We all suffer from the occasional restless night, but when tossing and turning becomes part of your regular evening routine, the problem may be more serious. Over time, insomnia can take a dangerous toll on your health. Luckily, making certain important diet and lifestyle changes can help get your sleep patterns back on track and have you resting easy.
Among the best natural sedatives is tryptophan, an amino-acid component of many plant and animal proteins. Tryptophan is one of the ingredients necessary for the body to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter best known for creating feelings of calm and for making you sleepy. How sleepy? A 2005 study of people with chronic insomnia found that after three weeks, those who ate foods with high amounts of tryptophan with carbohydrates or who took pharmaceutical-grade tryptophan supplements had improvements on all measures of sleep — and the food sources worked just as well as the supplements.
The trick is to combine foods that have some tryptophan with ample carbohydrates. That’s because in order for insomnia-busting tryptophan to work, it has to make its way to the brain. Unfortunately, amino acids compete with one another for transport to the brain. When you eat carbs, they trigger the release of insulin, which transports competing amino acids into muscle tissue . . . but leaves tryptophan alone, so it can make its way to the brain.
BEST LOW-PROTEIN/HIGH-CARB FOODS FOR SEROTONIN PRODUCTION:
Whole-grain breads, crackers, and cereal; whole-wheat pasta; brown rice, wild rice; oats; fruits, especially mangoes, bananas, grapes, papaya, oranges, grapefruit, and plums; vegetables, especially spinach, yams, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, corn, winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.), green peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, asparagus, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, pumpkin, celery, beets; milk (fat-free, 1% low-fat), yogurt (fat-free, low-fat), low-fat ice cream, low-fat frozen yogurt