Most of us go through periods in our lives when sleep is hard to come by. You’re probably familiar with the standard advice: keep your bedroom calm, avoid caffeine after midday, eliminate sources of light, don’t spend too much time on your iPad before sleeping, count sheep, yada yada yada…
But what happens when you’ve followed all the advice and you still can’t sleep?
The answer may well lie in your levels of histamine.
Histamine is a substance we associate with allergy and inflammation. Hence we take antihistamine when we suffer from hayfever or overreact to a bee sting.
But histamine is also a powerful neurotransmitter involved in sleep regulation. High histamine levels correlate closely with high alertness. (Which is why antihistamines tend to make you drowsy.)
Some of us are genetically programmed to produce more histamine: if you’re tall and slim with long fingers and toes, high sex drive, good teeth and a tendency to salivate a little too much, you’re a high-histamine type. Which means you’re more likely than most to struggle with insomnia. But all of us can get stuck in a high histamine cycle when life is very demanding or exciting.
Taking the occasional antihistamine to aid sleep when your routine has been disrupted is an acceptable solution for most of us, but long term reliance is best avoided. Antihistamines also tends to leave you with morning drowsiness which is very annoying.
If you’re stuck in a sleepless rut, you might want to consider more natural strategies to reduce night time histamine levels. Here are some:
Methionine, an amino acid found in good levels in eggs, fish and poultry, has the ability to combine with histamine and help the body excrete it. So a high protein supper can help.
Magnesium deficiency – fairly widespread in the UK population – promotes the release of histamine; so top up your supplies by making sure you eat plenty of dark green leafy vegetables. Or consider taking a supplement (see below).
Vitamin C is nature’s antihistamine and can work wonders to detoxify histamine levels. You can score a double whammy by taking a supplement of Magnesium Ascorbate (that’s magnesium combined with vitamin C) before bedtime. One or two 1000mg tablets should do the trick.
It goes without saying, I hope, that if your sleeplessness is due to intractable life problems that are not being resolved, then some coaching could also help you find a more rested state of mind.