Top five foods to beat insomnia

Top five foods to beat insomnia

Dread the sound of your alarm clock every morning?  If you are one of those who get up groggy, grumpy and feeling blue day after day thanks to all the tossing and turning you do at night, you are not alone!


Close to 50 % of the general population is believed to suffer from insomnia, inability or total lack of sleep.  Women, thanks to the rise and fall of hormones and older adults are the likely victims.   But, given the modern day stressors, and graveyard shifts at work, men too are as vulnerable.


Here’s a rundown on five foods that can help you fight insomnia:

  1. Milk: No, it’s not just an old wives tale.  When your mom wanted you to drink up the glass of milk before bedtime, she had valid reasons.  Milk and indeed all milk products such as yoghurt, curds, lassi, paneer and even cheese are rich in a nutrient called “tryptophan”.  Tryptophan is an amino acid (the building blocks of proteins) that plays a crucial role in the body.  It is the starting point for the brain to make serotonin – the “happy hormone” and melatonin which is a hormone that regulates sleep. So, drink up milk or curds before bedtime for a calm, undisturbed snooze.


  1. Walnuts: Walnuts are rich in vitamins, fiber and energy.  But what sets them apart from other foods is that they are rich in brain boosting omega 3 and omega 6 fats.  Omega 3 is found in brain tissues and regulates circulation, fights inflammation and protects the heart and is recommended for depression and anxiety.  About 25 grams of walnuts or 14 halves would give you 2.5 grams of omega 3 fatty acids, enough to calm you down and help you sleep!


  1. Fish: Sea fish, especially salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, pomfret are great sources of omega -3 fats, since they contain both EPA and DHA components of the fat.  EPA is short for eicosapentaenoic acid, that fights inflammation and reduces cellular damage.  The other component , DHA or docosahexanoic acid reduces overall triglyceride levels in the body.  Both these components also alleviate depression and anxiety and may aid in improved sleep. Fish is also rich in Vitamin B6 which the body needs to make melatonin (hormone regulating sleep) and serotonin (happy hormone).


  1. Banana: It is well known that simple starches make one sleepy!  Anyone who valiantly wards of the yawns after a carb rich meal in the office will vouch for this fact!  Rather than resorting to empty starches like white polished rice and sugar, banana may be a better, healthier way of getting your carb fix.  Bananas are good source of potassium and magnesium, which both act as muscle relaxants. It also contains Vitamin B6 that helps the body in production of serotonin, a precursor to other sleep hormone melatonin.


  1. Poppy seeds: If all else fails, try opium!  But of course in the natural form.  Poppy seeds are oily seeds that are obtained from opium plant.  Although the seeds contain very less opium, they do exert a mild sedative effect.  Poppy seeds or khus khus is a popular ingredient in many Indian delicacies.  In the south, it is predominantly used in making kheer and sweets, while in the north, it is used as both thickening and flavouring agent in savouries.   Besides making you doze off they also give you a good dose of vitamins and minerals!



You can halt the vicious cycle of insomnia by being proactive and planning your day well.  Natural remedies, age old wisdom of yoga and physical activity can all be the answers to the insomniac’s prayers.  Let’s analyze some of them.

Exercise, exercise, exercise:  Can the benefits of exercise be stressed enough? In a study done on 15 sleep deprived women aged between 40 and 63, vigorous aerobic activity five times a week for five weeks was prescribed.  At the end of the study, all the women were sleeping more soundly, and had stopped dependency on sleep medications at the end of the study period. Interesting side effect? The women had shed close to 3 kilos after five weeks.


Go the yoga way:  It’s the age old Indian wisdom, handed down by the gurus down generations.  Yoga helps calm down the nerves, improves blood supply to the brain and helps control the mind and the racing thoughts.  A study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research found that insomniacs, who practiced yoga for 6 months, fell asleep ten minutes faster, slept an hour longer and woke up feeling more refreshed than those who did not take up yoga.


Eat a lighter, earlier meal: The old saying about eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper is a fool proof one as far as sleep hygiene is concerned. Heavy, fat laden meals take a long time to digest and stress the digestive and circulatory system.  This is likely to cause heartburn and acidity, not to mention a heavy bloated feeling, which make it difficult to fall asleep and result in chronic insomnia.  Eating at least 3 hours before bed time will ensure digestion process is completed before hitting the sack.


Apart from these, some foods may actually help you snooze faster and better!


Other than the above, making your room sleep friendly is also a great way of beating insomnia.  Turn off harsh lights, make the room as sound proof as possible.  Play a soothing melody and light some aromatherapy candles.  Soothing all the senses will mean less anxiety and more restful sleep!


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