Michael Roizen, MD, speaks with the Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials blog about dietary steps people can take to deal with insomnia.
No magic sleep-inducing piece of fruit or secret ingredient will induce drowsiness (though, as you’ll see in the following, some are better than others). But Dr. Roizen says setting yourself up with a good last meal of the day can help prepare your body for sleep. Research shows that having meals high in fiber and low in foods with saturated fat and simple carbs (sugar) should help. So that’s why a dish like beans, grilled fish or chicken, and a large side of vegetables is the best meal choice to help your body prepare to shut down (and as we’ve learned, the earlier you eat it, the better).
One recent study in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that this kind of meal was associated with people falling asleep faster – in less than 20 minutes, in fact. When subjects consumed more saturated fats and sugar, the process took closer to 30 minutes. If you have the choice (and you do!), make your protein fish, which, when eaten regularly, has been linked to helping prevent poor sleep.
Key Players: The two nutrients most associated with better sleep are magnesium and tryptophan. You’ve heard of tryptophan; it’s all over the headlines in late November as the reason why you want to zonk out after eating a big plate of Thanksgiving turkey. Although tryptophan may not actually make you tired after a big holiday meal, the food that contain it, or magnesium, are certain good options if you’re trying to improve your sleep quality. Tryptophan is an amino acid that converts to the body clock – regulating hormone and melatonin. Foods that contain it include egg whites, soybeans, chicken and pumpkin seeds. And when you choose your vegetables for dinner, consider a leafy green like spinach that contain magnesium.