by anything else. While we sleep, the body is busy removing toxins that build up in the brain, reinforcing memory and reversing the effects of fatigue.
It follows then that when we're sleep-deprived, we're pretty much off our game and sooner than later, it shows.
In the immediate, lack of sleep can make us irritable, forgetful, less creative, prone to bad judgement and stressed out. Over time, the effects of sleep deprivation may escalate to tremors, a susceptibility to obesity and type 2 diabetes, a weakened immune system and even decreased testosterone.
It's frightening, really, and it's time we fixed it. Let's figure out how to wake from this nightmare together.
Almost any food, from beans to pounded yam, can bring you to a full stop if you eat enough of it, but there's a world of difference between being knocked out during the day and eating your way to a good night's sleep.
If rest is what you're looking for, you should be looking away from dinners dominated by heavy starch toward healthier options like bananas (which contain tryptophan, a natural sedative), oatmeal (rich in melatonin, the sleep hormone and good for your digestive system) and green vegetables like spinach and fluted pumpkin leaves (ugwu to the rest of us) which are both packed with calcium, eventually turned into melatonin by the body.
Switch up your meal plan with more sleep-inducing foods.
Social jet lag is making you tired, alcohol and sleep make a bad cocktail, there's power in power naps, the science of sleep is fascinating, this is the point of sleep (in case you're still not convinced) and listen, you may need more than eight hours.
Brewed And Stirred
If insomnia has bothered you enough for you to mention it to a few people or look up remedies, you may have been introduced to liquid sleep aids like chamomile tea, warm milk and maybe even alcohol.
A couple of those remedies actually help and one really doesn't (you know which), but there aren't many natural nightcaps for sound sleep as potent as valerian tea.
A bit of history here, the sleep-inducing effect of valerian has apparently been known since the time of the Romans and the Greeks. Later uses of the herb include prescriptions for convulsions, cough, pains in the head and get this, bubonic plague. Talk about being a poster child for herbal medicine. The herb's reputation got a bit dented in the 19th century, but it was back in business during World War II as a relief for the stress from the bombing of London by the Germans.
These days, valerian, sold as a tea or dietary supplement capsules, is mostly used to treat sleep disorders and has been quite hyped as a herbal sleep aid.
Let's pause here for a disclaimer:
Valerian works for sure, but you should know that some members of the medical community are not exactly enthusiastic about it. As with most herbal medicines, a number of doctors have expressed doubt over the authenticity of some products containing the herb and the effective dosage to prescribe. They also have concerns about its side effects and interactions with other drugs.
As far as authenticity goes, Jumia (another disclaimer: I don't get paid for these links) sells a recommended brand of valerian tea. One pack is good for sixteen cups or about two weeks of assisted good sleep. Speak to a doctor first though. Nothing beats professional advice.
Side note: Swap coffee for water. When you're dehydrated, you get tired and there's nothing quite like water to refresh you.
I promise I had started putting together a playlist, then I remembered Calm, one of two fantastic apps that are helping me with meditation (more on this in the near future).
Besides teaching meditation techniques for relaxing and getting better sleep, Calm features music, nature sounds and bedtime stories to get you in the mood for rest.
The app (Android, iOS) is free but its premium features will cost you. (How much is a good night's sleep worth to you?)
Strictly for natural sounds, Rainyscope is an entirely free alternative.