by Rebeca Gracia
People that toss and turn all night and have trouble sleeping may have tried counting sheep, creating a restful environment, sleeping in total darkness and drinking warm milk, but sleep disturbances can be caused by both internal and external stress. External stressors may include worries and fears about the world outside, while internal stress is characterized by metabolic imbalances in the body.
Sleep is mediated primarily by melatonin produced from serotonin, which is made by the pineal gland, located in the brain. Serotonin is created from tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in many foods. Vitamin D aids in the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin, as do vitamins B2, B3 and B6. If we are not getting enough tryptophan, vitamin D and B vitamins from our diet, we will not have the basic building blocks necessary to create melatonin. Pathogens such as virus, bacteria and/or parasites that are causing active inflammation in the body will compete for nutrients, creating further deficiencies. Here are some tips for getting quality sleep.
First, ensure that you are eating a diet of nutrient-dense foods that include tryptophan, B vitamins and vitamin
D. Foods high in tryptophan include egg whites, spirulina, cod, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and poultry. Turkey is often recommended as having high tryptophan concentrations, but it actually has the same amount as other meats. Poultry is also an excellent source of B vitamins, along with green, leafy vegetables.
Second, be sure your body is able to utilize these essential nutrients appropriately. You need sufficient exposure to the sun for healthy vitamin D levels, but this is only part of the story. Vitamin D obtained from the diet, sun and some supplements must be converted into an active from of vitamin D in the liver and kidneys. If the liver and kidneys are not fully functioning, we will not be able to convert vitamin D into the active form needed to convert tryptophan to the serotonin needed to produce melatonin for adequate sleep.
Third, there are several natural sleep aids. It is best to work closely with a holistic practitioner to help select the best product and the best dosage. Common natural sleep aids include melatonin, valerian root, tart cherry juice and tryptophan. Melatonin, tart cherry juice and tryptophan all increase melatonin concentrations in the brain to help induce and improve sleep. Valerian root is thought to work with the brain’s primary relaxing neurotransmitter, GABA. All of these sleep aids work in conjunction with many other neurotransmitters and co-factors that may need to be assessed before achieving restful sleep.
One of the only non-invasive tests used to evaluate the functioning of the pineal gland, the origin of melatonin production in the brain, is computer regulated thermography (CRT). It can be used to uncover imbalances in brain function, liver and kidney metabolic function, sources of inflammation and infection as well as gastrointestinal absorption, all of which play key roles in neurotransmitter activity. This simple thermography scan can help show areas that need support to ensure a balanced sleep equation.
Dr. Rebeca Gracia is the director of the Thermography Center of Dallas, located at 5220 Spring Valley, Ste., 405 Dallas. For appointments, call 214-352-8758. For more information, visit Thermography Center.com