Article first published as Beat Insomnia: Food and Drink that can Promote Sleep on Technorati.
If you suffer from insomnia, it can be useful to include sleep-inducing foods in your evening meal or just before going to bed. As a sufferer of insomnia in the past, I’m always drawn to articles like the one below, just in case it suggests something new to try.
A study at Northumbria University has revealed that drinking tart cherry juice (‘tart’ indicates less sugar) can increase the levels of melatonin in your body which can improve sleep (Metro Newspaper, A Cherry Good Way to Sleep, 2 Nov 2011). All you have to do is drink it twice a day.
I did think that it would be easier to just take melatonin supplement, but then I read the co-author Dr Jason Ellis’s comment: “although melatonin is available over the counter in other countries, it is not freely available in the UK”.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a chemical that controls the body’s internal clock to regulate sleep and not only do cherries have a very high level of this, but they are also one of the only natural food sources, as explained in an article by Melanie Haiken ‘5 Foods to Help you Sleep’ (source: Health Conscious Travel). There are also many other foods that contain melatonin and some also produce sleep-inducing chemicals as explained below.
Carbohydrates with your Evening Meal or as a Midnight Snack
Food containing carbohydrates cause your blood sugar level to rise and your body then produces insulin to bring it back down causing a sudden tiredness. Starchy carbohydrates like bread, brown rice, pasta or potatoes are a good choice to eat with your evening meal, as they also release relaxing brain chemicals – tryptophan (an amino acid) and serotonin (the happy hormone) along with the insulin, explains Helen Forster, author of Detox Solutions. This coincides with Melanie Haikin’s article where she suggests that toast is a perfect midnight snack as it contains carbohydrates (which gives you the tiredness you need a short while after eating it).
The same is true for a bowl of oatmeal. Even though you may have heard that the slow release of carbohydrates in oats makes it a good breakfast choice (as it keeps you going all morning), oats are also a natural rich source of melatonin.
It was a surprise to me that bananas aid sleep too, and it will be something that I will now reach for somewhere between my evening meal and bedtime. Firstly their potassium and magnesium content are natural muscle relaxants and secondly they contain tryptophan which, after a few conversions in the brain, turns into serotonin. Lastly, they contain melatonin.
So with all the stress of daily life, a glass of warm milk or a banana before bedtime might be a good idea, which may not have been an obvious choice as they are mainly breakfast items. Before you go rushing out to buy cherry juice or stock up on oatmeal and bananas, why not try a simple cup of camomile tea an hour before bedtime; this has worked for me for years (although I have started having a banana with it this week and have in fact slept very peacefully).
Have you got any food or drink suggestions which help you sleep?
Until next time…