Have you ever laid in bed, exhausted from the day’s activities, and yet still can’t fall asleep?
Do you wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard, impossible even, to get back to sleep?
Have you tried cutting out caffeine and other stimulants from your diet, and still can’t sleep?
Have you resorted to prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids to get you through the night?
If you have trouble sleeping, you aren’t alone. It’s estimated that over 20 million Americans experience some form of sleep problems, and over 40 million suffer from a chronic sleep condition. From trouble falling asleep to the inability to enjoy a full night’s rest, there exist more than 70 different sleep disorders that force many people to seek intervention. But most people don’t consider that, aside from sleep aids, there are many foods to help you sleep.
Why Try Foods Over Other Treatments to Help You Sleep?
Losing a night or two of sleep doesn’t seem like a big deal for most people, but too many sleepless nights can quickly take a toll on many aspects of your body. Lack of sleep can affect your mood, focus, physical appearance, and memory, and can ultimately lead to an increased risk in heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
These are serious consequences, but are ones that can be avoided when you introduce enough of the right foods into your diet.
People who continuously experience sleep troubles often turn to mainstream medicine to get quick relief. Doctors can prescribe medications that can make you sleep, or you can grab an over-the-counter sleep remedy. These seem like viable options to people who are desperate for any amount of sleep, but medications also come with their own sets of risks, like dependency, that might make you worse off than if you had forgone them altogether.
Prescription drugs and supplements often carry some type of dependency risk factor, tricking your body into lowering its own natural production of chemicals that help induce sleep. Sometimes, sleeping pills can help you get such an incredible night’s sleep that you’ll never want to go to bed without them again. But long-term use isn’t usually recommended.
Granted, most people know that foods and drinks like soda, coffee, and chocolate can greatly boost your inability to fall asleep, even when your body feels tired. But just as there exists stimulating edibles to keep you alert and moving, there are also several foods to help you sleep.
And unlike potentially addicting sleeping pills, these foods are 100% safe, non-addicting, and prescription-free.
Before you make a mad dash to the pharmacy to help you catch your zzz’s, try incorporating some of these foods to help you sleep more soundly:
Walnuts are a solid source of the amino acid Tryptophan, which helps produce serotonin and melatonin to help you sleep. Each 1-ounce serving of walnuts contains about 170 mg of tryptophan, so about 5-6 servings would equal that of an OTC supplement. In addition, the high quantity of tryptophan in walnuts can also help subside some of the moodiness generated by lack of sleep.
Researchers from the University of Texas discovered that walnuts contain their own source of melatonin, another chemical in the brain responsible for helping you sleep. Melatonin is available as an OTC supplement, but walnuts help you get it naturally.
Another food rich in tryptophan, there’s a reason why people want to snooze right after a hearty Thanksgiving meal. Turkey contains between 250-310 mg of tryptophan per 3-ounce serving, which is about the size of a pack of playing cards.
Granted, most other meats contain about the same amount of tryptophan as turkey. But turkey, being a lean meat rich in protein, iron, zinc, and potassium, can also give you the benefit of better skin and teeth (due to the high amount of phosphorus) and lower cholesterol.
Cheese, Milk & Yogurt
You may have heard that a glass of warm milk can help you sleep, but honestly any dairy products can do the trick. Calcium-rich cheese, milk and yogurt helps the brain use the tryptophan to create sleep-inducing melatonin.
Here’s a recipe for yogurt you can make in your own kitchen.
You need calcium in your diet regardless of your sleep habits. Calcium can help prevent bone damage or loss, and helps regulate your muscle movement. It’s recommended that you take in between 1,000 mg to 1,200 mg of calcium daily. Eight ounces of plain, low fat yogurt typically contains around 475 mg of calcium, while an 8-ounce glass of milk yields around 276 mg. Don’t take more than 500 mg of calcium at each meal, and be sure you take it with some Vitamin C to increase absorption.
It’s been found that all varieties of cherries are high in melatonin, which is crucial in inducing sleep. The best way to get your fill is to drink a glass of tart cherry juice or eat one cup of whole cherries before you turn in for the night.
In addition, cherries can have a positive effect on joint pain and arthritis. If pain caused by arthritis is the culprit keeping you up at night, cherries could help alleviate both problems.
Boasting even more trytophan than turkey, fish such as tuna, cod and halibut can help you sleep. A four-ounce portion of yellowfin tuna packs more than 300 mg of tryptophan. Try this yellowfin tuna recipe.
In addition, you can also get the added benefit of essential Omega-3 fatty acids that can help with depression, hypertension, joint pain, and arthritis.
The natural sugars in honey give your insulin levels a slight boost, which helps tryptophan easily enter your brain. Honey helps build a steady supply of glucose to get your body through the night, and contributes to melatonin release.
Add a spoonful of honey to your chamomile tea, or slurp it straight from the spoon to set yourself on a path to a more restful sleep.
This recipe combines honey with yogurt and fresh fruit to give you a tripe threat in combating sleeplessness.
They might be tiny, but chia seeds pack about 202 mg of tryptophan into every two-tablespoon serving. Chia seeds are also rich in calcium, another helpful aid in sleeping.
Add a sprinkling of chia seeds to any of the above recipes. It doesn’t change the flavor, but will give you all the benefits.
Pretzels produce a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels, which reduces the time it takes you to fall asleep. Just like with honey, this burst also helps tryptophan enter your brain.
You can buy pretzels at the store, or make your own healthier pretzels at home with this recipe .
Rice’s high glycemic index will, just like honey and pretzels, helps shorten the time it takes you to arrive in dreamland.
Both brown and red rice are high in tryptophan, with about 101 mg of it in each half-cup. Brown rice is also a good source of calcium and magnesium, two essentials that can promote a better night’s sleep.
Packed with potassium and magnesium, bananas can provide a quick remedy to help you get your nightly rest. A deficiency in magnesium has been attributed to relestless leg syndrome (RLS) and nighttime muscle cramps, two common occurrences that can hinder your night’s sleep.
You can get 32 mg of magnesium in a single banana, but you will need around 310-320 mg of magnesium per day to avoid deficiency.
This fun recipe for banana rice pudding combines bananas, rice and calcium-rich rice milk, three foods that can help you sleep.
Featured photo credit: parkimedes via youtube.com