In every step of my life journey, one message resounds over and over again. What we eat really does matter. The optimal function of the human body is in every way dependent on our daily food choices. There is no question in my mind that when we don’t eat well, we are promoting dysfunction and disease rather than optimal function. Good nutrition applies to getting a good night’s sleep, too! Read on to learn about foods that promote sleep.
There are a number of essential amino acids that the human body needs but cannot produce – the reason for being called “essential” is that we must consume them in our diet. One such amino acid is called tryptophan. Tryptophan is the required building block for the human body to produce serotonin in the gut and central nervous system, which is then delivered to the pineal gland in the brain to produce and release melatonin, our natural regulator of the sleep cycle.
The goal is to promote sleep by promoting the production of serotonin and, therefore, melatonin by ensuring our diet is rich in tryptophan. Here are some tryptophan rich choices to consider, especially as the sun sets and you consume your last meal of the day.
- Meats, especially wild game such as elk and venison, quail, duck, and turkey.
- Seafood, especially halibut, shrimp, salmon, lobster, crab and crawfish.
- Nuts and seeds, especially walnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, flaxseed, sesame seed, pumpkin seed and roasted sunflower seeds.
- Beans and legumes, especially peanuts, kidney beans, lima beans and chickpeas.
- Spinach, mustard greens, asparagus and winter squash.
- Grains, especially brown rice and oats in very modest portions (1/2 cup or less). We do not recommend grains as your ‘go-to’ source of tryptophan.
- Cheese, especially Gruyere and cottage cheese. We do not recommend cheese as your ‘go-to’ source of tryptophan either.
Most of these tryptophan rich food sources fall in line very well with TWIHW’s recommended dietary choices. We do recommend gluten free grain choices in modest portions to avoid excessive elevation of insulin levels as well as non-genetically modified (Non-GMO) foods and organic options wherever possible. Be aware of your food sensitiveness and allergies avoiding those foods to which you have an adverse reaction, which would keep you wide awake anyway to be sure!
It is also worthy of note that alcohol, dark chocolate, coffee, sugary foods, spicy foods and highly processed fatty foods are well known to interrupt a good night of sleep. Sugar is especially disruptive because it causes a dramatic rise in blood sugar which, when it drops later, will cause you to wake up. Additionally, excessive sugar floating in the blood during sleep is damaging in terms of inflammation, congestion, oxidative stress and fat storage.
What we eat will determine just how sweet your dreams can be!