Food can be a strong support in the quest for a good night’s sleep. Some insomnia sufferers wake at night because their blood sugar drops too low. Adequate protein and healthy fat intake can help stabilize blood sugar through the night, and allow the liver to let out stored sugar molecules as needed for a good night’s sleep. Foods can also support the healthy production of brain neurotransmitters and create calming results in the body.
Here are the most common sleep scenarios and some of our favorite food solutions for sleep.
Problem: Trouble Falling Asleep
Solution: Montmorency Tart Cherries
The Montmorency cherry is a type of sour cherry. The color is not as dark as the cherries we typically see in the stores. These cherries are great because they have about 6 times the amount of melatonin than a regular cherry. If you can find a cherry juice concentrate, this will also increase the concentration of melatonin even more.
Melatonin is a hormone produced in your brain’s pineal gland. When it gets dark outside, your eyes sense the lighting change and starts making this hormone, which communicates to your body that it is time to prepare to sleep. Melatonin helps maintain your daily body rhythms, and is an important antioxidant in the body known to fight cancer. In fact, low amounts are shown to increase risk of cancer.
You can find these special cherries in some fine food stores when they are in season. Sometimes they can be found in the frozen section, or look for a Montmorency cherry juice concentrate.
Problem: Trouble Staying Asleep?
Solution: Pumpkin Seed Powder
Pumpkin seeds and the powder from pumpkin seeds have relatively high amounts of the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is the amino acid the body uses to make the feel-good and relaxation neurotransmitter serotonin. Pumpkin seeds also contain high amounts of zinc, which can help the brain convert tryptophan into serotonin. Serotonin levels are typically low in people who cannot stay asleep and wake throughout the night.
It is best to take about 1 cup of seeds or ½ cup of the powder with applesauce or another healthy carbohydrate; the carbohydrate allows the tryptophan to get into the brain in higher amounts.
Problem: Occasional Trouble Winding Down to Fall Asleep
Still relatively unfamiliar to most of us, pulque is an thousand-year-old native Mexican milk-colored alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant (a type of agave), and it is high in melatonin. This drink is a bit more frothy and less alcoholic than its modern beer counterpart. While it is an age-old drink, it is becoming quite trendy these days.
Due to its melatonin content and alcohol content, it functions as a relaxant that can help someone unwind in the evening and prepare for sleep. As such, it is best to have after dinner. It should not be used by anyone with a history or tendency for alcoholism and should not be ingested by minors or pregnant women. We also do not recommend it as a daily solution—just an occasional one.