From sleep apnea to brain drain, from too much melatonin to not enough magnesium -- it's hard to know what can really be causing your sleep issues. Sleep is one of the most important things we do for ourselves, and may be the most important. Lack of sleep can lead to lowered concentration, increased stress, and even greater susceptibility to colds and flus. The average person needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night to recharge, but 40 per cent of Canadians have some degree of insomnia.
As a fitness expert and exercise fanatic, sleep is imperative to my own fitness goals and to the success of my clients. If you are training hard, trying to gain lean muscle, lose weight or even maintain; it's important to get the recovery your body needs so that all your efforts are maximized. Regular exercise promotes slow-wave sleep. Slow-wave sleep is coupled with the release of HGH (human growth hormone) and protein synthesis. If you are not getting the well needed sleep each night then you're not benefiting from your body's super healing powers. One of the key roles of sleep is to restore tissues at the cellular level and heal damage. You are truly not maximizing your results if you are sweating it out four to five times a week without giving your body the rest it needs to recover from those workouts.
Some of the most common questions I get about sleep involve what supplements can help you fall asleep faster or increase sleep quality. Below I have outlined the top three supplements so you can determine which one might be best to help with your own sleep issues.
1) Melatonin is best known for helping with sleep but might be misunderstood. If you produce the right amount then you really don't need to be taking more. It's best for people who are trying to switch their sleep-wake cycle, for example, while traveling to another time zone or changing shifts at work. Melatonin production decreases with light and increases with darkness; to improve your overall sleep and to fall asleep quicker, try making your room as dark as possible or wear a sleep mask.
2) Magnesium is a supplement commonly used as a muscle relaxant, even though is effectiveness has been challenged. In addition, research is weak on magnesium's effectiveness for sleep, however it still seems to be highly touted for sleep. It could potentially help relax muscles in certain populations who experience muscle tension however, if muscle tension is not your problem, magnesium might not help you get the zzz's you are looking for.
3) Passionflower -- For most people, sleep issues do not stem from their muscles, but rather from their overactive brains, especially with today's stress and demands. We try to fall asleep or stay asleep, but our minds are just too busy. This is where a key supplements like passionflower could assist. Passionflower works in the brain to take away running thoughts. It is not a sedative, so it does not actually put you to sleep, but by calming the thoughts that are keeping us up at night, it allows the body to fall asleep naturally. It is easy to get back to natural sleep with passionflower: a high-dose tablet works within 30 minutes and you only take one tablet as needed.
By examining what's causing your sleep issues and implementing some strategies that address the issues at hand, you can be sleeping soundly sooner than you think. In addition to considering safe natural supplementation where needed, here are some other practical solutions to try:
Write it down:
Try keeping a pen and paper beside your bed where you can get any pertinent thoughts out of your head before you hit the pillow.
Avoid watching TV, computer time or scrolling Instagram and Facebook before bed; this will only heighten your level of alertness.
Rituatlize your bedtime.
Try to keep your bedtime and wake time consistent as possible. For added relaxation, spend a few minutes in bed deep breathing, meditating, stretching or listening to calming music. Keep your room dark and cool.
Stick with it:
Studies show that to reap the benefits of exercising for a better sleep, you will need to be consistent with your routine. Often it takes several weeks to begin experiencing the benefits of a more restful sleep so think of this as a lifestyle and part of your training regimen.
Once you start to reap the rewards of better sleep, you'll be amazed at how much better you feel and perform. Living life well rested really does provide the foundation for living your best life. Sleep tight.
MORE ON HUFFPOST: