If you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, look to your diet for a quick fix. Sometimes, the foods we eat—and the nutrients we’re missing—can impact our bodies’ natural chemistry. Chemical imbalances or hormonal interactions can keep your body feeling alert when it’s time to sleep.
In my next few blogs, I’ll be reviewing the science and nutrition behind foods for sleep. Today, let’s have a look at a few of the most common minerals that can help you sleep—and how.
- Copper: Copper regulates the central nervous system. It can also affect how easily you fall asleep and how well you stay asleep. Too much copper causes as many problems as copper deficiency. 2012 sleep research conducted by Korean medical scientists suggests that the balance between copper and zinc in the system (as measured by levels in serum and hair tissues) is the key to healthier sleep. A higher ratio of zinc to copper correlated with longer sleep times.
- Zinc: Like copper, zinc is an antagonist of a particular nervous system receptor (known as N-methyl-D-aspartate-glutamate or NMDA, which affects sleep, mood, cognition, and pain perception. If depression or pain are hurting your sleep, make sure you’re getting enough zinc. 2012 research published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that low intake of zinc (in addition to healthy carbohydrates and protein) could harm sleep quality. Also, a 2011 Italian sleep study found that a mix of zinc, melatonin, and magnesium supplements improved sleep quality and overall quality of life for elderly patients suffering from primary insomnia.
- Iron: Iron deficiency can cause the symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS), which encourages insomnia or interrupts sleep for five to ten percent of adults. Iron supplements can alleviate the symptoms of RLS to help you get better quality of sleep. Talk to your doctor about safe, effective iron supplementation.
Next time, I’ll explore the B Vitamins—a vitamin complex that helps sleep in a variety of ways. At the end of the week, we’ll have a look at other vitamins and nutrients that can support healthy sleep—so stay tuned!