1… 2… 3… 4… How many of us have tried counting sheep, or other things that never seem to work, just to get some sleep at night? Insomnia can strike a person for a good many reasons, including: worry or fretting, stress or anxiety, racing thoughts, sleep cycles being off kilter (light therapy can sometimes help), hormones or metabolic reasons, and even due to being overly tired, among other things. However, there are two natural things you can do to help you sleep… take certain amino acids, and perform certain breathing exercises.

Studies have shown that increasing oxygen levels through deep breathing exercises, contrary to popular belief, can actually help induce sleep rather than wake you up. This is due to the connection with CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels in the body, which I will go into later.

Interestingly, amino acids can also help relieve insomnia. Two of the common 22 amino acids, in particular, are able help calm the mind and induce rest in a weary but aggravated body.

Insomniacs need oxygen, and amino acids for serotonin

Adults with insomnia were studied and given relaxation techniques, including deep breathing exercises (do not forget about bedtime yoga!) as part of information included in complementary and alternative medicine or naturopathic medicine techniques. These insomniacs, after being informed of these easy activities at bedtime, had higher rates of continued use.

Deep breathing exercises aside, it is not just increasing oxygen levels alone that help you relax and slumber, but reducing CO2 levels in the body. Amino acids actually play a vital role in this process.

In a fascinating cross-species study that compared plants, insects, animals, and humans, the levels of CO2 and anxiety were investigated. Anyone who has woken up in the night due to a panic attack knows what I am speaking about here. CO2 levels are higher in correspondence with anxiety or negative emotions.

There is a neurological ‘fear circuit’ that is not entirely understood, but evidence reviewed on the amino acid GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) may help modulate anxiety that is CO2 induced. That is, if you take the GABA amino acid, it could help calm the mind, anxiety, and troubling thoughts so you can sleep.

Another amino acid that is known to be a natural sedative is tryptophan (like what makes you tired from turkey meat), plus serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter) and melatonin also help you induce sleep.

GABA and tryptophan are commonly available as supplements at health food stores and drug stores as a sleep aid. So breathe deeply and reduce the amount of CO2 in your body, plus take amino acid GABA and/or tryptophan to complement this for a good night’s rest.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23243402

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18485466

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22652369

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22365651