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4 Drinks to Have Before Bedtime to Improve Sleep and Help Burn More Fat

 

It’s 3 am and you’re wide awake.  You’ve been tossing and turning for the third night in a row, and as you stare at the ceiling you resign yourself to yet another day of continuous coffee-drinking to keep you alert tomorrow.

If this scenario sounds all-too familiar then you’ll want to listen up, because this lack of sleep could be affecting your weight. Current research suggests that there may be a link between chronic sleep deprivation and the prevalence of obesity and diabetes. (1)

How exactly is sleep related to weight gain?

Your body has two main hormones that regulate your appetite and your body weight called ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates your appetite and gives you that “drive to eat”. (2) Leptin does the opposite – it sends signals to your brain to suppress your appetite and to burn the fat that you have stored from your meal.(3)

When your body is deprived of sleep, these hormones get thrown out of balance. You experience an increase in ghrelin levels during the day and evening (ever have a midnight snack-attack?) and a decrease in leptin levels.(4) Basically your brain thinks that you’re hungry even when you’re not, and is storing that energy for later (hello love handles!).

Cortisol, Stress and Belly Fat

Ghrelin and Leptin aren’t the only two hormones that affect your waistline.  Cortisol is secreted by your adrenal glands and performs many important functions like regulating your blood sugar, helping you metabolize sugars, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and supporting your immune system. (5)

Cortisol, a.k.a “the stress hormone” usually rises in the morning (this helps wake you up) and decreases at night to help you sleep.  Cortisol levels will also go up and down throughout your day as you respond to stimuli (you go for a morning jog, your co-worker sneaks up and scares you at the office…) and this is healthy and necessary.  It is equally important though that your body returns to a state of relaxation following a “stressful” event.  Unfortunately in today’s fast-paced environment, your stress response is activated so frequently that you don’t have enough time for cortisol to return to normal levels.  In this chronically stressed-out state you will experience a number of negative health effects such as impaired cognitive performance, lower muscle mass and bone density, and you guessed it…greater amounts of abdominal fat. (5)

Sleep Deprivation and Cortisol

So how do your sleepless nights affect cortisol levels?  Think about it this way- sleep is a nutrient, and just like when you get hangry when you don’t eat for several hours, your body gets upset and, dare I say, stressed out, when it doesn’t get the sleep it needs.  When you deprive yourself of a good night’s sleep it results in a rise in cortisol levels the next evening (6), making your next night’s sleep worse still.  Thus you begin the vicious cycle of insomnia, chronically elevated cortisol levels and an increase in abdominal fat.

Drink to Your Health

No, I don’t mean having a “night cap”. There are many natural remedies that you can use to help improve your sleep, so if you’re tossing and turning at night, here are some sleep-inducing drinks to try before bed.

 

Cherry and Aloe Vera Drink

(Recipe courtesy  http://www.naturallivingideas.com/sleepy-time-tonics/)

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 oz. Tart cherry juice
  • 1 oz. Aloe vera juice
  • Cold water

Directions:

  1. Mix the cherry and aloe vera juice together in an 8 oz. glass and top it up with cold water.
  2. Mix well.

Why it works: Consumption of cherry juice has been shown to increase levels of your sleep hormone, melatonin. (10)As a bonus ingredient, aloe contains plant sterols that help to reduce fat deposits in the body (11).

Warm Milk and Nutmeg Drink

(Recipe courtesy  http://www.naturallivingideas.com/sleepy-time-tonics/)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup full-fat organic milk or almond milk
  • 1-2 teaspoon raw honey
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (not more than 1/8 of a teaspoon)

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk and then allow it to cool until it reaches a temperature you can handle.
  2. Mix in the honey and grated nutmeg.

Why it works: Nutmeg has been used in holistic medicine to relieve pain and sooth indigestion (both of which can keep you up at night) and is also known to have mild sedative properties. (16) Milk (or almond milk) is high in tryptophan, an amino acid credited with inducing sleep. However, tryptophan needs a carbohydrate to help it cross the blood-brain barrier. (13)  Honey does the trick in this recipe, and adds a touch of sweetness to your evening cuppa’ to boot.

Valerian Root Tea

Valerian root is used in herbal medicine to calm the nervous system to help you sleep. (14)  It comes from a flowering plant that has high concentrations of valerenic acid.  Not only does valerian root help you sleep, but it can reduce anxiety, be an effective remedy for headaches, ease indigestion and even soothe menstrual cramps- all which can also be detrimental to sleep.  To make valerian root tea, all you need is warm water, some fresh, dried or ground valerian root (one teaspoon for every cup of water) and something sweet to counteract the bitterness (honey or 100% maple syrup will work well). (16)

Hot Water and Magnesium Powder

Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in nearly every process in your body.  It helps your muscles relax and ensures that they function properly.  Every time you move your arm, leg, finger or eyebrow, you’re contracting a muscle…which wouldn’t be possible without magnesium!  For those of you keeping track, you need to contract and relax muscles in order to, ahem, go… hence why magnesium is also used as a laxative.

If you’ve ever had a muscle cramp that has woken you up in the night, magnesium could be your solution.  Restless leg syndrome, constipation, chronic stress- all could be a result of moderate magnesium deficiency.

