There is no perfect list of foods that induce sleep since everyone’s sleep problems are unique. There are foods that are suggested by researchers because they contain tryptophan an amino acid that works with our body to produce hormones that regulate our sleep/wake cycle. Bananas, milk, turkey, Chamomile tea, potatoes, nuts, cereal, whole grain breads and pumpkin seeds are just a few. Bananas not only have been known to help some people sleep it also contain potassium an electrolyte, a substance that conducts electricity in the body along with other minerals that can smooth muscle contractions that have been associated with the sleep disorder restless leg syndrome (RLS) and leg cramps or “charley-horses” that afflict pregnant and older adults during the night. Ripe bananas can be beneficial to someone that suffers from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and constipation, but make sure the bananas are ripe as green bananas can cause constipation and gas.
Mom had it right when she gave you a glass of warm milk right before bedtime. Milk is rich in tryptophan. If you are lactose intolerable, soy milk works just as well. Turkey along with other high carbohydrate foods take awhile to be digested before tryptophan can be absorbed into the system. Eating before going to sleep raises the metabolic rate and diverts energy towards the digestion of food which can keep us awake longer. Hunger can also deter sleep, but keep it light as to not to over burden your body with extra work at night. Eat sleeper foods full of tryptophan to build relaxing neurotransmitters that will help calm your mind. If you eat waking foods that are high in proteins and sugars make sure you combine them with carbohydrates to deter energizing your mind. Missing out on eating the sleep-inducing effects of tryptophan will set off a roller coaster effect of raising and plummeting blood sugar followed by a release of stress hormones that will definitely keep you from falling asleep easy. Calcium can contribute to the benefit of eating tryptophan foods by producing melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. It helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is an internal 24-hour “clock” that plays a critical role in when we fall asleep and when we wake up. This is why dairy products that contain both tryptophan and calcium are at the top of the list of foods that induce sleep.
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Sleeper foods include: dairy products like cottage cheese, cheese and milk, along with soy products, seafood, meats, poultry, whole grains, beans, rice, hummus, lentils, nuts, eggs and seeds such as sunflower, sesame and pumpkin.
The best foods to eat right before bedtime should be high in carbs and calcium, medium to low in protein. The idea is to feel full, but not bloated. Try to avoid fats and sugars. Bedtime snack foods can be; baked potato, mandarin oranges, strawberries, whole wheat, all-air popcorn and cereal. Carbohydrate, calcium combinations can include; apple pie and ice cream, whole grain cereal and milk, hazelnut and tofu, oatmeal/raisin cookies with a glass of warm milk or peanut butter sandwich with sesame seeds. Remember if you’re going to have a high carbohydrate it will take an hour before the tryptophan will be absorbed into the body and reach the brain.
Meals that are high in carbohydrates and medium to low in protein will help you to relax and prepare your mind and body for sleep. Try these sleeper meals; pasta with parmesan cheese, scrambled eggs with cheese, tofu stir fry, hummus on whole wheat pita bread, seafood on pasta with a side of cottage cheese, meat or poultry with veggies, tuna salad sandwich, bean chili (not spicy) and salad with turkey or tuna chunks, sesame seeds and whole wheat crackers.
Lighter meals are better for a restful night’s sleep as large meals overwork your digestive track, cause indigestion, heart burn and acid reflux which will not only keep you awake will also wake you up during the night. Hot and spicy food should be avoided also as they will contribute to heartburn and gastro-esophageal reflux. If you are going to have a large meal…don’t dine after nine.
The content in List of Foods that Induce Sleep is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for sleep disorders and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.