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Calcium. The secret sleep agent.

That glass of milk (along with the cookie) that Mommy gave at bedtime was probably providing you with more sleep assistance than you knew way back when!  It's also chock full of calcium, which is a real sleep enhancer. Bedtime Network's nutritionist, Gayle Reichler RD, gives the low down on restoring sleep cycles by restoring calcium levels; good for your bones and teeth too!  

Three cheers for moo juice; and just in case you're not a fan, Gayle's got a list of other goodies that will also help deliver you to the land of Nod.  How do you feel about sardines?

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Did you know that you need adequate Calcium for your body to produce deep sleep cycles?  Calcium is used by the brain to produce the sleep inducing substance melatonin. In one study, published in the European Neurology Journal researchers concluded that disturbances in sleep, especially the absence of REM deep sleep or disturbed REM sleep, are related to a calcium deficiency. Restoration to the normal course of sleep was achieved following the normalization of the blood calcium level.

The best way to make sure you are getting enough Calcium is to make sure you have three servings of Calcium Rich foods daily or to take a supplement for every serving you don't get on a daily basis.

Below is a list of serving sizes of foods that have 300mg. of Calcium. For every serving of one of these foods that you miss, take one 500mg supplement of Calcium with food.

Rich Sources of Calcium

Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8oz - 415mg of Calcium

Orange juice, Calcium Fortified, 6oz. - 375mg of Calcium

Yogurt Fruit, low fat, 8 oz. - 338-384mg of Calcium

Mozzarella, part skim 1.5 oz. - 333mg of Calcium( there is about 1 oz. on a slice of pizza)

Sardines canned in oil with bones - 325mg of Calcium

Cheddar Cheese, 1.5 oz. - 307mg of Calcium

Skim milk, 8oz. - 299mg of Calcium

Reduced fat milk, 2%, 8oz - 293mg of Calcium

Whole milk, 8oz. - 276mg of Calcium

Tofu, firm made with Calcium Sulfate - 253mg of Calcium

Calcium the Natural Sleep Aid

Take your Calcium supplement the right way and your body may absorb much more of this sleep aid, bone-building nutrient. By implementing a few simple eating strategies with savvy vitamin supplementation you can increase the amount of Calcium you will absorb from your supplement. For example, "you can double your absorption of Calcium if you replete your low levels of Vitamin D," according to Bess Dawson-Hughes, MD at the Jean Meyer US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. Follow the helpful tips below to enhance absorption of Calcium from your supplements:

  • Choose a supplement that dissolves well -  Both Calcium citrate and Calcium carbonate are good supplement choices, and are absorbed well when taken with a meal. Also, check the bottle to make sure the manufacturer adheres to the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) standards by a display of a USP symbol or wording on the bottle.
  • Down the right dosage - Don't take more than 500 mg at each meal or between meals; your body can only absorb small amounts at one time (recommended dosages per day are 1000 mg. of Calcium daily or 1500 mg. if you are over 50 or have low bone density).
  • Don't miss your daily dose of Vitamin D -

Give yourself 10 -15 minutes in the sun three or more times a week and your body will naturally make Vitamin  D.  But watch the sunscreen during that time, a sunscreen with a protective factor of eight or more inhibits Vitamin D production. Food sources of Vitamin D include fortified milk and cereals, fatty fish and cod liver oil. If you choose to supplement with Vitamin D a daily dosage between 400IU - 800IU's is recommended

  • Take it with Vitamin C to improve absorption - Calcium fortified orange juice is a good way to get added Calcium in your diet, as is taking your supplement with citrus fruits and fruit juices such as orange, grapefruit, and cranberry.
  • Fruits and Vegetables enhance absorption. Magnesium and potassium in the produce help the body retain Calcium -  good sources of both nutrients are bananas and artichokes.
  • Couple it with dairy. The lactase (natural milk sugar), Calcium, Vitamin D and phosphorous in milk help to enhance absorption of Calcium in your system.
  • Time it right. Take Calcium at least 3 hours apart from your Iron and Magnesium supplements. Each mineral will compete with the other for absorption into your system.
  • Avoid excessive consumption of animal protein, sodium, caffeine, soda, fiber, and alcohol, they all contribute to a decrease in calcium absorption and utilization.

As always, when you start taking a new supplement, let you physician know, just to make sure it doesn't interfere with any of your medications.

Eat Well and have a good sleep!



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