Insomnia is a predominant health concern among people today, outside of major disease. In fact, it affects so many individuals that nighttime sleep aids are as common as a bottle of aspirin or pain reliever. But what if, instead of looking at chemical options, we looked to our diets to help us sleep?
Many foods can stimulate the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes us fall asleep naturally.
In an optimal world, we would rise with the sun and rest when the sun sets; this is how melatonin is naturally triggered in the body. However, because we live in a high-stress world and most of us adhere to daylight savings time, our sleep cycles can easily get off track.
Something as simple as a seasonal change or jet lag can upset melatonin levels for months and even years if the body doesn’t learn to readjust. Then there’s the inevitable problem of lying in bed worrying about money, health, people in your life, or whatever else keeps you tossing and turning.
All of these things take a toll on the body so it’s critical to implement dietary approaches that can help you get to sleep and sleep soundly without drugs.
Herbs such as oregano, basil, thyme, chamomile, mint, spearmint, decaf green tea and lavender help relieve stress in the body that can interfere with sleep.
They do not directly get you to sleep but instead will release neurotransmitters in the brain such as GABA, L-trytophan and L-theanine that help you relax.
Root veggies like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, carrots, beets and parsnips all contain grounding properties that promote relaxation in the body. Ayurveda recognizes these foods for their ability to balance excess energy in the body, so if you suffer insomnia because you feel edgy or have too much energy at night, include root vegetables at dinner.
They’re also particularly helpful for stress since they promote relaxation and improve serotonin production in the body. Their fiber, vitamin and antioxidant content also contribute to a healthy brain and body for the long haul, unlike chemical options linked to heart and liver damage.
High-quality protein (complete protein) is a must for good sleep. It contains L-tryptophan, L-theanine, and other amino acids that induce relaxation and act as precursors to serotonin, which then assists with the production of melatonin.
These amino acids are found abundantly in organic poultry, pastured eggs, wild fish, and organic grass-fed dairy. Do note that conventional animal products are not a good option. Vegans can choose hemp seeds, quinoa, chia and tempeh for high-quality complete proteins.
Greens help relax and calm the body. They promote satiety, which can keep you away from bedtime sugars and sweets that will keep you awake. They also encourage the release of feel-good hormones in the body necessary for a healthy mood and sleep cycle.
Greens are also particularly high in magnesium, a mineral that promotes relaxation, which can further aid in sleep. Try having two cups of cooked or raw greens every night to reap the benefits.
Broccoli is one of the best vegetable sources of calcium and protein, making it a great veggie to eat at night before bed. It’s also high in vitamin B6 which promotes relaxation.
If you’d like another vegetable option with similar benefits, bok choy, a type of cabbage, is also high in calcium and vitamin B6, though not as high in protein.
Check back for part 2 on Sunday, including what you must avoid as part of your new better sleeping routine!
Life Retreat is dedicated to helping you get a better night’s sleep, the natural way. Check out our Valerian Capsules.