Is food the best way to cure insomnia?

December 08, 2012
Volume 2    |   Issue 96
I've read a lot of reports lately about different foods that make you sleepy. For instance, one report that's making the rounds a lot these days is from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Back in 2007, they said that eating a bowl of buttered jasmine rice before bed will help you sleep. But is this the best way to get to sleep?

It's true that certain foods help you sleep. Many of them produce the brain hormones serotonin and cytokinins, which calm your nerves. They also can cause drowsiness after about 20 minutes. Other foods, like cherries, contain melatonin, which is the sleep hormone. And some experts suggest eating carbohydrates, such as bananas or whole wheat.

However, eating too many carbohydrates before bedtime is a sure way to increase your fat stores. Whether it's Jasmine rice, bananas, or whole wheat, eating them every night could hurt your ability to sleep in the long run, as excess weight can cause sleep problems, including sleep apnea.

Plus, eating high-glycemic carbs (pasta, potatoes, white rice, sugar, etc.) right before bed causes two other hormonal problems. First, it will spike your insulin production. Insulin is a very destructive hormone. Yes, your body needs it. But too much of it can cause serious health problems, including diabetes.

Second, carbs can reduce your production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). As you may know, HGH burns fat and builds muscle. What you may not know is that your body releases about 80% of its production of HGH while you sleep. So eating carbs before bedtime is a recipe for disaster.

Are there foods you can eat before bedtime that will help you sleep and not gain weight? Absolutely. Start with the cherries. They're great to eat anytime and they're great for you. If they help you sleep, it's one more benefit.

Other foods to consider are calcium-rich green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collards, and spinach. They're rich in calcium, which can help you sleep better. Because calcium helps you sleep, many experts recommend dairy products, such as a warm glass of milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese. But you don't want to eat too much dairy, as it can be heavy and make sleep more difficult.

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Of course, one of the best sleep aids is tea. Chamomile tea, in particular, is quite effective at making you drowsy. Drink a cup of decaf tea about an hour before bedtime, but don't drink too much, as it could make you run for the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Food can help you sleep, if you eat the right ones. You have to remember which foods to eat. And sometimes, the foods aren't strong enough. But they are definitely worth a try.

Your insider for better health,

Steve Kroening

Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.

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