What is the secret to getting a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep? Head for the kitchen and enjoy one or two of these 10 foods. They relax tense muscles, quiet buzzing minds, and/or get calming, sleep-inducing hormones – serotonin and melatonin – flowing. Yawning yet?
Bananas. They’re practically a sleeping pill in a peel. In addition to a bit of soothing melatonin and serotonin, bananas contain magnesium, a muscle relaxant.
Chamomile tea. The reason chamomile is such a staple of bedtime tea blends is its mild sedating effect – it’s the perfect natural antidote for restless minds/bodies.
Warm milk. It’s not a myth. Milk has some tryptophan – an amino acid that has a sedative – like effect – and calcium, which helps the brain use tryptophan. Plus there’s the psychological throw-back to infancy, when a warm bottle meant “relax, everything’s fine.”
Honey. Drizzle a little in your warm milk or herb tea. Lots of sugar is stimulating, but a little glucose tells your brain to turn off orexin, a recently discovered neurotransmitter that’s linked to alertness.
Potatoes. A small baked spud won’t overwhelm your GI tract, and it clears away acids that can interfere with yawn-inducing tryptophan. To up the soothing effects, mash it with warm milk.
Oatmeal. Oats are a rich source of sleep – inviting melatonin, and a small bowl of warm cereal with a splash of maple syrup is cozy – plus if you’ve got the munchies, it’s filling too.
Almonds. A handful of these heart-healthy nuts can be snooze-inducing, as they contain both tryptophan and a nice dose of muscle-relaxing magnesium.
Flaxseeds. When life goes awry and feeling down is keeping you up, try sprinkling 2 tablespoons of these healthy little seeds on your bedtime oatmeal. They’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a natural mood lifter.
Whole-wheat bread. A slice of toast with your tea and honey will release insulin, which helps tryptophan get to your brain, where it’s converted to serotonin and quietly murmurs “time to sleep.”
Turkey. It’s the most famous source of tryptophan, credited with all those Thanksgiving naps. But that’s actually modern folklore. Tryptophan works when your stomach’s basically empty, not overstuffed, and when there are some carbs around, not tons of protein. But put a lean slice or two on some whole-wheat bread mid-evening, and you’ve got one of the best sleep inducers in your kitchen.
For an extra treat, here’s the ultimate sleep-inducing snack…
Makes 12 low-fat muffins
Between the bananas, the whole wheat, and the honeyed touch of sweetness, these muffins are practically an edible lullaby.
Â· 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
Â· 1/2 teaspoon salt
Â· 1 tablespoon baking powder
Â· 2 large, very ripe bananas
Â· 1/3 cup applesauce
Â· 1/4 cup honey
Â· 1/2 cup milk or soymilk
Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine the flour (make sure it’s whole-wheat pastry flour or you’ll produce golf balls, not muffins), salt, and baking powder. In a blender, puree the bananas; add the applesauce, honey, and milk. Blend well. Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Line muffin tins with paper muffin cups, pour in batter, and bake 30 minutes or until tops are lightly brown and slightly springy.
Per serving: 119 calories; 1g fat; 2.5g protein; 27g carbohydrates; 10g sugars; 133mg sodium; 3g fiber; 35mg magnesium