A Recipe for Deep Sleep
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A Recipe for Deep Sleep

It took me a really long time to figure out a sleep cycle that works for me. If someone had told me when I was 16 that one day I would wake up before the sun and love it, I would have called them crazy. But sleep is an absolutely essential process, and I've found - after college and family and career - that nothing ruins my day more than getting a bad night's sleep.

Nearly everyone has padded into the kitchen for a glass of milk in the early hours of the morning, plagued by insomnia. There are three types of foods researchers generally agree aid drowsiness:

  • Dairy
  • Light protein
  • Carbohydrates

Of course, one of those three - dairy - is something I'd urge you to avoid whenever possible. While light protein is good, carbs too close to bedtime might not be the best idea if you're working towards a weight loss goal.

Luckily, if you're looking for foods to sleep better, there are three essential nutrients we can get from healthy, Beyond Diet friendly sources that will help you fall asleep and, more importantly, sleep through the night.

  • Tryptophan: If you've ever felt the need to take a long nap right after finishing Thanksgiving dinner, you've experienced the effects of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin in your brain. Serotonin can then be converted into melatonin, the "sleep hormone" excreted by your pineal gland throughout the night. Tryptophan occurs naturally in dairy and meat products - probably not a good bedtime snack. But there are foods to sleep better that both contain tryptophan and work as nighttime snacks, like seeds, nuts, bananas, and honey. So sweeten a cup of chamomile tea with a dollop of honey and relax.

  • Vitamin B6: A deficiency in this vitamin has been linked to insomnia. Ironically, taking too much B6 may lead to sleeplessness. To avoid tossing and turning by getting your daily dose of vitamin B6 from food, rather than a supplement. It's abundant in most healthy diets. Try fish, bananas, chickpeas, and sunflower seeds.

  • Calcium and Magnesium: Calcium and magnesium work together to promote healthy teeth and bones, but they're also essential to getting a good night's sleep. Calcium helps the body produce melatonin, while magnesium calms and relaxes your muscles. Calcium is available in dairy products, as well as in broccoli, spinach and sardines. Get your daily dose of magnesium from leafy greens, nuts and beans.