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Can Bananas Help You Sleep Better?

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Cure Insomnia With Bananas

Are sleepless nights the bane of your existence? Insomnia and exhaustion are a reality for so many people. And when sleeplessness adversely impacts both health and mood, it's something worth paying attention to. Sure, medical aids exist. But a more natural answer might lie within bananas. They're rich in magnesium, zinc, tryptophan, and potassium, nutrients that are essential for the body to sleep and rest. Here's how it works.

Do you toss and turn in bed each night, miserable because you can’t fall asleep? Popping a sleeping pill might do the trick, but it can turn into an addictive habit. Fortunately, it’s possible to find help in more natural remedies.

This is where bananas come in. These sweet fruits are packed with vital micronutrients like potassium, magnesium, and zinc. These are the very nutrients that our bodies need for a good night’s rest. More importantly, bananas are an excellent source of tryptophan. This amino acid helps your body make serotonin and melatonin, two hormones that play a huge role in sleep regulation.

Insomnia: The Facts

Insomnia isn’t solely defined by the difficulty to fall asleep. It also involves frequently waking up and failing to feel rested after a full night of rest. From stress to poor nutrition, insomnia can be caused by countless reasons. Of course, an occasional episode of sleeplessness isn’t a cause for worry. This may happen during a time of over-excitement or stress. Continued sleeplessness is a different story, though. Over time, severe lack of rest can have a major negative impact on your quality of life and overall health.

Women are more prone to insomnia. This is especially true during the beginning of the menstrual cycle and menopause. And while older people tend to complain about insomnia, the exact reasons aren’t always clear. Similarly, night and rotating shift workers with odd schedules are at high risk for this condition. They are right in line with individuals with chronic illnesses, too. In fact, about 75 to 90 percent of insomnia patients usually have another chronic health problem. Psychiatric disorders and chronic insomnia are often found to co-exist.1

Another potential cause for insomnia is an insufficient blood level of melatonin. This neurohormone, generated by the brain’s pineal gland, is key to initiating and maintaining sleep. A deficiency can lead to sleeplessness and chronic insomnia. In fact, melatonin is used to medically treat conditions such as insomnia, jetlag, chronic fatigue, and depression.2

Enter The Bananas!

Bananas aren’t just tasty – they are good for our bodies, too. But did you know that these popular fruits double as a rich source of sleep-inducing nutrients? Here’s the low-down.

Magnesium

This mineral reduces transmission between neurons, producing a calming effect on the brain. Outside of the central nervous system, it also relaxes muscles. Furthermore, magnesium is known to promote a deep, restful sleep.

Potassium

It’s an essential nutrient that relaxes the muscles and nerves, contributing to better sleep. Research indicates that there may even be a genetic connection between potassium and slow-wave sleep or deep sleep.3During this stage of sleep, the brain more or less stops responding to external disturbances.4

Zinc

While it is often overlooked, zinc is a mineral that is necessary for good health. Zinc deficiency can cause sleep disturbance, behavioral problems, and scattered concentration.5

Tryptophan

The real star of the show is tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin in the brain. Serotonin then transforms into melatonin through two metabolic changes. Again, melatonin is a hormone that promotes restful sleep and regulates the body’s circadian rhythm. Research shows that consuming just 2.5 mg of tryptophan can significantly improve sleep without worrisome cognitive side effects, unlike most medications.6

Need more proof? An Italian study analyzed the effects of melatonin, magnesium, and zinc supplements an hour before bedtime. Volunteers were given food supplements containing 5 mg melatonin, 225 mg magnesium, and 11.25 mg zinc. Study participants reported an improvement in four areas of observation compared to subjects who were given a placebo. Those four areas included ease of falling asleep, quality of sleep, alertness the following morning, and hangover on awakening.7

In another test on the effect of melatonin-rich fruits on serum melatonin and antioxidant status, it was found that eating two whole bananas each day spiked the levels of serum melatonin from 32 to 140 pg/mL (picogram per milliliter). The levels peaked after two hours of eating the bananas. The study also observed a spike in antioxidant levels.8

Now that you know all about banana’s surprising benefits, consider using them as a natural sleep remedy. Skip the sleeping pills and reach for one or two bananas an hour or two before bedtime. Along with a well-rounded diet and regular exercise, bananas might be the key to saying “goodnight” to insomnia, once and for all.

References   [ + ]

1. Roth, T. Insomnia: Definition, Prevalence, Etiology, and Consequences. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2007 Aug 15; 3(5 Suppl): S7–S10.
2. Buscemi, N., B. Vandermeer, R. Pandya, N. Hooton, L. Tjosvold, L. Hartling, G. Baker, S. Vohra, and T. Klassen. “Melatonin for Treatment of Sleep Disorders: Summary.” 2004 Nov. In: AHRQ Evidence Report Summaries. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 1998-2005. 108.
3, 5. Sharma, Rashmi, and Shubha Dube. “Nutrients Helpful To Cure Sleep Disorders.” International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR). Volume 5 Issue 9, September 2016.
4. N3 sleep (Stage 3 or slow-wave sleep [SWS]), Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School.
6. Richard, Dawn M., Michael A. Dawes, Charles W. Mathias, Ashley Acheson, Nathalie Hill-Kapturczak, and Donald M. Dougherty. “L-tryptophan: basic metabolic functions, behavioral research and therapeutic indications.” International Journal of Tryptophan Research : IJTR. 2009;2:45-60.
7. Rondanelli, Mariangela, Annalisa Opizzi, Francesca Monteferrario, Neldo Antoniello, Raffaele Manni, and Catherine Klersy. “The Effect of Melatonin, Magnesium, and Zinc on Primary Insomnia in Long‐Term Care Facility Residents in Italy: A Double‐Blind, Placebo‐Controlled Clinical Trial.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 59, no. 1 (2011): 82-90.
8. 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.