Sleep is essential downtime that the body needs to restore its smooth functioning. How good we feel during our waking hours depends largely upon how well we sleep at night! Sleep helps recharge the nervous system and rebuild vital organs. But there are some of us who routinely have trouble tuning off and enjoying a good night's sleep. Prescription sleeping pills are habit forming and impair calcium absorption. Fortunately, insomnia can be addressed by working on your diet and opting for relaxing and sleep inducing foods.
There are certain foods that truly calm and soothe us, either because of the specific nutrients they provide or the particular source of energy they offer, getting us into restful mode. Sleep is regulated by hormones melatonin and serotonin, two neurotransmitters necessary for good sleep. Melatonin regulates the body's circadian rhythm and serotonin informs the brain that it's time to sleep. Melatonin hormone is secreted by the pineal gland which is located in the brain.
The pineal gland secretes melatonin in response to tryptophan - an essential amino-acid (about which we will cover in greater detail below) that is essential for producing melatonin. Apart from consuming foods that have tryptophan, foods high in complex carbohydrates are also useful as they release insulin and help tryptophan to enter into the brain. Few foods provide these ingredients naturally and help in fighting insomnia. Let us explore some of the foods that lull us into sleeping easily.
Certain fish, particularly salmon, halibut and tuna are an excellent source of tryptophan, a natural sedative. They are also rich in vitamin B6, needed to make melatonin. Fish in your diet, especially shrimp can promote good sleep. Here is a simple tuna salad that can be eaten on its own or slipped under a sandwich.
1 can solid white tuna packed in water, drained
1/4 cup creamy salad dressing of your choice
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
Chopped celery and shallots few diced cucumbers
Salt and fresh pepper a pinch
Take a mixing bowl and combine all the ingredients. Take a large spoon and mash large chunks of tuna to blend the fish well in the salad. Enjoy the salad as a side dish or in a sandwich. Stir with a fork to combine, breaking up any large chunks of tuna fish as you go. Add more mayo if you'd like smoother, creamier tuna salad. Adjust ingredients to taste.
Turkey contains sleep-inducing essential amino acid tryptophan in large quantities. Consuming turkey for an evening meal helps your body wind down easily. Here is an easy turkey recipe that not only promises good sleep but also satisfies your taste buds.
Roasted Turkey Sandwich
4 thinly sliced roasted turkey
5 stems of cilantro
5 thyme sprigs
salt and black pepper
8 slices bread
1/4 cup of Mayonnaise Tomatoes
sliced 2 spoons of butter
Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Butter both sides of the bread slices with one teaspoon butter and toast the bread slices. Arrange the slices in a plate. Spread a layer of mayonnaise on each slice. Layer the sandwich with lettuce, tomato, thyme sprigs, cilantro, roasted turkey and cheese slice. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Place the second slice of bread on top. Heat them again on the skillet for 45 seconds to one minute, or until cheese is melted.
The tryptophan in the hummus helps produce sleep-promoting hormones serotonin and melatonin.
Hummus vegetable wrap
Adding hummus into whole wheat wraps along with few grilled vegetables makes for a satisfying meal. Moreover, whole wheat wraps contain complex Carbs that boost insulin levels and also ensure tryptophan availability to the brain.
Include bananas in your evening supper and get ready to doze off ... This humble fruit is a good source of potassium and magnesium both of which are natural muscle relaxants and aid in soothing nerves. Banana also contains tryptophan, which gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP in turn is converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin.
Sipping warm milk before hitting the bed has been an age old remedy for sleep disorders. Milk is an excellent source of calcium, which helps the brain produce melatonin. Milk also contains tryptophan that encourages sleep.
Cinnamon milk with honey
Boil a cup of milk and immerse a cinnamon stick into it. Leave it closed for 10 minutes. Now spin a tablespoon of honey into it and enjoy the beverage. Cinnamon and honey too have a sleep inducing properties in them.
Consuming oatmeal helps in releasing the sleep-inducing melatonin in the brain. It is also rich in magnesium and zinc. Magnesium is considered the 'anti-stress" mineral and is a natural tranquilizer.
Cherries are an excellent source of melatonin. Melatonin can cross the blood-brain barrier easily and has a soothing effect on the brain neurones. This in turn helps in providing respite from insomnia. Sweet fresh cherries can be eaten all alone or combined with other fruits for a fruit salad.
Herbs for a good night's sleep
Inositol, a member of the Vitamin B group helps in inducing sleep. It is called 'nature's sleeping pill'. Inositol helps in regulating insulin signal transduction, intracellular calcium concentration control, serotonin and blood cholesterol level. Adequate levels of Inositol ensure healthy hair growth and better control of estrogen level. Inositol is found in cantaloupe melons, oranges, nuts and beans.
Chamomile is a nerve restorative that soothes anxiety and stress. It is high in magnesium, calcium, potassium and Vitamin B.
St John's Wort is often advised for those suffering insomnia and depression. It takes a couple of weeks to be able to notice the effects. But it might interfere with certain prescription medications.
Kava is a Polynesian root that has relaxing and anxiety-easing properties. A dose of about 300 mg guarantees required amount of kavalactones. The roots can be ground and added to water to make a brew.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is a precursor of melatonin and serotonin hormones as well as the B3 vitamin - Niacin. It is named as essential indicating that the body can not synthesize the amino acid on its own. Serotonin plays an important role in the body for sleep, mood, appetite and cognitive functions like memory and learning. That is the reason why L-Tryptophan, a stereoisomer (form) of tryptophan supplementation is so popular to induce sleep and to improve a sense of wellbeing. A study has found that L-Tryptophan supplementation from the day of ovulation to the third day of menstruation (the luteal phase) in healthy women resulted in relieving PMS symptoms.
Tryptophan is found in sesame seeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds. Walnuts are also rich in melatonin and tryptophan. Chocolate is rich in tryptophan and phenylethylamine that boost endorphins production. It is also a rich source of magnesium, a natural sedative. Other rich sources of magnesium include legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, wheat bran, brewer's yeast and whole grains. Avoid consuming carb-rich snacks close to bedtime as the sugar rush and drop promotes release of adrenalin, glucagon and cortisol which will cause you to remain awake.