10 Foods to Help You Sleep

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  • It may sound strange, but Gillian McKeith, a holistic nutritionist and author of "You Are What You Eat" and "Food Bible: How to Use Food to Cure What Ails You" says eating lettuce in the evening can help you sleep better. She says the milky sap in lettuce contains an opium-like substance called lactucin that can help induce sleep and relaxation. Who knew?
  • A steaming cup of tea can be relaxing on its own, but if you want to get a good 8 hours of sleep, your best bet is chamomile tea. In her book, "Food Bible," McKeith says chamomile has natural sedative properties, which can relax nervous tension.
  • Not in the mood for tea? Green vegetables contain the mineral magnesium, which helps to relax muscles and nerves. McKeith recommends kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, chocory and bok choy.
  • There's a reason why we all feel tired after eating that big Thanksgiving dinner, and it has to do with tryptophan. The amino acid, found in foods like turkey and chicken, converts to the sleep hormone melatonin in the brain. Other foods that contain tryptophan include brown rice, peas, fish, pumpkin seeds, tuna, figs and plain yogurt.
  • If you're not in the mood for any of those foods, try eating a banana, which is also rich in trytophan.
  • McKeith also recommends adding complex carbohydrates to your dinner like buckwheat, quinoa, millet, barley and sweet potatoes. Eating carbs leads to the release of insulin, which is needed to carry tryptophan into the brain, McKeith writes.
  • Oatmeal isn't just for breakfast. Try eating a bowl in the evening. McKeith says oats have a "tranquilizing and nerve-restorative properties," sure to help you get a better night's sleep.
  • Studies have shown honey can be a natural sleep-aid. That's because honey contains a natural ingredient called orexin, which helps the brain to "switch off."
  • Foods rich in niacin are helpful because they are involved in seratonin synthesis, McKeith says. Niacin-rich foods include eggs, fish, chicken, soybeans, peas and fenugreek.
  • Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and trout can also help you get your Zzzs. McKeith says "essential fats are important for brain chemistry and neurotransmitters required for chemicals involved in sleep." So, fill up your plate with these foods. It might just help you get a full night's sleep.

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