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Eat Right for Better Sleep

By Jonathan Thompson January 19, 2016 Posted in: Personal Health , Article

There are plenty of reasons why you might have trouble sleeping, including pain and stress. Once you do finally fall asleep, there's also the issue of quality of sleep, which is just as important as its duration. Certain medications may help you get better sleep, but what you eat during the day can also be a factor. Many of these natural sleep aids work the same way, so if one doesn't fit your taste, you have other options. The key is to find something that works for you and that you can easily incorporate into your diet.

  1. Bananas. Besides all of their other health benefits, bananas contain several substances that could help you sleep better. Specifically, the minerals potassium and magnesium help to relax your muscles. At the same time, bananas supply you with the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted into seratonin and melatonin, two hormones that can improve your mood and help you sleep. It should be noted, though, that while tryptophan has sleep-helping properties, it is not the magic sleep aid that many people believe it to be. It doesn't compete well with other amino acids, and eating tryptophan-rich foods as part of a large meal may prevent you from experiencing any benefit.
  2. Peanuts. Peanuts are a high-protein food that are rich in tryptophan. To get the most out of the sleep-related benefits of peanuts, though, try pairing them with a carbohydrate, such as toast. You could also combine two suggestions and spread some peanut butter on slices of banana. Carbohydrates increase your brain's ability to make use of the tryptophan in foods, so pairing a protein with a carb increases the benefits.
  3. Hummus. The main ingredient in hummus, chickpeas (or garbanzo beans), are packed with nutrients that have been shown to produce better sleep. In addition to trytophan, hummus also contains vitamin B6. This vitamin plays a vital role in your brain's ability to use and produce both serotonin and dopamine. Like peanut butter, spread hummus on a carbohydrate-rich delivery system such as bread or crackers to enhance its effects.
  4. Decaf Green Tea. Along with the many things that green tea has been touted to benefit, the age-old drink contains a substance that may help improve the quality of your sleep. Namely, the amino acid theanine has been shown to promote relaxation, according to Examine. Interestingly, theanine works to relax you without resulting in sedation, which means that it won't make you drowsy or actually put you to sleep. Just make sure to get a decaffeinated version.
  5. Tart Cherry Juice. While not everyone may enjoy the flavor, tart cherries have been shown to increase the length and quality of sleep. Prevention notes that one recent study found that drinking 16 ounces of cherry juice every day for two weeks resulted in an average of 84 extra minutes of sleep every night. Not only is the juice rich in melatonin and tryptophan, but the pigments that give cherries their distinct coloring prevent tryptophan from breaking down too quickly. This allows your brain to use the sleep-enhancing amino acid more effectively.

While the research around certain foods' benefits for sleep is ongoing, these snacks taste great, and they may provide a nutritious solution to getting the rest you need.

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