Up all Night? How Changing Your Diet Could Cure Your Insomnia

Sleeping womanHave you ever spent the night tossing and turning, only to spend the next day exhausted and unable to concentrate? Sleep is essential for good health, and if you suffer from insomnia, you know how devastating not getting enough sleep can be.

As someone who enjoys a clean lifestyle, you’ve probably chosen not to take toxic sleeping pills – which can have severe side effects – and focused on maintaining good sleep hygiene, which includes avoiding caffeine and alcohol, exercising and keeping to a fixed bedtime.

Did you know that changing your diet could help you get a good night’s sleep? Read below to find out how you can adjust your diet to enjoy more nights of healthy zzz’s.

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1. Eat foods that contain tryptophan.

Tryptophan is an amino acid your brain uses to make some of the chemicals you need to sleep.

You may have read that turkey makes you sleepy because it has high levels of tryptophan. In fact, chicken contains the same amount of tryptophan as turkey, and there are many foods with more tryptophan than either of those have.

Some foods with even more tryptophan than turkey or chicken are:

  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Cod
  • Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • Pork
  • Milk

Tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids, which come from protein, to get to your brain. This means that in addition to increasing the amount of tryptophan-containing foods you eat, you should reduce the amount of other types of protein in your diet.

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2. Make sure you’re getting enough magnesium.

Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays an important role in the sleep cycle. Rats deprived of magnesium experience a reduction in deep sleep.

Foods high in magnesium include:

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Rice and wheat bran

Dark chocolate has a high magnesium content. However, it’s also high in caffeine, so it could make your insomnia worse.

3. Eat food with a high glycemic index four hours before bedtime.

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly your blood sugar rises after you eat a particular food.

Foods with a high GI make your blood sugar rise quickly. Some high GI foods are white rice, corn, bananas and white potatoes.

Research shows that eating food with a high glycemic index about four hours before you go to bed can help you fall asleep more quickly.

Avoid eating a high GI meal within an hour of bedtime, as that can cause you to wake up during the night.

4. Eat less fat.

Research shows that people whose diets are high in fat tend to sleep less than people on lower fat diets.

5. If you want to fall asleep more quickly, eat more carbs. If you want to stay asleep, eat more protein.

Insomnia comes in two forms. Some people have trouble falling asleep once they go to bed. Others fall asleep quickly, but wake up frequently during the night.

A diet with a high proportion of carbohydrates has been shown to decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, so if you lie awake for hours after your head hits the pillow, consider increasing your carb intake.

On the other hand, a high-protein diet will help you sleep longer, so if you’re troubled by frequent awakenings, try adding more protein to your meals.

6. Make sure you’re eating enough.

Some studies indicate that a diet too low in calories can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. If you’re trying to lose weight, make sure your diet is nutritious and doesn’t restrict your caloric intake too much.

Lack of sleep can make you gain weight by reducing levels of leptin; a hormone that makes you feel full. This means that if you don’t get enough sleep, your risk of becoming overweight or obese increases. By making it harder for you to get all the sleep you need, a low-calorie fad diet can backfire, causing you to gain weight instead of lose it.

Additional sources:

International Tables of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values: 2008, American Diabetes Association

Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin levels and increased adiposity: Results from the Quebec family study, Obesity

Sleep in Elite Athletes and Nutritional Interventions to Enhance Sleep, Sports Medicine

USDA National Nutrient Database

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