If you’re like 50-70 million other Americans who suffer from a sleep or wakefulness disorder, you might be willing to do anything you can to improve your sleep. Especially since not getting enough sleep can increase the likelihood of suffering from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity. Food is one of many factors that can influence the quality of your sleep!
Aside from the usual advice of avoiding large meals and caffeine before bedtime, there are specific foods and combinations of foods that can help promote sleep.
Melatonin is an important hormone that helps control sleep and wake cycles. It’s mainly released at night time in effort to promote restful sleep. While light is the main factor in promoting the production of melatonin, some foods actually contain melatonin. Most notable are:
Other foods help promote the production of melatonin. To produce melatonin, the brain needs the essential amino acid, tryptophan, which is most commonly associated with that post-Thanksgiving turkey coma. Tryptophan is also found in chicken, buffalo, spinach, fish, shellfish, egg whites, soy beans and their products, cheese, nuts, seeds, in addition to other protein foods.
The brain converts tryptophan to serotonin and eventually to melatonin. Carbohydrates help make tryptophan more available to the brain, which is one reason why I recommend a combination of protein and carbohydrates at an evening meal or snack to promote restful sleep. The other reason is to stabilize blood sugar and prevent low blood sugar from disrupting your sleep. Great combos include:
Instead of these common evening foods and snacks, try some of the combos I mentioned above.
Or, try this delicious homemade nut butter recipe perfect for crackers, sliced apples, roasted sweet potatoes, or dates.
CDC. Insufficient Sleep is a Public Health Problem. http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/.
National Sleep Foundation. Food and Sleep. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/food-and-sleep.
Peuhkuri, Katri, Nora Sihvola, and Riitta Korpela. "Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin." Food & nutrition research 56 (2012).
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