Wed
Jul
13
2011

Foods and Herbs to Help You Sleep Better Tonight

sleep better

With today’s hectic and busy lifestyle that most of us seem to suffer from, consistently getting a good night’s sleep can be quite elusive. This being said, sleep is an essential for the human body and is required to support overall good health and wellness, both physically and mentally. More specifically, failing to regularly receive enough sleep can lead to decreases in mental alertness and performance, cognitive impairment, moodiness, stress, injury due to lack of attention, weight gain, heart attach, stroke, and poor quality of life, to name a few.

Several recent clinical studies have concluded that there are all-natural sleep aids (namely certain foods and herbs) that will promote sleep, improve the quality of your sleep, and allow you to doze more quickly without putting any other aspects of your health and wellness in danger.

Having Trouble Sleeping? – Try These Foods and Herbs

Looking to improve the quality of your sleep and hence, the overall quality of your life? Read on to rest easy and learn more about several types of foods that are ideal for improving the quality of your sleep.

Fish

Certain species of fish and seafood contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that just happens to induce sleep. The best sources include halibut, shrimp, tuna, salmon and especially cod.

High levels of tryptophan can also be found in foods such as sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, Parmesan and cheddar cheese, pork, turkey, chicken and beef.

The longstanding legend that turkey puts you to sleep thanks to its high tryptophan concentration is actually only partially true – turkey contains roughly the same amount of tryptophan per 100 grams as beef, chicken and pork, but only half as much as caribou meat, which is admittedly much harder to find for purchase.

Cherries and Cherry Juice

In one recent study, participants who drank 8-ounce glasses of tart cherry juice in the morning and evening for two weeks reported improved sleeping habits compared to those who did not. Cherries qualify as foods to help you sleep better, as they have naturally high concentrations of melatonin, a natural sleep-inducing compound.

Some people find tart cherry juice especially sour. If you fall into this category, try mixing the tart cherry juice with another type of juice such as apple, berry or pomegranate. Always be sure to buy 100% juice instead of juice cocktails, which mostly consist of water and sweeteners.

Another acceptable alternative is to simply eat a cup of tart cherries, which you can do shortly before bed to boost your chances of resting easy.

Protein/Carbohydrate Snack

Researchers believe that the tryptophan found in many protein-rich foods can be best absorbed and utilized by your body when it’s combined with carbohydrates, especially the unrefined ones founds in whole grain products.

Milk is rich in protein and contains a fair amount of tryptophan, so eating it with some whole grain cereal as an occasional pre-bed snack should do the trick. You could also try replacing a fattier dessert such as cake and ice cream with a bowl of low-fat yogurt and cinnamon granola for a similar sleep-inducing effect that will also beat late-night hunger pains.

Tea

Decaffeinated teas can be a great nightcap after a long day of work, though some varieties will make you sleepier than others. Try valerian and chamomile teas, both of which should be available in pre-bagged form at most grocery stores. If you prefer the do-it-yourself route, take four tablespoons of dried sage and steep it for four hours with a cup of hot (but not boiling) water. Reheat and drink once four hours have passed.

Lemon balm tea is even easier to prepare than sage tea, and it comes with the added benefits of decreasing agitation and improving digestion (two things that also happen to frequently get in the way of normal sleeping habits). Just steep two teaspoons of dried lemon balm with a cup of hot water for around 7 to 10 minutes and drink immediately.

Foods to Help You Sleep Better: The Bottom Line

If you’re suffering from sleepless nights, think twice before reaching for prescription sleeping pills. A number of natural, healthy foods can deliver similar results without potentially dangerous side effects. Try having cod or salmon for dinner, and pair it with whole grains as the carbohydrates help your body to absorb tryptophan, a natural sleep-inducing amino acid.

Drinking tart cherry juice or eating tart cherries can also help to regulate sleeping patterns. If you find yourself craving a late-night snack, try a bowl of whole grain cereal with cow’s milk or hearty granola with low-fat yogurt. Top it off with some chamomile, valerian, sage or lemon balm tea to seal the deal on a good night’s rest.

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