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In the News: Foods to Remedy Insomnia

4/26/2011 11:25:46 AM

Tags: Lauren Holt, Insomnia, Natural Sleep Aid, St. John's Wort, Valerian, Reishi Mushroom, In The News, Tart Cherries, Whole Grains, Tea

L.HoltThere are lots of reasons people have trouble getting to sleep. Stress, change in routine, caffeine overdose, diet, excess energy and hormonal disruption can all play a role. According to an article earlier this week, there are several foods that can help you get to sleep at night, whether you’re just heading to bed or you’ve woken up at 3 a.m.

The first food: tart cherries. Cherries naturally contain high levels of melatonin, which is often used as a sleep aid because it helps to control the internal body clock. A study by the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Sleep Research Lab suggests that the cherries may be most effective when consumed one hour before you intend to sleep. Both the whole fruit and tart cherry juice can be effective, although the juice may contain high levels of sugar. For a sweet, but less sugary beverage, try sweetening the tart cherry juice with stevia instead of sugar. 

 Tart cherries contain high levels of melatonin, a common sleep-aid.
Photo by simone-walsh/Courtesy Flickr

Another fruit for fighting insomnia is the banana. Bananas contain potassium and magnesium, both natural muscle relaxants that can encourage your body to let go of its fierce grip on wakefulness.

Whole grains, such as whole wheat toast or oatmeal, can also help you get to bed when you need to. The carbohydrates trigger insulin production, which in turn releases tryptophan and serotonin (both chemicals help your brain relax). Oatmeal also contains melatonin for your muscles.

Finally, the traditional favorite: warm milk. There’s a chemical in milk that turns into serotonin to help your relax, and the calcium also promotes sleep.

Looking for something a little lighter to help you relax? Try herbal tea or supplements. If you’re stressed, look for St. John’s wort, chamomile and reishi mushroom. Skullcap and lemon balm help the body relax, and hops and valerian have strong soporific effects. Be careful with valerian, as it can be mildly habit-forming. As with any herbal supplement, always consult with a health professional to ensure that no there will be no adverse reactions.

Valerian is a powerful soporific, but can be mildly habit-forming.
Photo by Heidi Bakk-Hansen/Courtesy Flickr 

If you are regularly unable to sleep, please see a health professional. There are many cases for insomnia, and simple changes in routine or diet may not be sufficient. 

Read More: Treating Insomnia with Herbs - The Herb Companion 
Ask the Herbalist: Herbs for Insomnia - The Herb Companion 
Herbal Remedies for Insomnia - Herbal Living 
5 Foods That Help You Sleep - Caring 

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