Sleep isn't just for beauty anymore. A good night's sleep improves health and makes getting through the day's tasks easier and more enjoyable. Calcium consumption not only plays a key role in maintaining skeletal health but can also help ensure a deep, restful sleep. Eating low-fat, calcium-rich foods helps the brain relax, slow down and sleep.
Calcium and Tryptophan
Tryptophan is an amino acid your brain uses to make serotonin and melatonin. These two substances are neurotransmitters that slow down nerve transmissions, relaxing your brain and body and encouraging deep sleep. Calcium is necessary for the brain to convert tryptophan into melatonin, according to pediatrician and author Dr. William Sears. Dairy products, like the time-honored glass of warm milk, contain both tryptophan and calcium, making an ideal bedtime snack to get a restful night's sleep.
Calcium is a major component of bones and teeth but also plays vital roles in signaling your muscles to contract. It also constricts and relaxes blood vessels and transmits nerve impulses, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Nerve cells have calcium channels that act like gates in their membranes, regulating calcium flow in and out, triggering each cell to take action. Alcohol consumption can interfere with the calcium channel operation in the thalamus, the region of the brain that controls sleep function, according to researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Sleep is disrupted when the thalamus calcium channels cannot properly operate to produce the brain waves associated with restful sleep.
To fulfill its vital functions, your body will remove calcium from your bones when a deficiency exists in your blood and cells. This will help bring a good night’s sleep. Food, rather than supplements, is the best source of calcium, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dairy products are not necessarily the best dietary source of calcium. Harvard School of Public Health explains that leafy green vegetables and legumes are high in calcium, low in fat, and contain significant amounts of the magnesium, phosphorous, Vitamin K and other nutrients necessary for dietary calcium absorption.
Calcium deposits can reduce arterial flexibility, leading to coronary artery disease. Even one extra hour of sleep each night can reduce your arterial calcium deposits, according to a study in the December 2008 issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association." Extra sleep can also reduce your blood pressure, which also lowers your coronary artery disease risk. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol and going to bed and rising at the same time each day can help ensure that extra healthful hour of sleep.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Calcium
- Harvard School of Public Health: Calcium and Milk, The Bottom Line
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Calcium
- AskDrSears: Foods That Help You Sleep
- Journal of the American Medical Association: Short Sleep Duration and Incident Coronary Artery Calcification
- Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center: New Finding About Alcohol and Sleep