Insomnia is an extremely common problem among Americans. If you suffer from this common sleep disorder, it may be time to reassess your diet. Here are some foods that may help you get a better night’s sleep.
Do you have problems falling asleep? Sleep problems are no laughing matter. Studies estimate that up to forty percent of Americans have difficulty falling asleep on a regular basis with women and older people being affected most often. Although there are over-the-counter medications for treating chronic sleep problems, the treatment can be worse than the problem. Many of these medications give a “hangover” effect the next day making it difficult to function. The medical community is often too quick to prescribe sleep medications rather than suggesting lifestyle changes that might provide a safer term solution to the problem. One area where little attention has been focused is on diet. Are there foods that can make you sleepy? The answer seems to be a tentative “yes”. Although eating a single food is unlikely to cure a long-term case of insomnia, it’s one factor when combined with other positive lifestyle habits that can give results. Here are some foods that may help with insomnia.
They make your mouth pucker, but there’s some evidence that tart cherries can also help you get a better night’s sleep. Tart cherries, particularly the Montmorency variety, are high in melatonin, a hormone which helps to control the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is naturally released by the pineal gland in the brain to promote sleep at night, but levels of this hormone drop with age, increasing the risk for sleep problems. You can benefit from the sleep inducing effects of tart cherries by buying tart cherry concentrate from your local natural food market and enjoying it each evening before bedtime. Choose a concentrate that’s organic with no added sugar, if possible.
Tryptophan Rich Foods + Carbohydrates
Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in sleep induction. By providing the body with tryptophan rich foods, more serotonin can be synthesized to help with sleep. Some good sources of tryptophan are turkey breast, chicken breast, soybeans, and beef. Many dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese are also high in tryptophan. One caveat. Most of the tryptophan in the diet doesn’t easily cross the blood-brain barrier. Eating foods high in carbohydrates along with tryptophan rich foods can increase the amount of tryptophan that actually reaches the brain. A good bedtime snack that will maximize the amount of tryptophan that reaches the brain is a bowl of hot oatmeal with skim milk and a small amount of honey. Using skim instead of whole milk helps to keep the fat content down. A high fat meal before bedtime can slow down digestion and make insomnia worse. Honey also helps to facilitate movement of tryptophan into the brain where it can exert its benefits.
Magnesium Rich Foods
Some studies have shown that magnesium rich foods can reduce the incidence of insomnia, particularly in the elderly. Magnesium appears to alter sleep by its affects on neurotransmitters in the brain. Some of the best sources of magnesium are green, leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, black beans, and halibut. Adding a handful of pumpkin seeds to your nightly bowl of oatmeal will give it additional sleep inducing effects.
Of course, you’ll want to stay away from caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol may cause sleepiness, but it’s associated with frequent awakenings and poor quality sleep so it’s best to avoid it.
The bottom line? Before reaching for the sleeping pills try some of these foods that can make you sleepy. It’s a safer option.