By Ayn De Castro and LeAura Alderson
Nature’s Very Own Little Sleep Pills
As a kid, sleep was a perpetually frequent visitor. More often than not, sleep was even an unwelcomed guest.
I remember countless of times where I struggled to stay awake because cool Aunt Aimee was spending the night, or cousin Debbie was arriving to town late. As hyped up as I was as a kid, I always ended up falling asleep on the couch.
Then I grew up and life happened.
Everyone has trouble sleeping on occasion. Somehow, just when I’m most worn out, a good night’s sleep can remain just out of reach. Trying to get some much rest, can be exhausting! The good news is: you don’t have to turn to medication, for a restful, uneventful slumber.
By the time people get desperate, from chronic lack of sleep, their decision-making power is also diminished. It’s hard for good decisions to come from a tired place, and some turn to doctor-prescribed sleep medication. This is very risky because often these can set up dependencies and side effects.
So whenever possible, seek out natural remedies. A quality natural supplement—or food from nature—is always a better solution. So if you find yourself awake when you should be sleeping, here are some sleep-inducing foods you might want to try first.
If you think of it, it’s really not that surprising that tea can actually help with your sleep troubles. The smell of tea itself is soothing, refreshing and relaxing to body and mind.
Of course you know to avoid teas that contain caffeine. Instead, look for calming herbs like chamomile, passionflower, hops, valerian, lavender, lemon balm, peppermint, and kava kava teas. These days there are many teas pre-blended and labeled for the malady they aid, such as Celestial Seasoning’s Sleepy Time Tea, Yogi Bedtime Tea, and Traditional Medicinals Nighty Night Tea. These herbal teas have sedative properties that help your body and brain relax into a sleepy state,
Based on a study conducted last 2012 by the University of Pennsylvania and published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, researchers found that 57% of the group population (with mild to moderate anxiety and depression) that consumed chamomile tea had a significant reduction in their symptoms including insomnia and other sleeping disorders. In fact, study participants did not develop a tolerance such as with pharmaceutical drugs.
The beneficial effects of chamomile tea increased over time without having to increase dosage.
Warm milk, of course! The ultimate childhood sleeping concoction. A warm glass of milk contains carbohydrates which allow your body to produce the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan helps the brain better utilize serotonin, the hormone responsible for regulating mood and cyclic body processes such as sleeping.
The rest of milk’s magic is largely psychological based on our association with milk and sleep from infancy. So while there are sleep inducing hormones that are activated, the rest is an auto-psychosomatic memory response.
Our favorite milk remedy is: Warm milk with a teaspoon of honey and a few dashes of nutmeg.
Great news to all chocoholics, you have another excuse to sneak chocolate bars under your pillow. Just make sure you get this part right – go for dark chocolate because this dark beauty contains serotonin relaxes and induces sleep, plus all the long list of health benefits dark chocolate provides. Just avoid milk chocolate as it’s more a stimulant.
Editor’s Note: Chocolate also contains caffeine, so even dark chocolate can have the opposite effect. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, try one of the other remedies.
An addition to honey’s amazing health benefits is the fact that honey helps ease you to sleep at night. Honey can improve your sleeping habits and relaxation. The sweet nectar allows tryptophan to enter our brains more easily and effectively, sending you off to dreamland in no time. But be careful not to overdo it. Just a teaspoonful will do the trick.
Cherries are rich in melatonin, a hormone known popularly to adjust the body’s internal clock and sleep-wake cycles. If you’ve been experiencing restlessness and insomnia, eating cherries regularly can help you fix your sleep-wake cycle back to normal.
There are a number of nutrients in sync that make banana an ultimate sleep-inducer. The electrolytes potassium and magnesium found in bananas helps to signal the brain to relax the nerves and muscles; while Vitamin B6 converts tryptophan into serotonin. Thereby increasing relaxation even more, gradually sending you off to a sound sleep.
If you’ve been having trouble sleeping, you might want to switch oatmeal from your favorite breakfast into a satisfying bedtime snack. The secret as to why oatmeal induces sleep is much like the mechanism in milk – that much needed sugar spike to knock you right off to sleep.
Oatmeal is a whole grain made up of complex carbohydrates which provide longer-lasting sugar control and slower-release serotonin effects compared to simple carbs. The insulin triggered by oatmeal causes a sugar spike just enough to naturally lull you to slumber. Oats also contain melatonin, a hormone that contributes greatly in helping you fall asleep.
Tasty, healthy, and apparently a natural sleeping pill as well. The delicious almond doesn’t just contain tryptophan, it has magnesium too. It turns out, tryptophan and magnesium is the perfect duo to end those sleepless, restless nights. Both substances help to naturally reduce muscle and nerve function while also steadying your heart rhythm, leaving your eyelids heavy and your body drowsy.
How can I forget the star of Thanksgiving and the mastermind of the controversial “Thanksgiving coma”. Although many experts debunked the theory behind the annual Thanksgiving grogginess, there are other experts vouching and proving that turkey is, in fact, a sleep inducer. Based on studies, turkey does contain tryptophan which allows the conversion into serotonin and melatonin, both are important key factors to induce sleep. Although the massive amount of food you consumed during this celebrated time of the year can contribute to the food coma, I think the tryptophan levels in turkey gets a little credit too.
For more, Healthalicious.com’s top 10 foods with the most L-Tryptophan sleep-inducing amino acid properties.
Understanding the Side Effects of Sleeping Pills, WebMD.com
Tea That Helps You Sleep, NoSleeplessNights.com
Chamomile Tea Helps Induce Sleep, NaturalHealth365.com
Sleep Well With Warm Milk, WebMD.com
Foods that Increase Serotonin and Induce Sleep, Livestrong.com
10 Foods That Make You Sleepy and 10 That Keep You Up, GoodHouseKeeping.com