Insomnia: 10 Foods That Will Help You Sleep Better

Insomnia: 10 Foods That Will Help You Sleep Better

People who have insomnia often feel as if they are alone. It is easy to feel as if you are the only person awake when you’re tossing and turning at 3 am, hoping to catch a few hours of sleep before your alarm goes off and you need to get up and get to work.

If you suffer from insomnia, you are not alone. The truth is that insomnia is an epidemic.

Insomnia Statistics

In order to understand how widespread insomnia is, let’s take a look at some statistics:

  • On average, people sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago.
  • 10% of adults in the United States have chronic insomnia.
  • One in three people will experience insomnia during their lifetimes.
  • The numbers are even higher for older people – 40-60% of people over 60 experience difficulty sleeping.
  • Depression and insomnia go hand in hand – 90% of people who suffer from depression also have trouble getting enough sleep.
  • Women are almost twice as likely to have insomnia as men are.
  • About 10 million people in the United States depend on prescription medication to help them sleep.

The effects of insomnia go far beyond sleep deprivation. People who don’t get enough rest are more prone to gain weight – there’s a directly correlation between obesity and insomnia. Not only that, but a huge number of people – 60% according to one survey – have driven while feeling sleepy, and sleep-related accidents kill about 1,500 people every year. Insomnia can also contribute to anxiety, difficulty with memory and a host of other problems.

Insomnia and Nutrition

Fortunately, you don’t have to resign yourself to sleeplessness – or to taking prescription medications with a host of nasty side effects. It turns out, there’s a direct link between the fuel you take in during the day and your ability to sleep at night. When it comes to getting enough sleep, you really are what you eat.

One thing that can have an effect on your ability to fall asleep is not controlling your blood sugar. In addition to contributing to thinks like obesity and diabetes, high blood sugar can boost your energy, making it more difficult for you to rest. Low blood sugar can be just as bad for you – when your levels are too low, your body release cortisol, which causes the release of stored glucose into your bloodstream.

The same goes for caffeine consumption. Many people rely on the caffeine in coffee, tea and soda to keep them going throughout the day. But if you drink too much of it, too close to bedtime, you may pay for it with a sleepless night.

Perhaps the most important nutritional consideration when it comes to sleep, though, is a deficiency of magnesium. Magnesium is an important mineral, sometimes known as “nature’s relaxant.” It helps to counteract the effects of calcium – but while most people get more than enough calcium in their diets, magnesium deficiency is fairly common. Magnesium is also a natural stress-reliever.

One popular sleep aid is melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by your body, but many people take melatonin pills before bed. As an alternative, you can eat foods that boost your body’s natural production of melatonin.

10 Foods to Reduce Insomnia

Since magnesium intake and melatonin production play such a big role in regulating sleep, let’s take a look at 10 foods that can help you get a good night’s sleep.

Salmon, tuna and halibut have a healthy dose of Vitamin B6, which your body needs in order to produce melatonin. These types of fish also include heart-healthy Omega-3. Try to get 2-3 servings every week.
Chickpeas. Chickpeas – also known as garbanzo beans – are very high in Vitamin B6 as well. Eating a small amount can be enough to improve your sleep. If you don’t like plain chick peas, remember they are also the primary component of hummus.
Many people think of bananas as an energy-boosting food, and they are. But they also include magnesium, potassium and tryptophan (the ingredient in turkey that makes everyone fall asleep after Thanksgiving dinner.) Together, these three nutrients can make a big difference in your ability to fall asleep.
Cherries or tart cherry juice. One study showed that participants who drank 2 glasses of tart cherry juice a day had less difficulty falling asleep. You can get the same effect from eating fresh cherries – but if high blood sugar is something you struggle with, pick another option.
Whole grains. Whole grains don’t pose the same risk of some carbohydrates in terms of elevating blood sugar, because they contain fiber. They’re also very high in magnesium. Eating oats, barley or buckwheat can give you the amount you need to get a good night’s sleep. You can even get your daily dose by eating whole wheat pasta or cous cous.
Almonds are a great snack that pack a magnesium-rich punch. Eat a handful and reap the benefits of a full night of sleep. Drinking a glass of almond milk can have the same effect.
Yogurt or milk. Actually, any dairy product will do. Milk contains both calcium and tryptophan – and the calcium actually helps your body to use the tryptophan more effectively. It turns out that drinking a glass of warm milk before bed really can help you sleep!
Like almonds, walnuts are also high in magnesium – but that’s not all. They also help boost your body’s production of melatonin, as well as being a source of dietary melatonin.
Decaffeinated green tea
Decaffeinated green tea. Green tea contains an amino acid called theanine, which promotes relaxation and helps to reduce stress. Make sure to drink decaffeinated tea, though, because otherwise the caffeine will counteract the theanine.
Dark leafy greens. Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are nutritional superstars, and one of the nutrients they contain is magnesium. Try having a salad for dinner, or include a side salad with whatever else you’re eating.

Eating foods that boost your magnesium levels and help your body produce more melatonin can help you get a better night’s sleep. Even better, these foods are all packed with other nutrients that will help improve your overall health – and they don’t carry the risks associated with prescription sleep medications. If you incorporate these foods into your daily diet, you’ll be sleeping better in no time.

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