Poor sleep isn't only a nuisance, it's also dangerous for health. Currently, over 50 million Americans suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders. When we are sleep deprived, the risk of diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular disease increases, immunity falters, and our waistlines expand. As anyone who has suffered from insomnia knows, lack of rejuvenating sleep creates mayhem in personal and professional lives, while also jeopardizing ultimate well-being.
The good news is that we don't have to be at the mercy of erratic sleep patterns. With a few wise food choices, we can overcome insomnia and sleep easy.
Food and the quest for solid sleep
Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D. and CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, classifies food into two categories: "sleep promoters" and "sleep stealers." Anecdotal evidence and scientific research have found that certain types of edibles encourage a better night's rest, while others contribute to disrupted dream time.
Cherries - One of the best foods you can eat to sleep more soundly, cherries are a natural source of melatonin - a hormone that regulates sleep/wake cycles. A handful of fresh cherries or a glass of tart cherry juice half an hour or so before bedtime can help ease you into restful slumber.
Honey - Natural sugars found in honey drive tryptophan into the brain, where they are then converted to serotonin - a neurotransmitter that encourages relaxation. Liver glycogen stores are replenished as well, thereby limiting the release of sleep-disrupting cortisol and adrenaline in the early morning hours. Take two tablespoons of raw honey
one hour before bedtime.
Ingesting small amounts of a high-glycemic food in the evening helps to foster a good night's rest. According to Health magazine:
"A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming jasmine rice four hours before bedtime cut[s] the amount of time it took to fall asleep in half when compared with eating a high-glycemic-index meal at the same time interval."
The researchers speculate that high-glycemic foods, such as jasmine rice, increase the availability of tryptophan in the brain.
Bananas - Rich in magnesium, potassium and sleep-inducing carbs, bananas are an excellent snack shortly before bed. As an added perk, potassium supports cardiovascular health and cognitive functioning.
Sweet potatoes - Another exceptional source of potassium, sweet potatoes assist in relaxing the muscles and provide the complex carbohydrates which fuel a peaceful night's rest. Other food-based sources of potassium include lima beans and papaya.
Herbal teas - A solid sleep-promoting ritual, herbal teas like valerian, chamomile, catnip and motherwort can ease you into a blissful slumber. Brew up a relaxing blend and enjoy a cup or two in the evening.
Moreover, avoid sleep-disrupting foods late in the day. Steer clear of high-fat or high-protein meals, which are an absolute sleep killer. And give a wide berth to stimulants like coffee, tea, soda and chocolate. Spicy meals in the evening will disturb sound sleep as well.