Alcohol, Insomnia, and Banana Tea. Sounds like a dare. Well, the Banana Tea was a dare. From my mom. She heard about it on Dr. Oz and, for Mother’s Day, requested that I be the family Guinea Pig and try it out. But first, an explanation.
I like to drink. I mean, most people do, especially here in New Orleans. I’m no stranger to a nightcap or two before bed. But when I turned 30, I began to notice that the final drink of the night was always the one that would wreck my sleep and erase my ability to wake up at 5 AM for my daily meditation. Turns out, there’s a great explanation for this effect – just ask WebMD!
A new review of 27 studies shows that alcohol does not improve sleep quality. According to the findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while, but it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
And the more you drink before bed, the more pronounced these effects. REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after we fall asleep. It’s the stage of sleep when people dream, and it’s thought to be restorative. Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, and rob you of needed ZZZs.
“Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night,” says researcher Irshaad Ebrahim. He is the medical director at The London Sleep Centre in the U.K. “Alcohol also suppresses breathing and can precipitate sleep apnea,” or pauses in breathing that happen throughout the night.
The more a person drinks before bed, the stronger the disruption. One to two standard drinks seem to have minimal effects on sleep, Ebrahim says.
“The immediate and short-term impact of alcohol is to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, and this effect on the first half of sleep may be partly the reason some people with insomnia use alcohol as a sleep aid,” Ebrahim says. “However, this is offset by having more disrupted sleep in the second half of the night.”
Alcohol tricks people into thinking they are getting better sleep, says Scott Krakower, DO. He is an addiction specialist at North Shore-LIJ in Mineola, N.Y. “People who drink alcohol often think their sleep is improved, but it is not.”
REM is the more mentally restorative type of sleep, says Michael Breus, PhD, a sleep specialist in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Alcohol is not an appropriate sleep aid. If you rely on alcohol to fall asleep, recognize that you have a greater likelihood to sleepwalk, sleep talk, and have problems with your memory.”
Some tips to improve sleep habits include:
- Get regular exercise, but no later than a few hours before bed
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine in the evening.
- Reserve the bed for sleeping and sex only.
- Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature.
- Set regular wake and bed times.
Bananas are rich in potassium and magnesium, but what most people do not know is that the banana peel has, even more, potassium and magnesium than the banana itself…Potassium and magnesium are beneficial for the nervous system and are great for relaxing the muscles. In fact, magnesium is the most important mineral for muscle relaxation and can reduce muscle cramps along with other aches and pains.
When you are stressed, guess which mineral is depleted from the body first? You guessed it! Magnesium. You need magnesium to cope with stress, allowing you to relax and fall asleep.
Cinnamon is great because it is one of the best ways to balance blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are balanced, your hormones can function in a way that allows for better sleep. If your blood sugar levels are off, then you may have energy at night, or be tired during the day.
David Wolfe taught me how to make it. Basically, cut the ends off a clean organic banana, boil it whole in a small pot of purified or spring water for at least 10 minutes, add cinnamon (or boil with a cinnamon stick) and stevia, then enjoy. I’ve only tried it twice, but I think it helps.
Here’s the fearless Gadget Trish with a video about it…