Eat foods that are “sleep-inducing.” Some foods are high in the sleep-inducing tryptophan:
- Pumpkin Seeds, Squash Seeds, Sesame Seeds
- Soya Foods (especially Soybeans, roasted)
- Cheese (especially Reduced Fat Mozzarella, Parmesan)
- Spinach, Spirulina, Watercress
- Eggs (especially egg whites)
- Lamb, Beef, Pork & Game (especially Lamb Shoulder, cooked)
- Chicken & Turkey (especially cooked breast)
- Fish (especially halibut cooked with skin)
- Crustaceans (especially lobster, shrimp and crab)
To activate tryptophan more efficiently, favor foods that are high in complex carbohydrates but medium to low in protein. Carbs make tryptophan more available in the brain, whereas protein has the opposite effect. Plan “meals for sleep” that load up on complex carbs and tryptophan. Try sesame seeds sprinkled on salad with tuna chunks with whole wheat crackers on the side, or a baked potato with cottage cheese.
Keep meals light. Limit the amount of food that you eat in the late afternoon and early evening, as it can affect the quality of your sleep. Lighter meals are more likely to give you a restful night, for example, whereas high-fat meals and large servings prolong the work your digestive system needs to do, and all the gas production and rumblings may keep you awake. Some people find that highly-seasoned foods (e.g., hot peppers and garlic) interfere with sleep, especially heartburn-sufferers.
Drink a warm, relaxing beverage. Many people swear by drinking a cup of herbal tea or a glass of warm milk before bed, and there is research to support them. Dairy products like milk (or soy milk) are rich in tryptophan and stimulate the brain to produce sleep chemicals like serotonin and melatonin. Chamomile tea has also long been touted as an insomnia buster. In fact, recent studies have demonstrated that chamomile can reduce symptoms of anxiety and is a mild sleep aid in animal test subjects.