But which is the best kind to take?  Magnesium cannot exist on its own and must be bonded to something else in order to be stable.  This is why when you see magnesium supplements on the shelf you’ll find them under multiple names like magnesium oxide, magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate or magnesium sulphate, to name a few.  In each case, the actual magnesium itself is the same, the difference being the size of the molecule it’s bonded to and how easily the magnesium is absorbed.  Magnesium Oxide contains the most magnesium by weight and is generally used as an all-purpose magnesium (muscle and nerve relaxer, laxative when taken in high doses) and Magnesium citrate is the best absorbed but contains a smaller amount of magnesium by weight. This is the most common form on the shelf, and is most often used as a laxative.  Magnesium Glycinate is the best choice for mental calmness and general relaxation and therefore tends to work best as a sleep aid.

Directions: Take 200-400 mg of magnesium in a glass of hot water 30 minutes to one hour before bed.  Start with 200 and gradually work your way up until you find the correct dose for you.

What else can you do to improve your sleep?

There are many other simple things you can do before bed to help you get a better night’s rest.  A common culprit of sleep deprivation are screens.  The light from screens like the one on your television, computer or tablet can disrupt your sleep and decrease the quality of your sleep. (15) Try making the last 30 minutes to 1 hour of your day “screen-free time” to help put your body in relaxation mode.  Doing a short 5 to 10-minute meditation or breathing practice can also help calm your body before bed.

At the end of the day, high-stress levels are a common culprit that can compromise sleep patterns.  If you are having a difficult time sleeping, consider what is causing the most stress in your life and do what you can to decrease or eliminate it altogether.  Once you lower your stress levels you will sleep better and your waistline will thank you for it.

Sweet dreams!

Sources

  • Knutson, Kristen L, et al. “The metabolic consequences of sleep deprivation.” Sleep Medicine Reviews, W.B. Saunders, 17 Apr. 2007, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1087079207000202. Accessed 20 Sept. 2017
  • Culpepper, Jetta Carol. “Merriam‐Webster Online: The Language Center0011The Staff of Merriam‐Webster. Merriam‐Webster Online: The Language Center. 47 Federal Street, PO Box 281, Springfield, MA 01102; Tel: (413) 734‐3134; Fax: (413) 731‐5979;: Merriam‐Webster, Inc c1999. Free.” Electronic Resources Review, vol. 4, no. 1/2, 2000, pp. 9–11., doi:10.1108/err.2000.4.1_2.9.11.
  • Culpepper, Jetta Carol. “Merriam‐Webster Online: The Language Center0011The Staff of Merriam‐Webster. Merriam‐Webster Online: The Language Center. 47 Federal Street, PO Box 281, Springfield, MA 01102; Tel: (413) 734‐3134; Fax: (413) 731‐5979;: Merriam‐Webster, Inc c1999. Free.” Electronic Resources Review, vol. 4, no. 1/2, 2000, pp. 9–11., doi:10.1108/err.2000.4.1_2.9.11.
  • Bessesen, D. (2006). Brief Communication: Sleep Curtailment in Healthy Young Men Is Associated With Decreased Leptin Levels, Elevated Ghrelin Levels, and Increased Hunger and Appetite. Yearbook of Endocrinology,2006, 177-178. doi:10.1016/s0084-3741(08)70348-2
  • Scot, E., M.S. (2008). Http://ljournal.ru/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/d-2016-154.pdf. doi:10.18411/d-2016-154
  • Leproult, R., Cpinschi, G., Buxton, O., & Van Cauter, E. (1997). Sleep Loss Results in an Elevation of Cortisol Levels the Next Evening. Sleep. doi:10.1093/sleep/20.10.865
  • Xiaoyan Sheng, Yuebo Zhang, Zhenwei Gong, Cheng Huang, and Ying Qin Zang, “Improved Insulin Resistance and Lipid Metabolism by Cinnamon Extract through Activation of Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors,” PPAR Research, vol. 2008, Article ID 581348, 9 pages, 2008. doi:10.1155/2008/58134
  • Howatson, G., Bell, P. G., Tallent, J., Middleton, B., Mchugh, M. P., & Ellis, J. (2011). Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. European Journal of Nutrition,51(8), 909-916. doi:10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7
  • Figure 2f from: Irimia R, Gottschling M (2016) Taxonomic revision of Rochefortia Sw. (Ehretiaceae, Boraginales). Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e7720. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.4.e7720. (2006). Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin,29, 1418-1422. doi:10.3897/bdj.4.e7720.figure2f
  • Carr, A. F. (2001). WebMD . Health Care on the Internet,5(4), 75-78. doi:10.1300/j138v05n04_08
  • A. (n.d.). The Truth About Tryptophan. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-tryptophan#2
  • VALERIAN: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-870-valerian.aspx?activeingredientid=870&activeingredientname=valerian
  • Falbe, J., Davison, K. K., Franckle, R. L., Ganter, C., Gortmaker, S. L., Smith, L., . . . Taveras, E. M. (2015, February 01). Sleep Duration, Restfulness, and Screens in the Sleep Environment. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/135/2/e367.short
  • Weiss, G. (1960). Hallucinogenic and narcotic-like effects of powdered myristica (nutmeg). Psychiatric Quarterly,34(2), 346-356. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01562114
  • Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghniiat, K., Shirazi, M., Hedayati, M., & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. National Centre for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved September 23, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23853635.
  • Valerian Root Tea- Benefits, How To Make & Side Effects. (2017, August 19). Retrieved September 23, 2017, from https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/valerian-root-tea.html

 

 

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