7 Snacks for the Sleep Challenged

Ah, sleep. Can you think of anything better than a restful slumber? Or, for those struggling with shut-eye, perhaps the appropriate question is, can you think of anything worse than a night of tossing and turning?

Indeed, the feeling of waking up after a solid night’s sleep is one of life’s greatest pleasures. And, not only is the feeling great, but the health benefits, like a strengthened immune system, a sharper focus, a trimmer waistline and decreased risk of disease, are countless. But if you’re like over 50 million other Americans, getting – and staying – asleep is a challenge.

Before going the medicinal route, consider how diet can aid in your sleep woes. Check out these 7 before bedtime snacks with snooze-inducing benefits.

Eat up and sleep tight!

Raw Honey

When taken prior to bed, raw honey is believed to fuel the liver by providing adequate liver glycogen stores. You use a lot of brain energy when sleeping and an efficient form of brain energy comes from liver glycogen, or sugar stored in your liver. In addition, liver glycogen limits the early morning release of the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenalin, and contributes to the release of melatonin.

Consume 1 – 2 teaspoons before bed. By itself is just fine, or try it with a glass of milk or chamomile tea. Just remember to use RAW honey, not the conventional, processed kind found at most grocery stores.

Cherries

Research from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Rochester has suggested that cherries may boost the body’s melatonin supply, a hormone that helps you sleep. A team from Louisiana State University backs this research with additional findings that state cherry juice is also a natural source of tryptophan. “The ruby red pigments in tart cherry juice contain an enzyme that decreases the breakdown of tryptophan, letting it go to work longer in your body,” added Frank L. Greenway, director of the outpatient research clinic at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

However, not all cherries are created equal in this regard. The research supports this theory when consuming tart cherries or cherry juice, not sweet or maraschino cherries.

So far, it’s not entirely clear how many cherries to consume to reap its sleep-inducing benefits. However, the research from LSU’s team was based on drinking tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks.

Dairy

Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, are high in calcium and other minerals known to have relaxing effects. Dairy also contains tryptophan – an amino acid that promotes sleep. However, the amount is very small and in order to have any effect at all, tryptophan needs to enter the brain. To achieve the greatest effects of tryptophan, a carbohydrate should be consumed with a protein, in this case milk, which makes the tryptophan more available to the brain.

So, enjoy a glass of milk, warm or cold, before bed, but be sure to add in a carb, like oatmeal, granola or toast, to achieve the most sleep benefits.

Bananas

Bananas are an excellent source of magnesium and potassium, which are natural muscle relaxants. What’s more, they also contain tryptophan, which is converted to melatonin and serotonin, a relaxing neurotransmitter. All this, coupled with the fact that they’re also high in carbs, makes this a perfect slumber-time snack.

Try blending one banana with one cup of milk for a delicious – and doubly effective – before bed snack.

Oatmeal

It’s not just for breakfast anymore. Oatmeal, a complex carbohydrate, prompts a rise in blood sugar, which triggers insulin production and sleep producing brain chemicals like serotonin. Serotonin is a feel-good hormone that decreases stress and calms your state of mind.

Additionally, oats are rich in melatonin. And, because oatmeal is a slow digesting carb, there’s no worry that your blood sugar will crash mid-slumber.

If you like to sweeten your oatmeal, just remember to go easy on the sugar, as it can have an anti-calming effect. Better yet, choose honey as an alternative sweetener.

Fortified Cereals

Fortified cereals are packed with Vitamin B6. What does this have to do in your quest to get some shut-eye, you say? Vitamin B6 is essential in making melatonin, a sleep producing hormone triggered by darkness. Moreover, fortified cereals contain complex carbs, which help to boost tryptophan.

Pair your cereal with milk for increased sleep-promoting qualities and, again, beware of the sugar that often accompanies cereal consumption.

Almonds

Almonds contain both magnesium and tryptophan, helping to naturally reduce muscle and nerve function while you sleep. An added benefit? They’re high in protein, which helps maintain stable blood sugar while sleeping.

Enjoy a handful of almonds or a tablespoon of almond butter. For a triple-whammy, try a banana topped with almond butter and honey – 3 sleep enhancers in 1 delicious treat!