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While turkey and hot milk are the most well-known sleep-inducing foods, there are others you can load into your grocery cart for an express ticket to dreamland.
1. Kiwi fruit
The fuzzy tropical fruit might be the ultimate sleepy-time snack. A recent study by Taiwanese scientists found that women with sleeping problems who consumed two kiwi fruit one hour before bedtime fell asleep 45 minutes faster, and had better sleep duration and quality than those who went without the fruit. One explanation: Kiwi fruit may contain serotonin, a compound that regulates the sleep cycle.
Extra credit: Kiwi fruit is brimming with vitamin C, an antioxidant shown to reduce blood pressure.
If you spend too many nights tossing and turning, consider going nuts for pistachios. The verdant nuts are a good source of vitamin B6, which your body needs to make serotonin. Pistachios also contain fibre, protein and healthy fats – a trio that will help quell late-night hunger pangs.
Extra credit: Because you have to shell the nuts, scientists at Eastern Illinois University found that snacking on in-shell nuts as opposed to shelled ones improved portion control.
3. Tart cherry juice
Move over, warm milk, there's a new drink in town. A 2012 European Journal of Nutrition study showed that insomniacs slept an average of 34 minutes longer after drinking tart cherry juice in the morning and evening. Researchers credit the juice's high quantities of melatonin.
Extra credit: Look for a brand that is 100 percent cherry juice. Dilute it with water or club soda if you find it too tart. Also try adding dried tart cherries to cereals and salads.
Reeling in shellfish such as shrimp is a surefire way to load up on tryptophan. Your body converts this essential amino acid into serotonin, a natural sedative. Higher levels of serotonin have also been linked to improved mood, making shrimp an even bigger feel-good option.
Extra credit: Look for North American wild or farmed shrimp, a more sustainable option than Asian imports.
5. Jasmine rice
Serving this Asian rice for dinner is what sweet dreams are made of. A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that people who consumed jasmine rice four hours before bedtime fell asleep faster than when they did not consume it. High-glycemic jasmine rice may increase tryptophan, which means more will enter the brain to produce serotonin.
Extra credit: To get more z's, build a dinner out of jasmine rice, shrimp and vitamin B6–rich chickpeas.
4 Sleep busters
Don't let these potential sleep stealers force you to count sheep.
1. Dark chocolate
It contains not only antioxidants but also stimulants like theobromine, so enjoy it earlier in the day to perk up.
2. Deep-dish pizza
Eating too much high-calorie fatty fast food means your body is focusing on digestion instead of getting you ready to hit the sack.
3. Green tea
If you are overly sensitive to caffeine, the small amount in green tea could lead to sleeplessness. Try herbal teas such as chamomile instead.
Spicy foods like a bowl of curry or fiery chili can raise body temperature, potentially causing a restless evening.
Do you suffer from hot flashes or have a snoring partner that keeps you awake at night? We talked to sleep researchers about how to deal with common sleep problems.
|This content is vetted by medical experts
|This story was originally titled "How Diet Can Help or Hinder Your Z's" in the November 2013 issue.
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