Unless you’re narcoleptic, a good night’s sleep is a matter of great luxury. Living in today’s constant rat race means that we’re not only physically tired but also mentally exhausted. Fatigue usually means you’re destined to sleep well, but constant exposure to stress and electronic devices today is also affecting the way we rest. In short, there’s never enough down time for your brain to shut down completely.
Today, insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders worldwide. Almost 10 percent of these sleepless people experience it chronically, which not only disrupts cognitive abilities but also weakens the immune system. The lack of a good night’s rest affects our optimal health and creates an imbalance of mood swings that also affects body weight.
What you put into your body throughout the day has just as big an impact as the activities you do. But as easy as it is to reach straight for those pills, we’re all about being kinder to your body this year. Here we have listed six types of sleep-inducing foods that’ll put you to bed like a baby.
Like plenty of protein-rich foods, turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which tells the body to kickstart the production of hormones, including melatonin. High melatonin signals your brain that it’s time to sleep.
But it’s not all turkey that’s the culprit. Dinners that include turkey, such as at Thanksgiving, often come accompanied by plenty of carbohydrate- and fat-rich foods like stuffing and mashed potatoes. This speeds up the process of digestion and makes it easier for the chemicals to hit your brain, tempting you to take that shut-eye you so deserve after a big meal.
Bananas have long enjoyed a reputation as a stellar snack pre-gym, but they’re just as useful before you hit the sack. Besides its high potassium and magnesium content (both are natural muscle relaxants), bananas also contain tryptophan, which leads to the production of serotonin and melatonin. Bananas are also easily-digestible carbohydrates, which helps in speeding up the time taken to induce sleepiness — a win-win situation if you’re anxious to hit the sack.
As one of the only natural food sources of melatonin, cherries — particularly tart cherries — make for a great antioxidant-rich snack if you have trouble dozing off. For a quick and fuss-free hit, a cup of concentrated cherry juice should do the trick.
Your mom might’ve been on to something when she used to give you a glass of warm milk before bed. Milk also contains the amino acid tryptophan, which galvanises your brain into producing serotonin and melatonin. Add to that the fact that it rekindles soothing childhood memories, and you’ll be off to sleep in no time.
As a complex carb, whole-grain oats encourage a steady production of insulin, which aids neural pathways in receiving tryptophan. Oats are also naturally high in melatonin and the stress-reducing vitamin B6, all of which will help in your cause. For the ultimate — and most satisfying — pre-bed sedative, make yours with milk and bananas.
Caffeine-free blends which include chamomile and lavender are common, but if you’re feeling adventurous, brew yourself a cup of Valerian root or Magnolia bark tea. The two might be lesser known in the modern world, but they’ve been time-tested to perform just as well in inducing sleep.
Valerian root tea, for example, was used in England during WWII to relieve anxiety, and it’s believed that it aids in increasing the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (or GABA), a neurotransmitter that increases sleepiness. Magnolia bark tea has long been used in Chinese medicine for its anti-anxiety and sedative effects, thanks to a compound called honokiol, which works to modify the GABA receptors in your brain.
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.