There are a number of factors that contribute to a truly restful night's sleep. Getting more exercise, practicing mediation, taking non-habit-forming sleeps aids, and making environmental improvements (like buying a new pillow, making your bedroom light-tight, or listening to peaceful "sleep" sounds) can all be effective when it comes to falling asleep and staying asleep. One of the simpler (yet equally as effective) solutions to your sleep problems is to examine what you eat; your diet can play a significant role in your ability to achieve a restful and restorative night's sleep.
We all know that there are certain foods that make it difficult to sleep (anything that enhances energy or alertness or that causes uncomfortable digestion can make it difficult to nod off), but there are also a number of foods that can enhance your body's ability to unwind and slip into sleep mode. Cooking with these healthy and delicious ingredients — especially at dinnertime — can help you score a better night's sleep.
One of the main ways you can make sure to sleep more soundly is to eat foods high in tryptophan, an amino acid that encourages your body to produce serotonin (a chemical in the brain that can create a feeling of relaxation). Serotonin in turn makes melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep cycles. Many nuts, seeds, meats, and legumes are rich in tryptophan.
Tryptophan alone isn’t enough to help you sleep; it’s actually a combination of tryptophan-rich foods and carbohydrates that can boost serotonin levels. Adding carbohydrates helps the tryptophan compete with other amino acids in the body, allowing it to more readily enter the brain (where it can assist in the production of serotonin). Try making a late-night snack like a slice of bread with nut butter or a dinner like seared ahi tuna with brown rice.
If you’re in need of a good night’s sleep, try cooking with some of these delicious ingredients.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.