We can’t have a Thanksgiving dinner every night, but tryptophan — the sleep-enhancing amino acid that comes with the turkey and trimmings — is found in other foods as well. And consuming foods with tryptophan will help your body produce serotonin and melatonin, the two substances that propel the body to sleep. Walnuts, for instance, are a good source of tryptophan.
Magnesium is a mineral needed for quality sleep as well, and here another type of nut comes in handy. Almonds are loaded with magnesium. A study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine found that, when one’s magnesium level is low, it makes it harder to stay asleep.
Dairy products with their calcium help the brain utilize the tryptophan also found in cheese, milk, yogurt and the like to manufacture melatonin. You can also have cereal with milk before bed. The milk’s calcium will help, as will the carbohydrates found in the cereal. Remember the old wives’ tale about drinking a glass of warm milk before beddy-bye. Now you know why it helps.
Having a salad with dinner is a good sleep-aiding option as well. Lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative powers similar to opium. One sleep expert even recommends simmering lettuce leaves in a cup of water and then adding some mint to sip before going to bed.
Don’t try this if you’re struggling with high blood sugar levels, but pretzels and corn chips will spike your blood sugar and insulin levels, which in turn will help tryptophan enter your brain and bring on sleep. White rice is also high on the glycemic index and will help spike your blood sugar and insulin.
Fish like tuna, salmon and halibut are high in vitamin B6, which your body needs to produce both melatonin and seratonin, so you may want to start having fish for dinner.
Eating tart cherries or drinking cherry juice before bed will also help you fall asleep. Studies have shown that cherries naturally boost your level of melatonin.
Let’s not overlook Chamomile tea. Drinking Chamomile tea increases your level of glycine, a chemical that relaxes your nerves and muscles and acts as a sort of sedative.
These foods and substances can help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep more soundly, but as always, if you have persistent trouble sleeping, you should seek professional help.