Having a bedtime snack can improve sleep provided you opt for foods rich in the right sleep-inducing ingredients. The best bedtime snacks consist of foods containing tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps the body make serotonin.
Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that aids in the sleep process. The way serotonin aids sleep is through its conversion by the pineal gland into melatonin, a hormone that helps control your sleep and wake cycles.
Research suggests that people with fibromyalgia may have low levels of serotonin. Low serotonin levels result in sleep disruption, sleep disorders, fatigue, and depression.
Tryptophan + Complex Carbs = Better Sleep
Tryptophan is found in protein foods and requires assistance from foods high in carbohydrates to affect serotonin levels. Carbohydrates help the tryptophan reach the brain more efficiently. But not just any carb will do. Sugary carbohydrates, like cookies, disrupt sleep because they raise insulin levels quickly. Then, when blood sugar drops in the middle of the night, you’ll wake up.
To get the benefit of tryptophan’s sleep-inducing qualities, focus on combining foods that contain protein with foods that are high in complex carbohydrates such as; nuts, seeds, vegetables, some fruits, legumes, whole grain bread, and cereals.
Including calcium with your bedtime snack improves your body’s absorption of tryptophan and production of melatonin.
Therefore the combination of foods high in complex carbohydrates, containing a small amount of protein, and including calcium results in the most beneficial sleep-inducing foods.
It takes about an hour for tryptophan to reach the brain. Plan your snack 1 to 2 hours before going to bed.
11 Bedtime Snacks For Sleep
- Almonds – Almonds are packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. One cup of almonds supplies 30 grams of protein and 30 grams carbohydrates. They also contain magnesium, which promotes both sleep and muscle relaxation. Snack on almonds with a source of calcium such as milk, yogurt or oatmeal
- Bananas – Bananas are a complex carbohydrate that also contains tryptophan. Plus, they are packed with potassium and magnesium which are natural muscle relaxers. Eat a banana with peanut butter, cereal or oatmeal.
- Dairy – Dairy products contain tryptophan and are a good source of calcium. Combine yogurt, milk, cheese or cottage cheese with a complex carbohydrate. Have milk with cereal or cheese with an apple. If you are sensitive to dairy you may be able to eat yogurt. But, if you have a milk allergy, you should not have dairy products at all. Non-dairy alternatives are almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, and soy milk.
- Oatmeal – Oatmeal is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium—the nutrients known to support sleep. It is believed oats may reduce the risk of heart disease and colon cancer. Consider adding fresh berries, flaxseeds or ground walnuts to your bowl of oatmeal.
- Cereal – A bowl of whole-grain cereal before bed could help you get better sleep. The snack combines two components for getting some sleep: carbohydrates (from the cereal) and calcium (from the milk).
- Pumpkin Seeds – One-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains 600 mg of tryptophan and nearly half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds also contain zinc, which can assist the brain in converting tryptophan into serotonin. Have one-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds with a small piece of fruit.
- Tart Cherry Juice – Cherries contain melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Researchers found that people who drank a full glass of cherry juice twice a day (morning and night), slept longer at night and napped less during the day. Tart cherry juice helps fibromyalgia pain as well.
- Walnuts – Walnuts are rich in both melatonin and tryptophan. They are an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids. Walnuts are also rich in antioxidants. Many minerals are provided by walnuts. These minerals include copper, calcium, chromium, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, vanadium and zinc.
- Kiwi – Kiwi is high in serotonin. Numerous studies have revealed that kiwifruit may be beneficial in the treatment of sleep disorders. Consuming 2 kiwis one hour before bed improved both sleep quality and sleep quantity. Studies also show kiwi as a possible aid to heart health and to respiratory function.
- Tea – There are a variety of herbal teas that help support a good night’s sleep. Tea and tea blends made from herbs such as; chamomile, jasmine, lavender, passionflower, peppermint, and valerian promote a sense of calmness and relaxation.
- Honey – The natural sugar found in honey slightly raises insulin and allows tryptophan to enter the brain more easily. Honey is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes which protect the body from bacteria and boost the immune system. Use honey to sweeten your oatmeal or favorite tea.
Tryptophan-rich foods encompass every major food group. The possible combinations of tryptophan-rich foods and complex carbohydrate foods are endless. Here is a list of Foods-High-In-Tryptophan.