Eliminating all sources of caffeine is essential for preventing and relieving insomnia. Some women are especially sensitive to the stimulating effects of caffeine, and even one cup of coffee in the morning can interfere with sleep patterns that night. Be scrupulous about avoiding coffee, black tea, colas and other caffeinated soft drinks, chocolate, cocoa, and coffee-flavored foods such as ice cream, yogurt, and candies. Even the trace of caffeine found in decaffeinated coffee and tea can be enough to keep you awake at night. Many over-the-counter drugs contain ingredients that can cause insomnia; for example, some pain relievers and medications to relieve PMS contain caffeine, and some decongestants contain pseudoephedrine, a powerful stimulant.
Alcohol also causes sleep problems, because it stimulates the release of adrenaline and inhibits the transport of the amino acid tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan is necessary for the production of serotonin, a compound that enhances sleep. A mug of warm milk is a time-honored bedtime remedy that can help induce sleep because it contains tryptophan. If you prefer to avoid dairy products, drink soy milk or almond milk instead. Sweeten your beverage of choice with a bit of honey or maple syrup and vanilla and add a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, an Ayurvedic remedy for insomnia. Milk and almond milk (and calcium-fortified soy milk) are also rich in calcium, which helps to relax the nervous system and the muscles. For this reason, many women find that taking supplements of calcium and magnesium at bedtime ensures restful sleep. Take 800 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 400 to 600 milligrams of magnesium about an hour before bed.
Maintaining stable blood-sugar levels during the night is important, because nighttime drops in blood sugar can cause awakening. Eating too many refined carbohydrates and sweets can cause blood-sugar instability. If nighttime hypoglycemia is a problem, have a snack such as a small bowl of whole-grain cereal or a piece of toast about 30 minutes before bedtime. In addition to helping to maintain stable blood-sugar levels, high-complex carbohydrates may also stimulate the production of the brain’s natural sedative neurotransmitters.
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