If you suffer from insomnia, you know how torturous the sleepless nights can be with the constant tossing and turning and nervous glances at the alarm clock. And when you finally do manage to fall asleep, your alarm clock goes off, leaving you exhausted, cranky and unmotivated to start your day.
The good news is that there are natural sleep aids out there that go beyond miserably counting sheep. Many foods contain natural, sleep-lulling properties, making them extremely helpful when it comes to getting over a bout of insomnia and improving the quality – and quantity – of your sleep.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a condition where a person has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or both. People that suffer from insomnia often wake up in the morning feeling unrested, and this affects their ability to function optimally throughout the day. Insomnia can take a toll on your energy levels, weaken your immune system, increase your risk of chronic health conditions and obesity, and can negatively affect your work performance and even your relationships. While most people struggle with temporary bouts of insomnia at some point in their lives, there are some individuals that suffer with chronic insomnia all of the time, which can significantly impact their quality of life.
Causes of Insomnia
There are many causes of insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic, including: stress, anxiety, depression, certain medications, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, certain medical conditions, changes to your work or home routine, poor sleep habits, eating too much before bedtime, and even a “learned” form of insomnia (resulting from excessive worrying about not being able to sleep). Additionally, as people age, changes in hormone levels, activity level and general health also increase incidences of insomnia.
Whatever the cause of your insomnia, before you reach for dangerous sleeping pills, try addressing it with some natural sleep aids that are gentler on the system and promote a more natural and restful quality of sleep. Incorporating specific foods into your diet can be an easy and successful way to nip insomnia in the bud once and for all.
Foods as Natural Sleep Aids
There are certain foods that can act as natural sleep aids and help you to get a more peaceful and restful nights’ sleep.
- Fish. Most fish contains Vitamin B6, which is essential for melatonin production; melatonin is a sleep promoting hormones
- Bananas. While they are mostly known as a good source of potassium and magnesium, bananas also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which converts into 5-HTP in the brain. 5-HTP is a brain chemical that converts into serotonin and melatonin, both of which are neurological substances that promote sleep.
- Cherries. Cherries are another natural food source of melatonin that promotes better sleep. Cherry juice and dried cherries can also be used, when cherries are not in season.
- Dairy Products. Milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. should be added to your diet to ensure that your calcium levels are adequate. There is some evidence that individuals that have low calcium also tend to have sleep difficulties.
- Dark, Leafy Greens. Spinach, kale, etc. also contain high levels of calcium, helping you maintain good sleeping patterns.
- Fortified Cereals. These cereals often contain added calcium and Vitamin B6, both of which will help with sleep promotion.
- Whole Grains. Eating whole grains will help to ensure that you are eating enough magnesium, as low levels of magnesium have been shown to interrupt the sleep cycle, making it difficult to sleep through the night. Pairing whole grains with a small amount of tryptophan containing protein can also encourage better sleep, as they encourage an insulin response that helps the sleep-inducing tryptophan to successfully get into the brain.
If you suffer from insomnia, try adding some of these natural sleep aids into your diet. The addition of a few simple foods could make the difference between another night of helplessly staring at the ceiling, and a night of restful, pleasant and healthful sleep.