5 Foods to Fight Insomnia
If you’re having trouble catching some Zzzs, the solution could be as close as your kitchen. Sleep restores us. And not getting enough of it can put us at greater risk of heart disease and cancer. Sleep even makes us smarter. Yet researchers are finding that more than 10 percent of the population is chronically sleep deprived. If you’re having trouble slipping into and remaining in Dreamland, don’t dart straight to prescription sleep drugs, which can be habit-forming, harmful if you live with certain conditions, and even downright bizarre! (Some people develop sleep-eating and sleep-driving habits when using prescription sleeping pills.) The good news is, science has found that many foods, drinks, herbs, and other natural sleep aids can help put you to sleepâ€¦naturally. In fact, just this summer, researchers made the connection between tart cherry juice and getting adequate shut-eye. Here are some natural food- and drink-based sleep aids.
In the small study, participants drank eight ounces of the tart cherry (also known as sour cherry) juice in the morning, and another eight ounces in the evening, for two weeks and reported better sleeping habits. Since all cherries are naturally high in melatonin, a compound that makes us sleepy, you can try eating a cup as a snack before it’s time for shut-eye if you’d rather not drink the juice.
Certain fish and sea creatures contain sleep-inducing tryptophan, including shrimp, cod, tuna, and halibut. But since not all seafood choices are healthy for us (some are high in contaminants) or for the planet (many are overfished, or methods for catching them kill other species), stick to catches like Pacific cod from Alaska or pole-caught Albacore tuna from the U.S. or British Columbia.
If keeping track of the latest safe seafood guidelines is too complicated, you can get your tryptophan fix from other things. You’ve probably heard that warm milk can help you sleep, since milk contains tryptophan. But the key is to combine carbs with a protein containing tryptophan to help your body better utilize the sleep inducer. Try pairing a cup of whole grain cereal with organic milk before bedtime.
This lemon-scented member of the mint family has been a sleep-inducing superstar for ages. Other benefits include better digestion and decreased agitation. Try making lemon balm tea by steeping 1 to 2 teaspoons of the dried herb in 1 cup of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. (If you take thyroid meds, talk to you doctorâ€¦drinking the tea could mean you’ll have to adjust your dosage.)
If lemon balm’s not your thing, another herb, sage, also works as a natural sleep aid. Just steep 4 tablespoons in a cup of hot water, steep for four hours, strain, and reheat to drink. Chamomile tea and valerian teas, other sleep inducers, are also more widely available pre-bagged in natural food stores, if you don’t want to fuss with the aforementioned straining herbs.
By Leah Zerbe
Rodale.com is a new original source for daily news, information, and advice on personal and environmental health. Rodale.com focuses on “Where Health Meets Green” topics, providing daily news stories and breaking news along with easy-to-follow, high-impact tips and advice. Rodale.com features a Daily Newsletter, and provides simple, powerful tools including Recipe Finder and Home Remedy Finder to help audiences improve their health and their environment. Rodale.com also includes “Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen,” a personal blog where Editor-in-Chief and Rodale, Inc. CEO and Chairman Maria Rodale is “Cooking Up Trouble, Dishing Out Advice.”