I spent over a decade either sleeping all of the time or suffering from insomnia. Both problems left me feeling exhausted. What I didn’t realize when I was sleeping 16-20 hours per day was that the amount of sleep I was getting was not the problem, it was the kind of sleep. I wasn’t getting enough delta sleep.
Delta sleep is the most crucial stage of sleep. It is during this recovery stage that our body repairs muscle tissue. A person who does not go through delta sleep can sleep for a full eight hours and still feel tired.
Keep in mind that digestion can interrupt deep sleep. Heavy meals late in the day can make you sleepy, but they can also keep you from getting the quality of sleep you need.
Several dietary nutrients effect sleep. GABA is able to induce relaxation, analgesia, and sleep. Zinc has been shown to aid health and tissue recovery in delta sleep and may even decrease frequency of restless legs syndrome. A deficiency of potassium, folic acid, or iron has also been linked to restless legs syndrome. Low consumption of B vitamins can cause insomnia and low magnesium levels can lead to sleep disturbance.
The amino acid 5-HTP improves your body’s ability to manufacture serotonin, which regulates sleep patterns. One study found that certain prescription SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors), like Prozac, were ineffective in individuals deficient in 5-HTP. (Note: Talk to your doctor if you are taking a prescription SSRI and want to try 5-HTP.)
Another dietary choice that can increase serotonin levels is consumption of omega- 3 fatty acids. According to a study published in the American Medical Association’s Archives of General Psychiatry: Omega-3 fatty acids increase the level of serotonin in a way similar to prescription anti-depressants like Prozac. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/344185.stm)