Tryptophan -- as in turkey -- is legendary for being a snooze food. But actually, not so much. Other foods are far better at pulling the shades down over your eyes. True, when tryptophan's combined with other nutrients (B6, B12, folic acid), it helps make serotonin, the sleep hormone. The trouble is, it's hard to get enough tryptophan into your brain to put you to sleep. Other smaller, more nimble amino acids tend to crowd it out, says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of The Food & Mood Cookbook: Recipes for Eating Well and Feeling Your Best.
What to do? Eat more carbohydrates. They release insulin, which reduces the amino acids in your blood stream -- except for tryptophan. With the competition gone, whatever tryptophan is around can enter your brain and make serotonin. Even better, the carbs also lower your blood sugar, which also makes you drowsy. (Still with us? Great. We're done.)
So if you're often staring at the ceiling for more than 15 minutes, try one of these light, high-carb snacks an hour before bedtime. If you like, wash it down with something warm and soothing, like herbal tea (chamomile, lemon balm, valerian) or warm milk . . . but it's the carbs that count.
10 Top Sleep Boosters
1. Half a whole-wheat English muffin or raisin bagel drizzled with honey
2. Two cups of air-popped popcorn
3. A small slice of angel food cake topped with berries
4. A frozen whole-wheat waffle, toasted, with maple syrup
5. Half a cup of pretzels
6. Fresh strawberries dunked in a little fat-free chocolate syrup
7. Half a cup of pasta topped with marinara sauce
8. A small (4 ounces) baked potato topped with salsa
9. A handful of oyster crackers and a piece of fruit
10. Canned mandarin oranges sprinkled with crystallized ginger
The benefits of a good night's sleep go well beyond upbeat moods and lots of energy. Regularly getting 6 to 8 hours can make your RealAge as much as 3 years younger.
What's your go-to bedtime snack?
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