Natural remedies for insomnia, ‘hot’ weather

“The object of all health education is to change the conduct of individual men, women, and children by teaching them to care for their bodies well, and this instruction should be given throughout the entire period of their educational life.” — Charlie H. Mayo (Physician, Founder of Mayo Clinic 1865)

“The object of all health education is to change the conduct of individual men, women, and children by teaching them to care for their bodies well, and this instruction should be given throughout the entire period of their educational life.” — Charlie H. Mayo (Physician, Founder of Mayo Clinic 1865)

• Senna leaves as the cure for insomnia, epilepsy, convulsion

Most Nigerians are not sleeping well because of the very hot weather especially at nights, irregular electricity supply and lack of petrol to power the fan, not to mention the dwindling economic fortunes.

Unfortunately, lack of proper sleep that is sleeping less than six hours daily has been associated with chronic diseases such as stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

However, researchers have unveiled natural remedies that will not only help you beat the hot weather but sleep well: watermelon, coconut water, pumpkin seeds, warm milk, Whitebark Senna, and salads.

According to new research from Purdue University, United States, overweight and obese adults who are losing weight with a high-protein diet are more likely to sleep better.

The study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found: “Most research looks at the effects of sleep on diet and weight control, and our research flipped that question to ask what are the effects of weight loss and diet- specifically the amount of protein- on sleep.

“We found that while consuming a lower calorie diet with a higher amount of protein, sleep quality improves for middle-age adults. This sleep quality is better compared to those who lost the same amount of weight while consuming a normal amount of protein.”

The pilot study led by professor of nutrition science, Wayne Campbell, found that in 14 participants, consuming more dietary protein resulted in better sleep after four weeks of weight loss. Then, in the main study, 44 overweight or obese participants were included to consume either a normal protein or a higher-protein weight loss diet. After three weeks of adapting to the diet, the groups consumed either 0.8 or 1.5 grams of protein for each kg of body weight daily for 16 weeks. The participants completed a survey to rate the quality of their sleep every month throughout the study. Those who consumed more protein while losing weight reported an improvement in sleep quality after three and four months of dietary intervention.

A dietitian designed a diet that met each study participant’s daily energy need and 750 calories in fats and carbohydrates were trimmed per day while maintaining the protein amount based on whether they were in the higher- or normal protein group. The sources of protein used in the two studies varied from beef, pork, soy, legumes and milk protein.

Jing Zhou, a doctoral student in nutrition science and the study’s first author, said: “Short sleep duration and compromised sleep quality frequently lead to metabolic and cardiovascular diseases and premature death.

“Given the high prevalence of sleep problems, it’s important to know how changes to diet and lifestyle can help improve sleep.”

Campbell’s lab also has studied how dietary protein quantity, sources and patterns affect appetite, body weight and body composition.

Campbell said: “This research adds sleep quality to the growing list of positive outcomes of higher-protein intake while losing weight, and those other outcomes include promoting body fat loss, retention of lean body mass and improvements in blood pressure.

“Sleep is recognized as a very important modifier of a person’s health, and our research is the first to address the question of how a sustained dietary pattern influences sleep. We’ve showed an improvement in subjective sleep quality after higher dietary protein intake during weight loss, which is intriguing and also emphasizes the need for more research with objective measurements of sleep to confirm our results.”
Whitebark Senna cure for insomnia and epilepsy

Meanwhile, Cassia (Senna spectabilis) also called Whitebark Senna has been demonstrated to be a cure for insomnia and epilepsy.

A study published in Science Alert titled “Anticonvulsant and Sedative Activity of Leaves of Senna spectabilis in Mice” concluded: “The results lead to the conclusion that the extract of Senna spectabilis possesses anticonvulsant and sedative properties in mice and could explain its used in traditional medicine in Africa, in the treatment of insomnia and epilepsy.”

It added: “Senna spectabilis DC. is a small tree, three to five metres, found in tropical areas in Africa, Asia, Australia, Latino and South America. It is used in traditional medicine in Cameroon to treat many diseases (constipation, insomnia, epilepsy, anxiety, etc.). Therefore, the aim of this study was to look scientifically for the anticonvulsant and sedative properties of S. spectabilis. In vivo animal models of epilepsy (Maximal Electroshock (MES), N-Methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA), Pentylenetetrazol (PTZ) and Strychnine (STR) induced convulsions or turning behavior) and insomnia (diazepam-induced sleep) were used.

