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It’s 2:00pm and my eyelids are slamming shut in front of my computer. I couldn’t sleep last night, but not for lack of trying. I shut off the TV about 2 hours before I climbed in bed. I read a book (yes, the kind made of paper). I turned down the temperature in the house. I closed the blackout shades over my bedroom windows. And then, I laid there staring at the ceiling, for hours. It’s possible that I slept for about two and a half hours. And I’m not alone! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 49.2 million people have trouble focusing because they don’t get enough sleep.
So I started digging into natural sleep aids. And of course, I focused on the food solutions!
Your body uses carbohydrates to make tryptophan (that sleepy little amino acid famous for turkey comas on Thanksgiving) and serotonin (a neurotransmitter responsible for putting your brain in a relaxed state). We’re not advocating for a big pasta binge right before bed, but incorporating whole grain bread, brown rice, or quinoa into your dinner meal may give your body a jump start on relaxing before bedtime.
Research shows that calcium may help your brain use tryptophan to create melatonin—the sleep aid your body naturally produces. This may be the reason your grandmother fed you a warm glass of milk to help you sleep when you were a kid. Why not give it a try as an adult?
Diet surveys show that most Americans are magnesium “marginal.” This means there aren’t outward signs of deficiency, but we might not be getting enough for “optimal” health. Studies have shown that higher magnesium levels in the blood may help induce deeper, more consistent sleep. Foods like spinach and pumpkin seeds are loaded with magnesium. If those don’t sound like good bedtime snacks, you’re in luck—dark chocolate is also full of magnesium! Try a small piece of dark chocolate before bed or a mug of warm chocolate milk to give you a boost of both calcium and magnesium.
This list is not exhaustive…but I’m exhausted…so off I go for a mug of warm a2 Milk® Chocolate 2% Reduced Fat Milk and hopefully a good night’s sleep!
Bonnie is a food-loving registered dietitian/nutritionist with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science & Education from Colorado State University.
Bonnie promotes the science and research behind a2 Milk® to Health Professionals and is on hand to answer simple health related questions from a2 Milk® consumers.
For more complex questions, please contact your health care professional.