The “sleep snacks” mentioned below were prepared using the Jenn-Air 30″ Double Wall Oven with MultiMode® Convection (JJW2830WS), available at Mrs. G’s.
Stressful, busy days and the constant bombardment of technology can make it difficult to shut off the outside world and get to bed. Instead of reaching for a sleep aid to knock yourself out, you can try more natural ways to help you fall asleep.
Studies show there is a connection between carbs and the release of serotonin (your body’s feel-good hormone) in the brain, so a snack within an hour of bedtime that is mostly carbohydrates with a little protein can boost serotonin levels. Why?
To maximize the release of serotonin (which helps you sleep), you need two things: Tryptophan and Carbohydrates. Tryptophan is the amino acid that is the raw material for serotonin found in protein sources. But if you eat a high-protein meal, all the various amino acid levels go up, and they all fight for entry across the blood-brain barrier, and tryptophan levels actually go down in the brain. When you eat carbohydrates, the body releases insulin whose job it is to put excess glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids to work or into storage. So when there’s insulin in the blood, it empties out of all amino acids except for tryptophan, clearing the way for tryptophan to enter the brain.
So what’s the bottom line? Try eating a light meal with a little protein and a little carbohydrate within an hour of bed. (It takes about an hour for serotonin levels to go up after a meal.) Try toast with peanut butter, half an egg salad sandwich, oatmeal with milk or walnuts, warm milk, or some of the ideas below from a recent sleep seminar held at Mrs. G’s with Capital Health Center for Sleep Medicine.
1. Multi-Grain Cereal Clusters with Almonds: Almonds have both tryptophan and magnesium, so you could also try adding these to your oatmeal. Whole Grains like bulgur, barley are rich in magnesium—and consuming too little magnesium may make it harder to stay asleep.
2. Roasted Turkey Wraps with Spinach and Dark Cherry Conserves: While turkey is a well-known source of tryptophan, almost any type of poultry has similar amounts of it. Try eating half a turkey or chicken sandwich. Cherries contain melatonin, which helps regulate sleep. These are the sour ones used in pies, not so much the sweet. And spinach contains iron which has been known to help protect against restless leg syndrome.
3. Banana Yogurt Parfait: The yogurt is great because it’s half carbohydrates and half protein. The banana contains tryptophan, melatonin, seratonin, and magnesium, which can act as a muscle relaxant.