Getting a great night’s sleep is one of those things that used to plague me. I used to have one of those brains that started talking as soon as my head touched the pillow. It was quiet most evenings until it was time for bed and then it happened. Like the small child that needs nothing until you put them in bed. I want a drink! I have to pee! Just one more story… and so it went. But my brain wanted to enter into a theoretical discussion on quantum mechanics. At 1:00 in the morning.
I was put on, but not at the same time, xanax, valium, lunestra, restoril, lorazepam, and a host of other pharmacological witches brews. Always the same effect. Knocked out faster than a shanghaied sailor, waking up the same sailor with a hangover. The drugs just had to many side effects for me.
So I would try to pry open my peepers with double shots of espresso. That was always a wonderful cardiac treat. Do you know what I mean? Palpitations… the whole 9 yards.
But sleep is so important to a healthy mind-body-and yes spirit, that many of us will go to great lengths for the allusive golden goose. Entire the natural ways to fall asleep.
When you hear about serotonin, melatonin, 5-hydroxy L-Tryptophan (5-HTP), and tryptophan, they usually sound like they are totally different things you can try to utilize to help sleep. Really, they’re all quite related to one another. If it was a perfect world, this is what would happen when you go to sleep-
You need to consume tryptophan, and essential amino acid, to start the process, and you need to get it from an outside source. In a two- step process that tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP, which is then converted into serotonin.
The serotonin then converts to melatonin, which makes our body’s biological clock run smoothly and tell us when it is time to go to sleep and when it’s time to haul yourself out of your cozy bed. It is the master clock, if you will, making us sleepy-or alert-at the proper times, because melatonin produced is released in higher amounts the darker it is, while the amount lessens with more light. Since tryptophan is the only amino acid that can convert to serotonin, it is also the only one that can ultimately up your melatonin.
Some high Tryptophan foods from animal sources include:
- Red meat including beef, veal, and lamb
- Game meat including elk, caribou, and boar
- Pork products including ham and sausages
- Dairy products including milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Poultry meat including turkey, chicken, duck, quail, and pheasant
- Eggs including whole eggs, powdered eggs, or egg whites
- Fish and shellfish including tuna, cod, lobster, crabs, and shrimp
Some high Tryptophan foods from plant sources include:
- Seaweed (spirulina)
- Soybeans and derived products including tofu and soy sauce
- Legumes including kidney beans, peanuts, and soybeans
- Cruciforms including cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and collard greens
- Nuts including walnuts, cashew, pistachios, almonds, and hazelnuts
- Seeds including sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds
A new study was published in the European Journal of Medicine shows that tart cherry juice can improve the quality of your sleep, your sleep duration, and help reduce the need for daytime napping. The research team found that adults who drank two 1 ounce servings of tart cherry juice per day experienced a demonstrable increase in sleep efficiency as well as a 39 minute increase in average sleep duration.
Also fresh and dried cherries are one of the only natural food sources of melatonin, the chemical that controls the body’s internal clock to regulate sleep. Researchers who tested tart cherries and found high levels of melatonin recommend eating them an hour before bedtime or before a trip when you want to sleep on the plane.
Eating a banana 30 minutes before bedtime will help you fall asleep. Potassium and magnesium are natural muscle relaxants, and bananas are a good source of both. They also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan and we know this helps you increase serotonin for a better nights sleep.
Finally one of my favorites, dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains serotonin, which relaxes your body and mind. Not to mention the other health benefits dark chocolate has too.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of sleepy time foods. But it is a start. Now a secret. Do not over do the eating at bedtime, it can have a reversed effect especially if you eat the wrong thing. Also it can cause weight gain, so no burgers and pizza before bed. I have made this mistake because I knew if I loaded up on carbs I would become so sleepy. The scale let me know it wasn’t a good idea.
Have an idea for a newsletter article? We would love to hear from you. Contact me “Eli” at [email protected] Breathe well… Sleep tight.