“Mice were divided to six groups: one negative control group, one positive control group and four groups treated with the plant extract, (except for diazepam-induced sleep test). Four doses of the ethanolic extract were used: 100, 200, 500 and 1000 mg kg-1. The ethanolic extract of the leaves of Senna spectabilis strongly increased the total sleep time induced by diazepam. It also protected mice against Maximal Electroshock (MES), pentylenetetrazol, picrotoxin strychnine and n-methyl-d-aspartate-induced seizures and turning behavior and increased the latency to the onset of seizure in Isonicotinic Hydrazide Acid (INH) test.”

Also, nutritionists have revealed what you eat can have a big impact on how you sleep. From pumpkin seeds to coconut water and cherries, they revealed the foods and nutrients that will help you sleep better.

High protein foods, such as meat, fish, beans and lentils, seeds and nuts are also vital in helping promote a better night’s sleep.

Shona Wilkinson, head nutritionist at, said: “Protein foods provide the amino acid, tryptophan, which converts into the hormones serotonin and melatonin. “Melatonin in particular, is needed for good sleep.”

She advises a good portion of protein is about 0.8 to 1g per kg of body weight, each day.

So, a woman who weighs 50kg, for example, should eat between 40 and 50g of protein a day.

“Avoid too much high-protein food in the last few hours before bed, however, as they can be hard to digest – especially red meat and nuts,” Wilkinson warned.

Not only is watermelon a staple for picnics and barbecues, but it is 90 percent water. “The pink flesh contains vitamins C and A and the antioxidant lycopene which helps in protecting you from the sun too,” according to Tanya Zuckerbrot, registered dietitian in New York City and the creator of The F-Factor Diet. “This is the perfect snack to cool off and replenish electrolytes that are lost as you sweat in the sun.”
Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are high in natural magnesium, making them beneficial to those people who struggle to drift off each night.

“One of the roles of magnesium is allowing the muscle fibres in our body to relax,” explained Marilyn Glenville, one of the UK’s leading nutritionists and author of the Natural Health Bible for Women.

“It counteracts calcium, which causes muscles to contract.

“It is also thought that magnesium has a role in the normal function of the pineal gland, which produces melatonin – a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and helps us to fall asleep.”

Glenville advises trying one to two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds a day, adding them to sugar-free yoghurt or salads, or grinding them up and adding them to porridge.

“Other raw seeds and nuts are also good sources of magnesium, as are leafy green vegetables,” she added.
Coconut water

Though coconut water is advertised as an energy-boosting drink, it may also help you sleep better. Coconut water is a good source of potassium and magnesium, which help your muscles relax. It also contains small amount of B vitamins, which can help lower stress.

Nutritionist Cassandra Barns, told DailyMailUK Online: “A glass of pure coconut water in the evening could help you to have a restful night’s sleep.”

“Coconut water is an excellent source of electrolyte minerals: potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and sodium,” she explained.

“Balanced levels of these minerals are necessary to maintain normal muscle action, nerve function and hydration in our body.”

Deficiencies or imbalances can cause cramping and restless legs at night, and therefore disturbed sleep.

“Coconut water products from young green coconuts are thought to be the best,” said Barns.

Zinc-rich foods such as oysters and other seafood, whole grains and nuts, especially pecans and Brazil nuts, will help send you off to the land of nod, Glenville said.

“Zinc is also needed for conversion of tryptophan into serotonin and melatonin,” she added.
Lemon Balm Tea

Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and has a deliciously sweet, lemony taste. Steep lemon balm leaves in boiling water to make your own relaxation tea. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, lemon balm has been used to help promote sleep and reduce anxiety since the Middle Ages.
Warm Milk

This age-old cure for sleeplessness, said to be effective because milk is high in the amino acid tryptophan, reportedly has a calming effect on the brain and helps induce sleep. The effects may be purely psychological, though, as according to a New York Times article published in 2007, there is not enough evidence to prove that tryptophan is what causes sleepiness. Regardless, many people swear by this bedtime ritual.

