Which Foods Can Help You Deal Better With Insomnia?


5 Min Read

Getting to sleep (and staying asleep) doesn’t have to be a daily struggle if you eat the right foods. Consuming a diet rich in Tryptophan (chocolate, honey, seafood, eggs), Carbohydrates (cereals, oatmeal), Vit B6 (bananas, tuna), Mg (almonds, spinach) amps up your serotinin and melatonin (sleep inducing neurotransmitters) production, and helps regulate your sleep.

Counting sheep may not always be the solution to your sleeping trouble! Insomnia can wreak havoc on your life, leaving you drowsy during the day, lethargic, and less than refreshed when you wake up. It has been widely established that there is a connect between the food you eat and the various sleep parameters. Getting to sleep (and staying asleep) doesn’t have to be a daily struggle if you eat the right foods. If you are someone who suffers from insomnia, the constant battle and dread that come with the nightly struggle for sleep are more than familiar. The good news is some foods might help ease your way to slumber.

Power Down With Tryptophan

Tryptophan found in foods like chocolate, honey, turkey, cooked cereal, seafood, sesame seeds, cottage cheese, and eggs aids serotonin production, a sleep-inducing neurotransmitter. Serotonin helps calm you down and makes you drowsy. If you consume a diet rich in tryptophan, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime, it could help you with your insomnia. One study found that consuming tryptophan-rich food along with some carbohydrates can result in a significant reduction in the time you are awake each night. Both objective and subjective insomnia measures showed improvement in test subjects who consumed these foods. Significantly, having a dietary source (protein) of tryptophan was found to be as good as pharmaceutical grade tryptophan.1

Relax With Complex Carbohydrates

Indulge in your favorite breads, cereal, and oatmeal to get serotonin production up and relax your body, slowing nerve activity. Once you are asleep, the serotonin is converted to melatonin, in the dark, and this helps regulate your sleep.2

Fight Restless Leg Syndrome With Iron-Rich Red Meat

Red meat and foods rich in iron can help anyone whose anemia is causing restless leg syndrome, which keeps them from sleeping well. However, be sure to consume your protein at lunchtime, because the protein digestion can meddle with your sleep patterns at night.3

Calm Those Nerves With Magnesium – Eat Your Greens

Eating your greens isn’t just good for keeping your mother happy – they are also a great source of magnesium. The mineral, found in cabbage, spinach, coriander, soya bean, and peas, is a muscle relaxant and calms nerves. These in turn cause drowsiness and the onset of sleep. Not getting enough magnesium has been implicated in anxiety problems, cramps, and constipation, all of which can worsen your insomnia. Almonds, also rich in serotonin besides being magnesium-rich, can help with insomnia. Higher magnesium in supplements was found in one study to help improve not just objective measures of insomnia such as serum melatonin, cortisol, and serum renin in the elderly, but also subjective insomnia measures such as sleep onset latency, sleep efficiency, sleep time, and early morning awakening.4

Calcium For A Good Night’s Sleep

Milk products or just a plain glass of warm milk around bedtime can help serotonin levels to rise. This is triggered by the calcium found in milk as well as in tofu or soy milk. Stir in a spoonful of honey to get added tryptophan benefits. Alternatively, have some low fat yogurt. You could also get your calcium with superfood kale or through more widely used spinach or figs. Milk, however, also has melatonin, boosting the insomnia fighting benefits.5

Go Bananas For B6

Vitamin B6 also helps the body’s serotonin production. Bananas contain the nutrient in copious quantities, as does tuna. But bananas also have good quantities of muscle relaxant potassium, tryptophan, and magnesium, which can help with the production of sleep modulating serotonin as well as melatonin. One study observed a small group of adults who consumed juice from two whole bananas and found serum melatonin concentration peaked about two hours after.6

Blend bananas into a milkshake in warm weather, but be careful not to sweeten it too much (unless it is with honey). And have the drink a few hours before you sleep to prevent the high sugar content from keeping you up.

The Cherry On Top: Melatonin Production

While serotonin can help with drowsiness and sleep, melatonin can improve both sleep quality as well as efficiency. One study found that cherry juice concentrate when consumed over a week resulted in “significantly” higher melatonin in urine.7

The consumption of certain foods at the right time are a natural route to help settle your sleep problems. Just remember not to eat too much too close to bedtime, and you should see some improvement in your symptoms.

References   [ + ]

1.Hudson, Craig, Susan Patricia Hudson, Tracy Hecht, and Joan MacKenzie. “Protein source tryptophan versus pharmaceutical grade tryptophan as an efficacious treatment for chronic insomnia.” Nutritional Neuroscience 8, no. 2 (2005): 121-127.
2.Wurtman, Judith, and Nina T. Frusztajer. The Serotonin Power Diet: Eat Carbs – Nature’s Own Appetite Suppressant – to Stop Emotional Overeating and Halt Antidepressant-Associated Weight Gain. Rodale, 2009.
3.Earley, Christopher J., Richard P. Allen, John L. Beard, and James R. Connor. “Insight into the pathophysiology of restless legs syndrome.” Journal of Neuroscience Research 62, no. 5 (2000): 623-628.
4.Abbasi, Behnood, Masud Kimiagar, Khosro Sadeghniiat, Minoo M. Shirazi, Mehdi Hedayati, and Bahram Rashidkhani. “The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: a double blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Journal of Research in Medical Sciences 17, no. 12 (2012).
5.Vishwavidyala, Dayal Upadhyay Pashu Chikitsa Vigyan, Evam Go Anusandhan Sansthan, Animal Husbandry Pt Deen Dayal Upadliyay, Pasha Cliikitsa Vigyan Vishwavidyala Evam Go, and Anusandhan Sansthan. “Melatonin milk; a milk of intrinsic health benefit: A review.” International Journal of Dairy Science 6, no. 4 (2011): 246-252.
6.Sae‐Teaw, Manit, Jeffrey Johns, Nutjaree Pratheepawanit Johns, and Suphat Subongkot. “Serum melatonin levels and antioxidant capacities after consumption of pineapple, orange, or banana by healthy male volunteers.” Journal of Pineal Research 55, no. 1 (2013): 58-64.
7.Howatson, Glyn, Phillip G. Bell, Jamie Tallent, Benita Middleton, Malachy P. McHugh, and Jason Ellis. “Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality.” European Journal of Nutrition51, no. 8 (2012): 909-916.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.