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Most people spend a third of their life asleep. What should you do if you’re not getting your share?

One of the great mysteries is why we need sleep at all. Without it, even for a night, the body shows clear signs of stress. Zinc levels drop, vitamin C is used up at an alarming rate and when there is a chance to catch up on lost sleep we enter an intensive kind of sleep called Stage 1 REM (Rapid Eye Movement). It’s thought that this is when dreaming occurs and that most of us have at least four dreams a night (even though many people have difficulty in remembering them). Dreams could be the clue to what sleeping is all about. As well as providing a physical rest sleep may provide a chance to make a ‘back up tape’ of the day’s events for our large computer, the brain. While westerners pay little heed to dreams one African tribe believe ‘real life’ is lived in dreams and daytime is the illusion.

The Bolivian philosopher Oscar Ichazo, described dream reality as like the stars at night: that dream thoughts are always happening, but the brightness of the sun, daytime consciousness, blots them out. Many scientists believe that dreaming is normal and that nutritional deficiency is one reason why poor or no dream recall can occur. In a survey at ION we found that more than 40% of people had no or very infrequent dream recall. When researching the signs and symptoms of vitamin B6 and zinc deficiency Dr Carl Pfeiffer, from the Brain Bio Center in New Jersey, found that an alarming proportion of deficient people couldn't recall their dreams. After supplementing with B6 and zinc, often in doses as high as 1,000 mg of B6 and 100 mg of zinc, dream recall would return. If they took too much B6 and zinc dreams became too vivid and the person would wake up in the night. B6 and zinc also affected the quality of dreams. One of Dr Pfeiffer’s patients, a young girl who had suffered from nightmares, commented ‘Some of my dreams are awfully sexy.’ Dr Pfeiffer said at least she wouldn't get pregnant, to which she replied "I wouldn't go that far even in my dreams!"

So if you don’t think you dream it’s worth supplementing B6 and zinc gradually increasing the dose up to 500mg B6 and 50mg of zinc. (It is best not to take more without the advice of a nutritionist.)

But far more serious than dream recall, is insomnia. Most people at some time in their lives, have experienced the frustration, restlessness and exhaustion that occurs when they either can’t get enough sleep or wake up too early and can’t get back to sleep. This is perhaps understandable at times of great stress or worry, but can also be affected by what you eat.

The process of falling to sleep happens as a result of levels of the brain nerve-transmitter serotonin rising and levels of circulating adrenalin decreasing. Serotonin is partly made from the protein constituent tryptophan. This is converted in the presence of B6 first into B3 and then into serotonin. Adequate amounts of B6 and tryptophan are needed to get sleepy. Some foods, like turkey for example, are particularly high in tryptophan, which may explain why everybody falls asleep after Christmas dinner. Supplementing one to four tablets of L-tryptophan 500mg helps to induce sleep, but this must be taken an hour before the intended ‘departure time’ without food.

For some it is not so much the level of serotonin that is at fault but that they are over-stimulated and perhaps over-anxious. These are the light sleepers and early wakers. Vitamin B6 and the minerals calcium and magnesium are nature’s tranquilisers. They calm down nerve activity and can help to give a better night’s sleep (as well as preventing night cramps). Levels of at least 100mg of B6, 600mg of calcium and 300mg of magnesium are usually needed to produce a result. While foods like sesame seeds, almonds and green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of calcium and magnesium, just changing the diet is rarely effective in dealing with insomnia in the short term. Dolomite tablets contain the right balance of calcium and magnesium. Some tablets also contain vitamin D, which aids their absorption.

Stimulants like tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate can knock out the calming effects of these tranquilising nutrients so must be strictly avoided, especially in the evening. Instead drink herb teas, many of which have their own calming effect. Milk drinks may also be calming, but not if they contain chocolate. Interestingly, the coffee berry that surrounds the coffee bean is a relaxant while the bean is a stimulant, which illustrates how natural foods are often balanced and refined foods are not.

So here’s how to fall asleep and stay asleep:
Supplement B6 100mg and Zinc 10mg (and more if no dream recall)
Supplement three Dolomite tablets in the evening
Avoid all stimulants after 4pm and take 2 x L-tryptophan 500mg (if still necessary)
Eat calcium and magnesium rich foods.



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