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Blog: Do Better Food Choices Equate to Better Sleep?

Having trouble getting proper rest? Look at your diet and you may be surprised.

Recent statistics show that at least 58 percent of Americans have experienced symptoms of insomnia a few nights a week or more. It has been revealed that those who get at least 7 hours a sleep per night have less mortality rates than their non-sleeping counterparts.

A disturbing trend is being seen with the increased usage and dependency on prescription medications, such as Ambien for insomniac patients. Others are being treated with antidepressants or Benadryl!

But commonly overlooked by people and conventional medicine is the effect that food has on our ability to go to sleep or rest peacefully.

You know how everyone falls asleep after the big Thanksgiving dinner? It's not really a myth; turkey has a high concentration of an amino acid called tryptophan. Once tryptophan crosses your blood-brain barrier to gain access to your brain, it is used to make a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin has a calming effect on the body, promoting sleepiness, calm and relaxation.

Without normal amounts of tryptophan in the body (your body does not produce this, you can only get it from foods), your body may not be able to produce normal amounts of serotonin.

The key to promote better sleep is not by eating a turkey dinner every night but from combining a tryptophan rich food and a carbohydrate rich food. The reason for this is because tryptophan will have a difficult time competing with other amino acids to reach the brain (because there are so many other amino acids produced by the body) but when you combine it with a carbohydrate, it will cause your body to release insulin which in turn may divert other amino acids from reaching the brain. This leaves little competition for tryptophan in attempts to crossing the blood-brain barrier to reach the brain. Got all that? It sounds complex but makes perfect sense. Maybe you don't want to know the specifics of why but what exactly can you eat to promote this effect.

So, what are some good sources of tryptophan?

  • Whole grains, including rice
  • Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Miso (fermented soy beans)
  • Lentils
  • Raw dairy products
  • Eggs

When combining these with a carbohydrate rich food for an evening snack, your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep may drastically improve due to the body producing normal amounts of serotonin.

 Some ideas for combining these foods with carbohydrate rich foods:

-Wholegrain bread or pita bread with a scoop of natural peanut butter

-Pita bread and hummus

-Unsweetened whole grain cereal (no milk)

-Rice with most beans

-Hard-boiled egg on whole grain pita

These are just a few examples. Have fun trying to figure out the many combos that may work for your palate but "rest" assured, this may have a huge impact on any sleeping difficulties you may be experiencing.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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