Do you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep? You’re not alone.

  • More than 100 million Americans of all ages regularly fail to get a good night’s sleep.
  • More than 35 million Americans complain of chronic insomnia (poor sleep every night or most nights.)
  • One in four Americans takes some kind of sleep medication.
  • Sleep deprivation and sleep disorders are estimated to cost Americans over $100 billion annually in lost productivity, medical expenses, sick leave, and property and environmental damage (National Sleep Foundation).

What you eat affects how you sleep. One of the keys to a restful night’s sleep is to get your brain calmed rather than revved up. Some foods contribute to restful sleep; other foods keep you awake. Foods that help you sleep are tryptophan-containing foods.

Tryptophan (which is converted to an amino acid called L-tryptophan) is the raw material that the brain uses to build sleep-inducing substances (relaxing neurotransmitters) serotonin and melatonin. Adequate serotonin levels promote deep, restorative sleep. Eating carbohydrates with tryptophan-containing foods makes this calming amino acid more available to the brain. A high carbohydrate meal stimulates the release of insulin, which helps clear those amino acids that compete with tryptophan from the bloodstream, allowing more of this natural sleep-inducing amino acid to enter the brain and manufacture sleep-inducing substances. Eating a high-protein meal without accompanying carbohydrates may keep you awake, since protein-rich foods also contain the amino acid, tyrosine, which perks up the brain. Read the rest of this entry »