January 28, 2008
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 »