Restless? Don't reach for the sleeping pills just yet. Many snacks you likely have in your home are loaded naturally occurring, sleep-summoning substances. Here are ten options to help you achieve natural shuteye.
They’re packed with tryptophan, that sleep-enhancing amino acid that nudges the production of serotonin and sleep-conjuring melatonin. What’s more, in one study conducted by the University of Texas, researchers found that walnuts produce melatonin naturally, doubling the nut’s effectiveness
2. Cheese and Crackers
Warm milk might be the go-to for bedtime, but any dairy will do. Why? Calcium helps the brain regulate the tryptophan (expect to see that particular amino acid a lot on this list) to produce more melatonin (that one, too). Calcium also helps stabilize muscle movements, keeping you from tossing and turning.
Rene Ficek, registered dietitian and lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating, advises Popeye’s favorite for its magnesium content. Chronic insomnia can be caused by a lack of magnesium, and dining on spinach (along with other such Mg-infused foods as fish and whole grains) can combat the deficiency.
4. Raw Garlic
Stave off vampire attacks and sleep better with garlic. The pungent cousin of the onion is essential for the body’s natural production of melatonin and serotonin. And the raw stuff is always better, as your body can absorb it more efficiently. Just don't kiss your bedmate when you wake up — morning-garlic breath is a relationship-ruiner.
No, we’re not talking about sugar bombs Fruity Pebbles. Rather, more modest grains like Cheerios. When combined with milk, they give your body a one-two punch in the form of carbohydrates and calcium. Both help summon sleep.
In addition to the previously mentioned magnesium, Ficek recommends bananas for their tryptophan. They’ll induce the brain into making more melatonin and serotonin, relaxing the body and prepping you for a good night’s sleep.
Lettuce contains lactucarium, a natural sedative that affects the brain much as opium does. Well, not exactly the way opium does, but close enough to promote a good rest for the night. Liz Weinandy, RD at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, recommends a salad containing fish or chicken, paired with fruit, yogurt or whole grain crackers to maintain proper blood sugar levels through the night.
True, pretzels will make you thirsty. But they’ll also make you sleepy. The snacks have a high glycemic index, which means that, after eating them, your insulin and blood sugar levels will spike. This reaction will shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, thanks to the induced increase of tryptophan entering the brain.
9. Jasmine Rice
Like pretzels, white rice has a high glycemic index, which helps put you to sleep. But research published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that, specifically, subjects who ate jasmine rice fell asleep faster than those who ate other types.
Assuming you’ve got a big rack of elk in your fridge — who doesn’t? — you have a ready megadose of tryptophan. The exotic meat contains more than twice as much of the sleep-inducing chemical as turkey breast (746 mg per portion, vs. turkey’s 333 mg). Add a side of potatoes or another carb, and you’re asleep in no time.