9 Healthy Foods That Might Fight Your Insomnia
1. NutsMany nut varieties contain melatonin, a hormone known for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Nuts also tend to be high in calming mineral magnesium as well as in tryptophan, an amino acid that can serve as a precursor to both the relaxing neurotransmitter serotonin and to melatonin itself.Some particularly good choices include walnuts, which also give you a brain-healthy omega-3 boost; almonds, which have been specifically found in rat studies to have a sedative effect; brazil nuts, which contain selenium that can help balance your thyroid hormones and thus your sleep patterns; and pistachios, which have been found to have the highest concentration of melatonin among nut-kind!
2. BananasAlong with sleepy tryptophan, bananas contain a good amount of vitamin B6, which is necessary for the body to synthesize serotonin and melatonin from that tryptophan. Naturally relaxing minerals like potassium and magnesium might give you an additional sleepy edge.However, this remedy isn't one we'd indulge in too often, mostly because of this fruit's somewhat high carbohydrate content. If you want a banana with less sugar and more resistant starch, go for a greener one!
3. MilkThough milk does have its drawbacks, it is high in a trytophan-heavy protein called α-lactalbumin. It's also high in calcium, which is necessary for the body to turn that trypophan into melatonin.
More interestingly, people who drank warm milk before bed as children may also experience a purely psychological feeling of increased relaxation and drowsiness when they revive their habit.Since nuts also made our list of sleepy foods, lactose-intolerant and vegan insomniacs could always try a nut-based milk alternative instead!
4. Herbal TeaThis may be more of a drink than a food, but it is a proven insomnia remedy that's all-natural and practically calorie-free. Since the experience of drinking the tea may be relaxing in itself, nearly any decaffeainated tea is a good bet. Even green tea, which is more often associated with energy-boosting, also contains sleep-promoting amino acid theanine.However, a particularly good choice would be chamomile tea. It contains an antioxidant called apigenin, which is known to fight toxic inflammation as well as to reduce anxiety and promote sleep.One recent study found that chammomile tea drinkers fell asleep more easily and woke up less during the night compared to a control group. Another study associated chammomile intake with both improved sleep and improved symptoms of depression. Other good tea choices for winding down include valerian, lavender, lemon balm, peppermint, and passionflower.
5. Fatty FishThe mix of Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid that fatty fish contain is a potent cocktail for ensuring a good night's sleep. Deficiencies in both nutrients have been associated with insomnia, likely because they both play a role in regulating serotonin levels.DHA omega-3 fatty acid is also known a precursor to melatonin, and studies have associated higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids with improved sleep in both children and adults. Plus, the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 may also help curb sleep-disrupting conditions like sleep apnea and arthritis.
6. ChickpeasAlong with the all important tryptophan and vitamin B6, chickpeas contain soothing complex carbs. They also contain plenty of fiber, and a low-fiber diet has, interestingly enough, been associated with lower sleep quality! If you're in the mood for a particularly fun way to get your nighttime dose of chickpeas in, you can always whip up our homemade hummus!
7. SpinachSpinach and leafy greens like it are high in calcium and Vitamin B6, two nutrients which help the brain to use trytophan to produce melatonin. Plus, spinach also contains tryptophan itself! Spinach is also low in hard-to-digest fat and high in other critical nutrients like magnesium, which might play a part in preventing sleep-disrupting leg cramps.
8. TurkeyWhile turkey isn't quite the tryptophan-powerhouse that Thanksgiving myths would suggest, it does indeed contain some of this sleep super-chemical. However, beef and other kinds of poultry actually contain just as much, and thus would probably do just as well at getting you those ZZZs. Just be sure to choose lean cuts and do away with the skin, since fatty food can interfere with sleep as well as cause weight gain!
9. Cottage CheeseIf you've gotta miss out on the options above because you're not a meat eater, don't despair! This Phase 3 approved vegetarian protein source is as rich in lean protein and high in tryptophan as the meaty foods above, and it's lower-calorie to boot!A study done using cottage cheese also suggested that consuming it as a late night snack might improve your metabolism while enhancing your muscle quality and overall health, all without causing any weight gain!
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