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5 Foods to Help You Sleep Better

7/28/2010 12:04:00 PM

Tags: natural health, health, sleep, food, carbohydrates, turkey, beans, soy, milk, dairy, poultry, magnesium, calcium, tryptophan

What we eat is connected to how we sleep. Just as certain foods can keep you awake, some foods can help you fall asleep. Want a better night's sleep? Try these five foods!

milk and cookies
Have a glass of milk before you head off to bed. Milk contains tryptophan, calcium and magnesium, all of which can help induce sleep. Pass on the cookies, however. The excess sugar and caffeine in the chocolate can keep you awake. Photo By elana's pantry/Courtesy Flickr.

1. Turkey

A post-Thanksgiving dinner is tradition for a reason; turkey is high in tryptophan, an amino acid that the brain uses to make serotonin and melatonin, hormones that calm and induce sleep. Chicken and other poultry also contain tryptophan, but turkey is the classic favorite as it contains some of the highest levels of this sleep-aiding substance.

2. Carbohydrates

While you’re having a slice of turkey before bed, why not throw it on some bread and make a sandwich? Bread is an excellent source of carbohydrates, and eating carbohydrates can also make you sleepy. Carbohydrate-rich foods stimulate the body to release insulin, which clears the bloodstream of any other amino acids that might compete with tryptophan for the brain’s attention.

3. Dairy products

Dairy products such as cheese and yogurt contain a number of sleep-inducing ingredients. Like turkey, dairy products are high in tryptophan, but milk also contains calcium, which helps the brain use tryptophan to make melatonin. Milk also contains magnesium. This nutrient has many roles in the body, one of which is controlling the release of hormones and neurotransmitters such as serotonin.

walnuts in wooden bowl
Nuts and seeds contain tryptophan and magnesium. Grab a handful before bed to help lull you to sleep. Photo By radioenrique/Courtesy Flickr. 

4. Nuts

If you feel a little hungry before bed, snack on a fistful of almonds or seeds. Nuts are high in both tryptophan and magnesium, which can calm your nerves and send you into a deep slumber.

5. Beans and soy

Soy products, beans, lentils and other related foods contain magnesium and tryptophan (as well as other beneficial nutrients). Have a snack of black beans or hummus or drink a glass of soy milk an hour before bedtime. It takes tryptophan an hour to reach the brain, so plan your late-night snack ahead of time.

Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on .

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