Decaffeinated Green Tea

Green tea contains the amino acid thiamine, which has been shown to help reduce stress and promote a restful sleep. However, the high caffeine level of regular green tea can outweigh these benefits when you are trying to calm down in the evening, so be sure to go for decaffeinated varieties.

For many, nothing soothes them into a dreamy state better than a warm cuppa. But, it is vital you avoid regular builders tea, which is high in caffeine.

“Calming herbal teas such as chamomile, passionflower or valerian, or specific sleep blends can be helpful to drink before bedtime,” said Wilkinson.

“According to researchers, drinking the tea is associated with an increase of glycine, a chemical that relaxes nerves and muscles and acts like a mild sedative.”

Calming herbal teas like chamomile can help you sleep. They are thought to increase levels of glycine, a chemical that relaxes nerves and muscles and acts as a mild sedative.

Staying hydrated is key to keeping cool. When the afternoon sun has you sweating, it is easy to dehydrate, leaving the body hot and fatigued. Lettuce is 95 percent water so it keeps you both cool and hydrated. Throw some cucumbers on top, which are 96 percent water.

Hot peppers

“Ironically, spicy foods are a great way to beat the heat. Eating something that will cause sweating, nature’s way of cooling us down, will allow you to withstand the sun,” Zuckerbrot said. Sweating can lead to dehydration, though, so make sure to consume substantial water throughout the day.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

“Skip the margaritas and mojitos. A summertime cocktail might seem like just the thing for a warm evening, but too much alcohol can cause your body to lose water,” Karen Ansel, MS, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said.

If water starts to sound bland, rethink your ice cubes, she suggests. Adding frozen berries, grapes or melon chunks to sparkling water is a refreshing way to switch things up.

If water still doesn’t hit the spot, don’t feel you have to ditch your iced coffee or tea, she explained. “Even though we’ve heard over and over that caffeinated drinks are dehydrating, it’s just not true. According to the Institute of Medicine, caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea can still help keep you hydrated because they supply more water than their caffeine causes us to lose. So if they help you drink up, go ahead.”


Turkey is often hailed as a food that promotes sleep, due to high levels of tryptophan, the amino acid that converts into serotonin and then melatonin in the body.

However, tryptophan is not the only sleep-promoting nutrient hidden inside the humble bird.

It is also a good source of zinc and vitamin B6, which help the body produce melatonin from tryptophan.

But, Wilkinson recommends eating turkey earlier in the day, because a big serving of protein can stop you from falling asleep.

Foods such as buckwheat, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish and seafood, leafy green vegetables including spinach and kale, and dried fruits are a great source of magnesium.

“Magnesium is known as “nature’s tranquiliser” and is needed to relax our muscles,” said Barns.

“It is also needed to convert tryptophan into serotonin and melatonin, and a deficiency in magnesium may be a cause of insomnia.”
Tart Cherry Juice

A small study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in June 2010 showed that consuming two 8-ounce servings of tart cherry juice during the day (once in the morning and once two hours before bedtime) resulted in a significant decrease in insomnia.

The study was repeated in September 2010 in the Journals of Gerontology with similar results. This may be because cherries contain melatonin, an antioxidant that is known to help regulate our sleep cycle.
Slow-release carbs

Carbohydrates that slowly release energy into the body, such as oats or oatcakes, and brown rice, can help transform a person’s sleep pattern.

Nutritionist Cassandra Barns, told DailyMailUK Online: “Slow-releasing carbohydrates such as whole grains help to keep the levels of sugar (glucose) in your blood stable, and so provide your body with sustained energy.

“You may not think you need much energy while you’re asleep, but your brain and body still need glucose to keep working.

“If levels fall too low, this can cause the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which can wake you up.”

To avoid a rude awakening mid-way through the night, Barns said ensure you stock the cupboards with slow-releasing carbohydrates, a serving of brown rice or a slice of rye bread with dinner, for example.

“If you have your last meal a long time before going to bed, try eating a half-size bowl of porridge or a couple of oatcakes with nut butter later in the evening,” she added.

“Note, sugary foods and refined white carbohydrates can have the opposite effect, as they quickly enter and leave the bloodstream, leaving your blood low in glucose again after only a short period of time.”

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