Food that Helps You Sleep

Pictured: Fiana Fitzgerald after a good nights sleep. 

The recommendation to get at least 8 hours of sleep a day is not new. Yet recent research suggest that not getting enough sleep, even short term sleep deprivation, can lead to mental stress, attention deficit, and may stimulate a person to consume more food, which ties in to additional studies finding a correlation between inadequate sleep and obesity.

The following are Zzzzz tips:

Be Melatonin-Smart

  • Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep and synchronize the circadian rhythym. It is a powerful antioxidant that is naturally produced in the body and starts reaching its peak serum levels after nightfall, around 9 pm, and last up to 12 hours. Foods high in melatonin are: tart cherries and/or tart jerry juice, tomatoes, olive oil, wine/grapes with skin, beer and walnuts. 
  • For supplements. General recommendations are: 0.5- 3 mg 45 minutes before sleep. Always consult your doctor since side effects can arise including morning grogginess, sleepiness and small changes in blood pressure. 

Emphasize L-Tryptophan 

  • Think turkey! (perfect timing ;) The amino acid tryptophan is the precursor to the hormone serotonin, which is said to produce relaxation and stable sleep. Other tryptophah-rich food are: chicken, soybeans, tuna, shrimp, salmon, milk, cheese, cow’s yogurt, beans and cashews.  

Highlight Complex-Carbohydrates 

  • Carb-rich foods help L-tryptophan function better in the body. Foods such as whole grain bread, pasta, whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, etc), and sweet potatoes aid a good nights sleep. 

Go Herbal 

  • Chamomile tea especially is said to create a “hypnotic-effect” in sleep-deprived rats. Yet, many herbal teas (caffeine free) can help settle the stomach and induce relaxation.  

AVOID: caffeine/energy drinks (especially after 3 pm), heavy alcohol consumption, and big meals before bed (at least 3 hours before bedtime). 

Sample Zzzz Meals: 

  1. Turkey & spinach sandwich on whole grain bread with a handful of grapes. 
  2. Salmon with brown rice + green salad with olive oil. Served with a glass of red wine. 
  3. Natural yogurt sprinkled with tart cherries and walnuts. Served with chamomile tea. 

TheWellness Spring/Summer 2012
Integrative Strategies for Cancer Patients, World Scientific 2012