We have all been there before, suffereing from restless nights, staring up at the ceiling fan wondering just how many hours of sleep you will get now if you close your eyes and actually fall asleep, bargaining with your brain to just afford you 4 hours just 4 hours of uninterupted sleep will let you function through your work day, make lunches for your kids and be an alright person.
From stress to lack of physical activity to the foods we are eating there are a ton of reasons why sleep might be out of your reach these days, the good thing is it doesn't need to be! By modifying some small things in your diet you will be able to find that elusive sandman in no time.
Before we get into all the wonderful foods full of nutrients to help you fall asleep and stay asleep I think it is important to just really quickly go over all the items that will keep you tossing and turning throughout the night.
Caffeine: it shouldn’t come as a surprise that something we use to give us energy and wake us up might be interfering with your sleep. Be sure to avoid caffeine, even decaffeinated coffee after 1-2pm
Cheese: especially the aged stuff (parmesan, romano, asiago, etc) have high levels of amino acid tyramine which is associated with a feeling of alertness. Be sure to avoid these old cheeses in the evening if you are to consume them.
Cured and processed meats are also full of tyramine and will cause the same undesired effects.
Spicy Foods: they are delicious, but as your last meal of the day they can keep you from having a nice restful uninterrupted sleep, because of their well known side affect “heartburn”.
Alcohol: although you may feel like you are crashing and getting a good night sleep after having a few, it is quite the opposite. Alcohol prevents the body from entering into some of the more deep stages of sleep, which means you will not wake up as rested as you could have been.
Milk Chocolate: delicious yes but also full of tyrosine, which our body then converts into dopamine, a feel good stimulant. It makes us not only want more of that delicious milk chocolate but will also stimulate your brain enough to make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.
Tomato Sauces: just like that spicy food tomato sauce because of their acidity are likely to encourage heart burn in the evening, preventing you from resting as you should
Now that we know what to avoid when we are having issues getting to sleep, lets look at some of the foods out there that will help us get to sleep and stay asleep so that our body's have the opportunity to recharge and repair:
Oatmeal: these grains trigger insulin production which help to raise your body sugar triggering you to feel sleepy. Oats are also rich in melatonin the hormone released in our brain to make us sleepy.
Almonds: They are delicious so don’t over do it. Just one handful will give you a boost of tryptophan and magnesium both of which are associated with relaxation and slowing your heart rhythm.
Raw Honey or Honey Comb: just like with the oat meal the consumption of honey triggers an insulin response, which after it wears off often makes your sleepy and ready for bed. Just be sure not to over do this one it is straight sugar.
Cherries: these little power houses are packed full of antioxidants but more importantly increase your melatonin intake. To really rev up this sleep helper eat your cherries on top of some oat meal with a handful of almonds.
Herbal teas: these are all caffeine free, and some are specifically made to assist you in falling and staying asleep. Some great options for this include: chamomile, passionflower hops and lemon balm varieties.
Dark Chocolate: Unlike milk chocolate dark chocolate helps you to fall asleep. Dark chocolate contains serotonin which like dopamine makes us feel good, but unlike dopamine has a relaxing effect on the mind and body.
Hummus: this delicious dip is an excellent source of tryptophan, munching on hummus throughout the day will help to increase your tryptophan levels which will eventually lead you to get some restful sleep.
Remember stress, daily activities, and food intake throughout the day will all play a role on your ability to fall and stay asleep. Doing what you can to reduce your overall stress levels and provide your body with some movement throughout the day coupled with some of these sleep boosting foods will have you getting those 8 hours of shut eye in not time.
My name is Brittany, I am a Holistic Nutritionist, Yoga Teacher and Certified Personal trainer. My hope is to help inspire, encourage and motivate others to live their happiest and healthiest lives.