What we eat plays a significant role in how we sleep. Being sleep deprived for extended periods of time leads to lethargy, loss of concentration, irritability and premature aging; and that is just scratching the surface of the repercussions associated with not getting enough sleep. But for those who suffer from insomnia, there are alternatives to popping sleep aids, which have been shown to be habit forming.
Changing our diets can serve to ease symptoms of insomnia naturally; thereby reuniting us once again with the beloved Sandman!
- Rediscover the Bedtime Snack
While it is inadvisable to eat a heavy meal before hitting the sheets, a small meal in the evening can offer some calming effects. The best bedtime snacks contain both carbohydrates and the amino acid tryptophan, which is a natural sleep aid. Foods that are abundant in tryptophan are dairy products, soy milk, legumes like chickpeas and lentil, nuts and seeds. The reason tryptophan should be consumed with carbohydrates, is because carbs make tryptophan more available to the brain; further explaining why a big bowl of pasta makes us feel drowsy. Fantastic bedtime snack options are a piece of whole grain bread with almond butter or a bowl of whole grain cereal with almond milk.
- Cut the Caffeine
Caffeine is a well known stimulant and it comes by that title honestly, as it increases nervous system activity for hours; so avoiding all caffeine sources six to eight hours before you plan on going to bed is paramount in an attempt to conquer insomnia naturally. Coffee is the most common source of caffeine, however, other culprits are chocolate and energy drinks; but the little known caffeine culprits are guarana seeds, kola nuts and yerba mate. So be sure to check the labels of the foods you are eating if insomnia is an issue.
- Get Hormonal
Melatonin is secreted by the body and it serves to regulate sleep patterns. It is available in supplement form; but before you reach for the bottle (the pill bottle) look to tart cherries, grapes and walnuts to provide it naturally. A glass of tart cherry juice and a handful of walnuts would make for a delicious bed time snack.
- Mineral Makeover
Studies have shown that a marginal magnesium deficiency can excite the brain and impede relaxation at night. Anxiety reducing magnesium can be found in abundance in leafy green vegetables, wheat germ, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, black beans and almonds; having a meal with one or more of these ingredients serves to bring on the ZZZ’s when you are ready to hit the sheets.
I have said it before and I will say it again, the food we eat has the power to transform our lives; and for those who suffer from mild to moderate insomnia, small changes in diet can significant impact how and when they rest their heads!