We’ve all been there: Lying in bed, wide-awake, cursing the coffee we had a 10 am this morning. Or perhaps it was the workout we did after work. Or maybe it’s that deadline we’ve been stressing about. For anyone that has suffered from elusive or unrefreshing sleep, you know that the smallest thing can derail a good night’s rest. The good news, however, is that small things can also improve your potential to get quality sleep. And one of those things is diet.
Foods that Contain the Sleep-Inducing Amino Acid Tryptophan
Almost certainly, we’ve all experienced the after-Thanksgiving food-coma that takes even the most energetic of us out for the count. This phenomenon is attributed to an amino acid named tryptophan, which is found in fish, eggs, dairy, and many meats including turkey. An essential amino acid (meaning that the body can’t make it and that we must get it from the foods we consume), tryptophan is used in the production of serotonin and melatonin, chemicals essential for sleep and our sleep-wake cycles. Ensuring that your diet contains sufficient levels of tryptophan can help set the stage for a good night’s sleep.
Try some of these foods which contain high levels of tryptophan.
- Seeds and nuts
Calcium & Magnesium’s Role in Sleep
We all know that magnesium and calcium are necessary for healthy bones, but they also play a key role in loads of other bodily functions such as sleep.
One of seven essential macrominerals, the body requires large quantities of magnesium that, as with tryptophan, we must acquire through our diet. A healthy magnesium level not only regulates our metabolic health, mood and stress, it also promotes deep, restorative sleep. What’s more, a deficiency of the mineral has been linked to insomnia and frequent late-night awakenings.
Calcium aids in the brain’s use of tryptophan, which, as we established above, is essential for the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and the sleep/wake regulating chemical serotonin. Research has shown that calcium deficiency is linked to sleep disturbances, including poor or insufficient REM sleep.
Foods that are high in calcium and magnesium include:
- Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, mustard greens)
- Dark chocolate
- Whole grains
Other Sleep-Supporting Nutrients & Foods
In addition to tryptophan and calcium and magnesium-rich foods, there are numerous other foods that support healthy sleep.
- Lettuce, for instance, contains lactucarium, a nutrient with sedative properties.
- If you prefer grains over greens, pretzels, corn chips and rice all have a high glycemic index, which helps tryptophan enter the brain.
- Other sleep-inducing foods contain B6, which plays a key role in helping you fall asleep. Foods that are high in B6 include tuna, halibut, salmon, and pistachio nuts.
- If you prefer sipping a cup of tea before bed, chamomile and passion fruit tea are great alternatives. Chamomile tea is associated with increased amounts of glycine, which is known for its relaxing properties and as a mild sedative. Passion fruit tea contains harman alkaloids that act on the nervous system and help to promote tiredness.
If you continue to suffer from poor sleep despite diet changes and other efforts, you may be experiencing a more severe sleep problem that needs to be diagnosed by a qualified professional. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia, and others require effective treatment to restore quality sleep and prevent significant related health issues. Contact Sleep Dallas today to schedule a consultation.