Foods That Make You Sleepy
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February 24, 2013
By Alison Turner,  Featured Columnist

We’ve all felt the difference between good sleep and bad sleep: the
difference usually manifests in having a good day or a bad day.  
Unfortunately, restful nighttime activity can be quite the problem for
many Americans.  The National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at
the National Institutes of Health reports that between 30 and 40% of
adults suffer from sleep problems,  which could make for a rather
grumpy country if we don’t try to fix the problem.  

Sleep is vitally important to your health. In fact ,
lack of sleep can
actually make you sick, increasing your risk of heart attack, heart
disease, high blood pressure, stroke and other diseases. In men, losing
sleep due to snoring has been linked to erectile dysfunction. (Read
more about the
connection between snoring and ED.)

Sleep and Food: What’s the Connection?  

Wouldn’t it be better if our lives could be divided into parts that didn’t
affect each other?  What if, for example, what we eat and how we eat
didn’t affect our mood, our energy levels, or our sleep at night?  Most
of us have found out for ourselves that it doesn’t work that way.  Our
lifestyles, including what we eat, how much we eat, and how active we
are, impacts everything about our day, from our attitudes to our
emotions to how well we sleep at night.  

Good sleep is a complicated formula, and what we eat is a significant
part of the equation: how does our diet affect our sleep at night?  What
can we eat (or not eat) to get better sleep on a regular basis?  Check
out the list below of foods that will make us sleepy – for better or for
worse – as discovered by researchers from around the world.

Tryptophan-Enriched Cereal and Chrononutrition: A Sleepy Mouthful.

You may have been warned against the Thanksgiving Day sleepiness
knocking you out before you can join the family Scrabble game.  The
real culprit is not the Holiday spirit, your in-law’s cooking, or family
fatigue: blame tryptophan!  

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid (meaning we get it from our diet)
used for growth in infants, and for nitrogen balance in adults.  
Tryptophan is also used to help make serotonin, a substance thought to
help maintain healthy sleep and a stable mood.   

Another factor causing the Thanksgiving Day dozing could be the time
of the big meal, which is analyzed by experts in "chrononutrition".  

Chrononutrition is the field advocating that the consumption of foods
at certain times of the day influences  our biorhythms and physical
performance.   Perhaps because they could avoid the distraction of
Thanksgiving Day, researchers in Spain looked at how both of these
factors, tryptophan and chrononutrition , could make us sleepy when
we want to be.

In 2012, a team of scientists led by R. Bravo with the
Neuroimmunophysiology and Chrononutrition Research Group at the
University of Extremadura in Badajoz, Spain,  looked into how
tryptophan – as well as the process of chrononutrition – could help the
“reconsolidation of the sleep/wake cycle” in 35 middle-aged elderly

For three weeks, participants ate either standard cereals (with 22.5 mg
of tryptophan per 30 grams of cereal) at breakfast and dinner, or
“enriched” cereals with 60 mg of tryptophan in the same amount of
cereal.  Data showed that the consumption of tryptophan-enriched
cereals “increased sleep efficiency, [and] actual sleep time” amongst
other variables.  Furthermore, the increased amount of tryptophan
improved “anxiety and depression symptoms.”

If you’re not a fan of tryptophan-enriched cereal on a regular basis –
or in the evening, for that matter – other sources of tryptophan include
cheese, chicken, eggs, fish, turkey, milk, nuts, and seeds.

Binging at Lunch Causes Fatigue.

Have you ever been a victim of the post-lunch dip?  Happens around 3:
30 to 4:30 PM?  This infamous phenomenon has been blamed for
countless afternoon naps, early afternoon coffee breaks, and sluggish
afternoon productivity.  Research from the UK suggests that the post-
lunch dip could be a convenient excuse: the condition could be avoided
with just a little attention to portion control.

In 2012, a group of experts including L.A. Reyner with the Sleep
Research Centre at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, UK,  
subjected 12 drivers to a 2 hour “monotonous afternoon drive”
simulated on a projector screen, after consuming either a light lunch
(305 calories), or a heavy lunch (922 calories).  While there was no
difference in test subjects for the first thirty minutes after lunch, the
heavy lunch “caused significant increases” to both lane drifting and
subjective sleepiness.

If you have something important going on in the afternoon, you might
want to keep lunch light. If, however, you have a long, lazy day to fill,
and you feel the need for a solid nap, go ahead and indulge.  (Read
more about
ideal diet to get you lean.)

Fat in Our Foods: We Never Get A Rest.

We all know several reasons why we shouldn’t eat a diet high in fats –
research from the University of Pennsylvania now suggests that in
addition to all of those reasons, a diet high in fat may make it harder
for us to maintain healthy sleeping habits.

In 2010, Michael Grandner with the Center for Sleep and Respiratory
Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania  led a team of
researchers in an investigation into how different nutrients affect sleep
patterns.  The study observed and gathered data from 459 post-
menopausal women.  

Here's what they found. The variables that were most correlated with
subjective napping included total fat, calories, saturated fat, and
monounsaturated fat, followed by a long list of less strongly associated
factors.  (Read more about the connection between
fatty diets and
going bald.)

They also found that total fat, monounsaturated fat, and trans fat were  
“negatively associated” with sleep duration – that is, the more fats you
eat, the less sleep you're going to get.  The report concludes that both
actigraphic sleep time and subjective napping were “significantly
related” to fat intake.

It’s a beautiful case of irony: if you’re tired of worrying about fat and
give up on trying to cut back, your fatty diet will prevent you from
getting adequate sleep.  If you feel like enough is enough and sleep has
become your number one priority, try switching to a low fat diet: you
may get paid back in zzzzzs.  

Safed Musli and Velvet Bean: Two Herbs for Good Rest.

Safed musli, also known as chlorophytum borivilianum, has been
historically used to remedy impotence, as an aphrodisiac, and as an anti-
aging assistant.   The herb has also been used in Ayurvedic medicine, as
has Velvet bean, a climbing legume also called Mucuna pruriens.   In
2012, researchers investigated whether or not these two herbs could
be used to improve sleep quality.

In 2012, Richard Bloomer and other scientists with the
Cardiorespiratory/Metabolic Laboratory at the University of Memphis in
Tennessee  tested how a dietary supplement of both chlorophytum
borivilianum and Velvet bean taken for 28 days influenced sleep in 18
men and women “with evidence of impaired sleep quality.”  Results
showed that sleep quality showed “improvement,” with scores from
most categories improving “approximately 50% from pre to post
intervention.”  The team concludes that the dietary supplement
containing chlorophytum borivilianum and Velvet bean “improves sleep
quality in men and women.”

If you’re having trouble sleeping and feel like you’ve tried all the tricks
in the books, try closing the books and returning to nature: these two
herbs may be a good place to start.

Melatonin, Zinc and Magnesium: Ingredients for Good Rest.

Continue reading page 1    page 2


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Velvet beans can help you fall asleep. .