If you have insomnia and are looking for natural remedies, have you considered the foods that you eat? Yes, your nutrition can give you better sleep!
Some foods can beat insomnia, while other foods will cause insomnia. Find out here what to eat and what to avoid for a better night's sleep.
1. Snack sensibly before bed
While large amounts of food close to bedtime will harm your sleep, a small snack can actually help you sleep. The best snack for sleep purposes is one which contains both carbohydrates and tryptophan (an amino acid which promotes sleep).
Foods which are rich in tryptophan are legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), dairy products, soy milk, nuts, and seeds.
Some examples of how to pair tryptophan-rich foods with carbohydrate-rich foods to make a snack are: peanut butter and crackers, pumpkin seeds and pita chips, cheese and apple slices, cereal and soy milk, and yogurt with a little muesli mixed into it.
As you can see, these snacks are tasty and are quick and easy to make. Furthermore, they are also healthy for you.
Think of these snacks not merely as food, but rather as food which will help you sleep properly at night.
2. Say goodbye to caffeine in the afternoons
Although this may be hard to do, you owe it to yourself to avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evenings. Even if you're craving that coffee in the mid-afternoon, say no. You'll thank yourself at bedtime when you're able to drift off to sleep peacefully.
Because coffee is a stimulant, it will keep your body awake and your brain alert. Caffeine may seem so tempting when you're tired at work, but it's counterproductive to your sleep that evening. You'll make a surprisingly big difference to your sleep if you cut out caffeine in the afternoons and evenings. Better yet, phase it out altogether if you feel you can do so.
Even if you don't drink coffee, you may be surprised at how common caffeine is in other foods and drinks. Some of these caffeine-containing items to avoid are: tea, chocolate, cocoa, and some energy drinks. Even if you believe you are immune to the effects of caffeine, you should still avoid it in the afternoons and evenings. This can make a bigger improvement to your sleep than you may think.
For those of you who love their coffee and can't imagine living without it (you're not alone!), here are some tips.
In the morning, allow yourself one cup of coffee. You'll still get your daily indulgence - just not at times when it will harm your sleep the most.
Switch to decaf coffee in the afternoons. This strategy can be helpful in giving your taste buds the enjoyment of coffee without keeping yourself awake at bedtime. Switching to decaf can also be helpful in ensuring you're still involved in the group if drinking an afternoon coffee is part of your workplace culture.
To combat mid-afternoon mental slump, instead of coffee suck on a mint for convenient instant alertness and a fresher feel to your day.
Learn to view caffeine cravings as a symptom of poor sleep - but not as a solution to poor sleep. In other words, when you cut out caffeine from your afternoons, make sure you're going to bed earlier and making other sleep improvements. With those changes in place, you'll find you won't miss caffeine quite so much.
Try some new beverages instead of coffee. Yes, if you're a true coffee lover you may be sceptical of this, but remember you won't know what you like if you don't try it. For new drinks, consider trying caffeine-free herbal teas (many of these promote sleep anyway), fruit juice, a smoothie, or warm almond milk.
3. Eat foods which promote melatonin production
Melatonin can be thought of as a 'sleep hormone'. Our bodies produce melatonin levels which are high in the evening and night and are lower during the daytime. Those who have trouble sleeping may not have the correct levels of melatonin. Therefore, you might benefit from foods which boost melatonin production.
Starting with those which have the biggest effect, these foods are (see reference 1):
- Sour (tart) cherries
- Mustard seed
- Ginger root
- Barley grains
- Rolled oats
Of these foods, tart cherries were far and away the best source of melatonin, with a large gap between that and the next best food. Tart cherry juice concentrate is even more effective than tart cherries themselves (see reference 1) - most likely because the nutrients are in a more concentrated form. So in terms of effectiveness, you'll get a lot more melatonin from drinking a little tart cherry juice concentrate than eating a similar amount of cherries, or walnuts, or anything else on the list.
Did you notice that some of the melatonin-rich foods on this list are also foods we saw earlier that were good as bedtime snacks? For the best effect sleep-wise, try some of these 'super-foods' which help with tryptophan production and melatonin. Some of these are: walnuts, mustard seed and peanuts. These will be especially effective at helping you sleep.
4. Mighty magnesium
You may not immediately think of minerals when you think about improving your sleep. But a magnesium deficiency has been shown to prevent sleep and relaxation at night. Even a mild deficiency of magnesium can cause these problems.
To combat this, be certain to eat foods which are rich in magnesium. Starting with those which have the most magnesium, these foods are (see reference 2): spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, pumpkin seed, summer squash, and turnip greens.
In addition to increasing the amount of magnesium in your diet, these foods are very healthy in many other ways, so it will benefit you to add these to your diet.
While daytime nutrition may seem far removed from night time sleep, the reality is that these are intertwined. If you're experiencing sleep problems, use these nutrition tips to help your body get the rest it needs.
Of course, nutrition is just one part of the equation, although an important part. Consider also changing your mattress to a comfortable, all-natural latex mattress. A new mattress can provide plenty of ease, comfort and rest. In this busy world, that's quite an advantage.
1: "Everything You Need to Know about Melatonin and How to Get it From Everyday Foods" in The Healer's Journal, April 2013.