“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.” ~W. C. Fields
Living in a stress-filled electromagnetic soup has created a nation of insomniacs. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 50 and 70 million American adults suffer from sleep disorders. If you’re among them, conider making the new year the time to muffle the static in your head, ease tense muscles, trigger sleep hormones (serotonin and melatonin) to flow freely and get your long overdue beauty sleep. Let’s toss the sleeping pills and indulge in soporific foods. Pleasant dreams.
Hit the hay with hummus
Chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus, contain a load of tryptophan, an amino acid your body uses to make the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and circadian patterns. So chow down on some whole-wheat pita chips and hummus as a bedtime snack for a peaceful slumber.
Other tryptophan powerhouses that might help you sleep tight (especially with a generous side of carbs) include turkey, notorious for causing Thanksgiving naps, elk and crustaceans. Whip up a pot of seafood cioppino, lobster cocktail, scallop stir-fry or Spanish paella, and dream on.
Green sleeping machines
Some mighty leafy greens are packed with calcium, which stimulates the brain to use tryptophan for the manufacture of snooze-inducing melatonin. So go green with a warm wilted spinach salad, sweet and sour mustard greens, kale confetti with pomegranate seeds and toasted almonds, or an arugula pesto for burger toppings.
…Or turn over a new leaf with lethargic-triggering lettuce leaves containing lactucarium to lull you to sleep.
Your grandma’s tried-and-true sleep remedy — a warm glass of milk before bedtime — still does the trick, since the calcium and tryptophan in dairy products help dial up melatonin. A soothing cup of chamomile tea will also trigger a restful night by boosting the body’s glycine, a natural sedative to relax tense nerves and muscles.
Passion fruit tea will accomplish sleep-like-a-baby slumber thanks to the Harman alkaloids found in the tea’s flowers. Tart cherry juice, too, has been found to hike melatonin levels for putting the skids on insomnia.
Sweet dreams, honey
Some of the natural sugars in honey, including glucose, fructose and maltose boost insulin levels, which in turn enable tryptophan to flow into the brain with greater ease. Dissolve a spoonful of honey in a cup of chamomile tea for a double dose of drowsy.
Studies have shown that certain carbs contribute to some serious shut-eye, especially jasmine rice, mashed potatoes, oatmeal, pretzels and corn chips. Once again, these moderate to high-glycemic foods hike insulin levels, prodding tryptophan to enter the brain bringing on zzz’s.
Crank up your B6s, such as wild caught salmon, halibut and raw garlic to manufacture melatonin and serotonin. Cheesy garlic toast, teriyaki salmon burgers or a halibut fillet dressed in aioli sauce will do the tranquilizing trick, too.
Nighty Night Nuts
Load up on assorted nuts before retiring for the night, especially heart-healthy tryptophan and magnesium-rich almonds, walnuts rife with tryptophan and melatonin, flaxseeds, an omega-3 mood elevator, and pistachios, a B6 powerhouse.
A bedtime banana is a perfect package with muscle-relaxing magnesium, and mellowing melatonin and serotonin. Slice on a piece of whole-what toast slathered with almond butter for a soothing, hit the sack snack.
Mediterranean Lullaby Salad
14 ounces (2 packages) wild arugula
1 cup chickpeas, drained
1/2 red onion, diced
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup walnut, almond or olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/4 cup roasted pecans or walnuts, chopped
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Method: Sauté the onion in the oil until translucent. Add the chickpeas, vinegar, honey, lemon, mustard powder, salt and pepper, and heat on medium until warm. Sprinkle the nuts on arugula, and toss with the warm dressing. Serve immediately.
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