Food Can Heal Insomnia

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insomnia_cFew things are more miserable than lying awake, frustrated and tired, when everyone else is sleeping soundly. Here is our advice: get out of bed, put your slippers, and head for the kitchen. There's good evidence that what you eat before going to bed can help turn out the lights on insomnia.

 

Sometimes when life gets hectic, we all found ourselves wishing that there were more hours in the day. Unfortunately, at times, we get our wish - at the expense of our sleep.

Few things are more miserable than lying awake, frustrated and tired, when everyone else is sleeping soundly. Insomnia is usually temporary, caused by too much coffee, perhaps, or anxiety about tomorrow's work. But sometimes insomnia really sticks around - not just for days, but for weeks, months, or even years. After a few nights staring at the ceiling, you may feel as if you'll never be rested again.

Get out of bed, put your slippers, and head for the kitchen. There's good evidence that what you eat before going to bed can help turn out the lights on insomnia.

When you put food in your stomach at night, you should be able to sleep better. Eating draws blood into the gastrointestinal tract and away from the brain. And if you draw blood away from the brain, you're going to get sleepy.

This doesn't mean that stuffing yourself at bedtime will send you off to dreamland. But having a light snack just before bedtime will help give your body the message that its time to nod off.

Have you ever wondered why you always nod off in front of the television after Christmas or Thanksgiving feast? Hopefully, it's not because of the company.

Traditional holiday foods such as turkey and chicken are very high in amino acid called tryptophan, which has been shown to affect the part of the brain that governs sleep. Dairy foods are also high in tryptophan.

The body converts tryptophan into serotonin, which is then converted into melatonin. Both melatonin and serotonin make you feel relaxed and sleepy. For tryptophan to be most effective, however, it's important to get it in combination with starches. When you eat starches - a bagel, for example - the body releases insulin, which pushes all amino acids except tryptophan into muscle cells. This leaves tryptophan alone in the bloodstream, so it's first in line to get into the brain.

Obviously, you don't want to stuff yourself with turkey before climbing into bed at night. But having a glass of milk or a piece of cheese at bedtime will boost your levels of tryptophan, which will make getting to sleep a little bit easier.

Until recently, scientists though that melatonin was only produced in the body. As it turns out, however, this sleepy-time hormone is also found in a variety of foods, such as oats, sweet corn, rice, ginger, bananas, and barley.

Even though scientists have identified a few key substances that help improve sleep, there's simply no substitute for having an overall healthful diet. So the better your diet, the better your sleep is likely to be.

Studies have shown, for example, that when people don't get enough iron or copper in their diets, it can take longer to fall asleep, and the sleep they do get may be less then refreshing.

The easiest way to get more of these minerals in your diet is to put shellfish on the menu. Lentils, nuts, and whole-grain foods are also good sources of iron and copper.

Magnesium is another mineral that's essential for good sleep. It's been shown that having low magnesium levels will stimulate brain-activation neurotransmitters, which leads to overstimulation of the brain. Not getting enough magnesium is especially common in the elderly, since they may be taking medications that block its absorption.

Good sources of magnesium include dried beans such as pinto and navy beans and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard. You can also get magnesium from soybeans, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, and almonds.

Finally, getting plenty of B vitamins in your diet may help take the edge of insomnia. The body uses B vitamins to regulate many amino acids, including tryptophan. Niacin is particularly important because it appears to make tryptophan work even more efficiently. Lean meat is an excellent source of all the B vitamins, including niacin. Canned tuna is another good source, with 3 oz. providing 11 milligrams of niacin, 55 % of the Daily Value.


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