If you find that it's hard for you to fall asleep in the evening or that you wake up in the middle of the night, a small adjustment to your diet may be in order. While some foods make it harder to get a good night's rest - think high fat, spicy, and caffeine - others may actually help. If you're a restless sleeper, try eating any of these foods a few hours before bedtime and be ready for a personal visit from Mr. Sandman.
- Honey - Add a drizzle of honey to warm milk or herbal tea a few hours before you plan on heading to bed. That little bit of glucose lowers levels of orexin, a neurotransmitter that raises your level of alertness.
- Whole Grains - If you're feeling a little restless before bedtime, reach for a piece of whole grain bread or toast. Whole grains encourage the production of insulin, which helps neural pathways get tryptophan - an amino acid that acts as a sedative - to the brain.
- Bananas - Skip the Ambien; reach for a banana instead. Bananas are high in potassium, a mineral that is essential to a having a deep night's sleep. Bananas also contain tryptophan and magnesium, making this fruit nature's little sedative.
- Beans - B vitamins have long been used to treat insomnia and help alleviate stress and anxiety. If you're looking for a natural vitamin B complex, try beans - they contain a nice smattering of different B vitamins like B6, niacin, and folate.
- Dairy - It's true, that warm glass of milk your mom gave you when you were a kid does help you sleep better. Dairy is a natural source of sleep-inducing tryptophan, and the calcium content of dairy has a nice booster effect on the amino acid.
- Nuts - A handful of nuts are a great bedtime snack because they help boost serotonin levels in the brain and are an excellent source of magnesium and tryptophan. Walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds contain the highest levels of the natural sedative.
- Oats - Melatonin is a hormone that helps to control the body's sleep/wake cycle. Oats are a natural source of melatonin. If you need a snack before bed, have a small bowl of oatmeal or a healthy oat cookie.
- Poultry - It's not just turkey that contains sleep-inducing tryptophan; all poultry does. If I'm hungry before bed, I'll nibble on a piece of chicken or put sliced turkey onto a piece of whole wheat bread. Both are great foods to help you sleep!
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