On March 13 at 2 a.m. people will set their clocks forward one hour and lose 60 minutes of sleep. The benefit is better use of natural daylight but at the expense of a disturbed sleeping pattern. But you can fix all that with a few nutrition tricks.
Having to wake up an hour early does not sound scary because people do it all the time due to their busy schedules. They shouldn’t take it too seriously, according to Vitamin Shoppe Nutritionist Brian Tanzer, MS, CNS. “Frequent traveling across time zones or working the night shift when sleep patterns are constantly changing is a much bigger health concern than turning the clock forward or backward by one hour,” he adds. “The body easily adapts to the modest change in time.” You can help it make an easy transition.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body’s pineal gland. It is inactive during the day and gets turned on at night when it’s dark. When the levels of melatonin in your bloodstream rise, you start to feel sleepy and less alert. You can adjust by consuming the proper nutrients. Tanzer has a few tips.
Walnuts and sunflower seeds are an excellent source of Vitamin B6, which is required for the normal production of neurotransmitters as well as melatonin. Mix 1.5 oz. of nuts and seeds into a smoothie, a cup of unflavored Greek yogurt, or enjoy them right out of the package. “Don’t tat before bed. A large meal requires significant energy to digest and may make it more difficult to fall asleep.”
Know the difference between Greek yogurt and the regular kind your corner store sells. The former is typically made by straining the yogurt to remove the liquid portion known as whey. “This results in a thicker yogurt with less sugar and a higher protein content,” Tanzer says. “One should choose unflavored Greek yogurt and add in their own fruit such as blueberries or raspberries along with some almonds for healthy fats.”
Cherries provide naturally-occurring melatonin, which is the regulator of the sleep/wake cycle. “Eat cherries right out of the bowl, or add 1 cup tart cherry juice to 2 cups sparkling water for a nice after dinner spritzer.”
You can add a few items in your drinks to increase melatonin. “Tart cherries, or tart cherry juice is a natural source of melatonin and be added to spritzers and or smoothie recipes,” Tanzer says.
Cherries are delicious and healthy but can’t always be found in stores. You can replace them with strawberries. Their season peaks from April-June. “Strawberries have a very similar nutrient profile to cherries,” Tanzer says. “They are rich in Vitamin C, potassium, folate and dietary fiber. They also contain a unique and powerful antioxidant known as ellagic acid.”
When it comes to strawberries, you should look for organic sources as most conventional sources contain fairly high amounts of pesticides. If you choose conventional sources, use a fruit/veggie wash to remove some of the residue.
However, consuming foods that contain natural melatonin will not significantly increase melatonin levels in the body, Tanzer adds. “One should also include foods such as nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables which contain other key nutrients to promote the body’s natural synthesis of melatonin.”
When addressing significant sleep issues, a melatonin supplement that contains 1-3 mg of melatonin may be necessary. He recommends checking with your doctor before using a supplement. “One other important thing to keep in mind is that regular exercise can help even the most ‘sleep challenged’ individuals.
Magnesium is essential to relaxation and sleep. Many people do not get enough of this key mineral in their diet, resulting in “inadequate energy, increased stress response and fluctuations in blood sugar levels.”