Getting to sleep, staying asleep and waking up too early in the morning are common problems being faced by many people especially adults. There are different reasons why a person is unbale to fall asleep or have trouble staying asleep. It could be the diet before bedtime, some chronic illness or pain, stress, lack of or excess of physical activity, change in environment, unhealthy sleep habits etc.
People with insomnia experience symptoms like fatigue, low energy, difficulty in concentration, mood fluctuations and poor performance. People who are not able to sleep at night, depends on coffee to keep them awake next day which is not a healthy choice. Getting enough sleep is very crucial for health. At least 8 hours is the average that our body needs to function properly.
There are many foods that contain naturally occurring substances to help sleep better and cure insomnia (sleeplessness). Some of the well-known foods that bring on sleep naturally are mentioned below. Right amount of certain foods, taken half an hour before sleep, helps in sleeping better.
1. Chamomile Tea
Some decaf herbal teas are very beneficial in preparing the body for entering sleep mode. The best among them is Chamomile tea. It helps to ease stress, fight depression and relaxes the muscles and nerves so one can sleep better. Drinking tea is associated with an increase of glycine that acts as a mild sedative. The herb Chamomile has been used as sleeping aid for thousands of years.
Sipping on a warm beverage elicit relaxation and sleepiness. Other herbal teas that can be taken before going to bed are Green tea and Fruit teas.
2. Whole Grains
Barley, Bulgur and other whole grains are rich in magnesium so they help to sleep better. Breads, oatmeal, cereal, crackers, pretzels made with whole grains helps in the production of serotonin hormone. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in our bodies that slows down nerve activity and calms the brain and helps the body to relax. When it gets dark, the darkness helps convert serotonin to melatonin which regulates sleep. Oats are rich in tryptophan and Vitamin B 6. They act as a natural sedative.
3. Nuts like Walnuts, Almonds
A handful of nuts provide enough protein to the body to help keep blood sugar levels in control all night. Walnuts and Almonds are rich in Vitamin B 6 and Tryptophan (a sleep enhancing amino acid) which can induce sleep hormone in the body. Tryptophan helps to make serotonin and melatonin hormones that sets the sleep wake cycles. Walnuts also contain melatonin that helps to get asleep faster. Almonds are rich in magnesium which is very important mineral for quality sleep. Lower magnesium levels make it harder to stay asleep.
4. Cherries or Cherry Juice
Cherries (especially Tart Cherries) boosts up the levels of melatonin hormone that helps to sleep faster. Drinking a glass of unsweetened cherry juice half an hour before bed time helps with insomnia symptoms. Tark cherry juice may be taken during day time also to help relief the severity of insomnia.
Cherries are considered to be most effective and safest snack to be taken before bed time.
Bananas are rich in vitamin B 6, potassium and manganese which is needed to make melatonin, have a relaxing effect on muscles and mind.
Bananas are a good source of L tryptophan amino acid that can trigger 5 HTP, the feel-good hormone in the body.
One may prepare Almond and banana smoothie or banana milk shake to be taken before bedtime.
6. Dairy Products or Milk
Milk and other dairy products like yogurt boosts calcium, deficiency of which makes it difficult to fall asleep. Consuming a glass of warm milk before bed time helps to increase serotonin levels in the brain thus leads to better sound sleep all night. Milk is rich in the amino acid tryptophan (the feel-good hormone). Lactose intolerant people should opt for soy milk or tofu.
Other dairy products that can help sleep faster are yogurt which also contains amino acid tryptophan, thereby giving a calming, relaxing effect as it stabilized the stress responsive nerve fibers in the brain.
Honey is a tryptophan rich food which is very helpful if taken before bed time. Honey slightly spikes insulin levels, which releases tryptophan. Honey also contains magnesium.
Honey may be added to a warm cup of tea or milk before going to bed. Honey is sweet and has a fuzzy feeling effect over the mind and body. Raw honey fuels the liver which turn glycogen into energy. This energy is needed during the night.
One way is to blend honey, vinegar and water into a bedtime drink. Taking honey to sleeps means you won’t wake up suddenly out of a deep sleep due to a drop-in glycogen level.
A spoon of honey in warm chamomile tea is the best way to get a good night sleep.
It is recommended to avoid alcohol before bedtime. It is also advised to avoid spicy food before bedtime as they raise body temperature and leads to night sweats.
Caffeine and sugar must be avoided before going to bed. Unrefined carbohydrates should be taken along with protein and plenty of fiber. Eating at regular interval of times is very important.
Sleep disorders are on a rise in today’s time due to stressful work environment, consuming too much food or wrong food, too much use of technology (computers, I pads, I phones, television). Lying awake, feeling tired, being unable to drift off, or waking a number of times in midnight are all considered sleep disorders.
Always ensure that the bedroom is dark, quiet and have nice ventilation. It is advised to take a warm bath before going to bed or do some kind meditation and breathing exercise to help sleep better.