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Foods that Help You Sleep

By Lissa Coffey
May 20, 2011
File under: Ayurveda, Natural Remedies

According to Ayurveda, India’s 5,000 year old Science of Life, there are three pillars of good health: Sleep, Food and Relationships. All of which are intricately related.

When we’re having a hard time getting to sleep, it may be that our bodies are not producing enough serotonin or melatonin.

Serotonin is one of the most important chemicals in the brain for regulating the sleep – wake cycle.

Melatonin is an antioxidant that helps the body to regulate circadian rhythms (the daily rhythmic activity cycle universal to all organisms) and thus sleep.

The foods we eat can affect how well we sleep. By eating foods that stimulate the production of serotonin and melatonin, our mind and body can better relax and get the sleep that we need.

Foods to help you settle into slumber:

Almonds, oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds and wheat are all good sources of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body produce serotonin and melatonin.

Pair foods that contain tryptophan with complex carbohydrates for even better results.

Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains help the brain to release insulin, which clears the way for the tryptophan to be absorbed. So, although it sounds more like breakfast, maybe a small bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with almonds would make a nice snack.

Cherries and mangoes contain melatonin, which is thought to induce sleep and now researchers are saying that some red grapes may contain melatonin, too.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin studied fruit flies and found that potassium might be one of the important elements responsible for sleep.

So, foods like bananas, which contain both tryptophan and potassium may be especially good for sleep and paired with a complex carbohydrate may be even more effective. Try some sliced bananas on whole-wheat toast.

A cup of chamomile tea will help you to relax and de-stress. Chamomile is a flower, so it’s not really tea. Real tea contains caffeine, so you want to avoid that. Just a small cup of herbal tea will do the trick.

Don’t drink too much before bed or you’ll be up during the night to go to the bathroom and that can interfere with your natural sleep cycle.

Eat a light snack or very small meal about one to four hours before bedtime. A meal with carbohydrates will help you to fall asleep more quickly, but can also cause weight gain if you do this on a regular basis.

You also don’t want to eat too close to bedtime because then your body will be busy digesting instead of settling itself into sleep.

And finally, avoid spicy or fatty foods before bedtime. Spices are stimulating and can keep you awake. They may also cause heartburn and interfere with sleep. Fatty foods take longer to digest and will keep your body stimulated when you want it to be relaxed.

May is Better Sleep Month! Lots more sleep tips at

Lissa Coffey is an Ayurvedic expert, life coach and author of “What’s Your Dosha, Baby?” Discover the Vedic Way for Compatibility in Life and Love. Discover your dosha

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An alternative approach to health, wellness and disease prevention. Marie Oser and her team of bloggers bring you creative natural solutions to issues affecting our health and wellbeing.

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