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Best Foods For Insomnia

Alongside a healthy diet and exercise, probably the most important thing we can do for ourselves is get a good night’s sleep.

However, for many people this is an issue that means their quality of life can be severely impaired.

Losing sleep, for whatever reason can result in a myriad of other mental and physical health symptoms which can be distressing and give extra cause for concern.

A rather shocking figure to learn is that as many as ninety percent of people in Australia suffer from some impairment of their sleep, with thirty percent being diagnosed as having a chronic sleep disorder.

In severe cases, medical intervention is usually needed, but for those who suffer mildly or want to take control of the problem themselves, looking at diet is one way to help sort out any sleep issues.

With that in mind, here are just a few dietary ideas that can actually help with this all too common condition.

Food groups for beating insomnia

Typically, when treating insomnia with diet there are three different types of foods you need to look at.

Firstly, ones that contain calcium.

Secondly, foods that contain magnesium.

Thirdly and finally, foods that contain complex Amino acids (also known as L-Tryptophan).


Calcium and calcium rich foods are important in the fight against sleeplessness.

We’re all familiar with the advice to have a hot milky drink before bed, but this is more than just something our mothers told us to get us to take on board something healthy!

Foods such as milk and yogurt make excellent bed time snacks, because the calcium they contain has a relaxing effect on the brain and the nervous system.

Taking a supplement is OK, but it is always much better to get the vitamins and minerals from food.

A cup of cocoa, milo or hot milk and honey really is one of the best ways to unwind at night.

If you don’t like milk or are lactose intolerant, then there are many other ways to get calcium into your diet, such as by eating a small handful of almonds, some mixed dried fruit or even dark, leafy green vegetables like cabbage, kale and broccoli.

Canned fish such as salmon or sardines provide an excellent source of this mineral, providing that when it is prepared the bones are mashed in.

Eating a dinner made with salmon and mixed dark greens, followed by a dessert of yogurt is the perfect way of helping your body to unwind and encourage sleep.


Magnesium is the mineral that goes hand in hand with calcium. They work well together to make sure the brain and nervous system are calmed and relaxed.

In many people who perhaps suffer from stress generally, foods rich in magnesium can really help to reduce muscular tension and brain fogginess.

Good sources of magnesium are buckwheat, legumes, nuts such as cashews and almonds, brown rice and certain fruit juices like orange or grapefruit.

A good idea for supper would be something along the lines of buckwheat pancakes (as they will be made with milk) with some form of lean protein that is perhaps served with a glass of one of the fruit juices mentioned above.

If you really would rather take a supplement, then try to get one that includes magnesium and calcium together as they work better when combined.

Amino Acids (L-Tryptophan) 

L-Tryptophan is an acid which helps to stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain, which is an important chemical that the body needs to help it relax.

Again, L-Tryptophan can be found as a food supplement, but is much better taken directly from the things we eat rather than in capsule form.

Excellent sources of L-Tryptophan are white meats like roast chicken and turkey, some types of fish, both oily and white, but typically cod and halibut from the white category and salmon and tuna from the oily types.

Whole grains and complex carbohydrates are an excellent source too, so things like oats, bulgar wheat, quinoa or even perhaps lovea of bread baked with wholemeal flour and mixes of seeds in them are perfect for this.

One of the best snacks, therefore, to have an hour or two before bed is a plain roasted turkey or chicken sandwich on seeded wholemeal bread.

Sleeping stressors

There are many reasons why we might not sleep as well as we would wish to. Things like job stress, a relationship break up or something like giving up drinking or starting a life that is free from smoking after many years, will all initially have a negative impact upon one’s body.

For many these will be short term issues that after a while will right themselves and normal sleep patterns and habits will return.

However, if a period of insomnia does not cease or is becoming an issue then it’s really important that you seek help from a GP or other sleep specialist for more help and advice. Ask them if they have recommendations of the best foods for insomnia.

By Lily Hammond, 10/2012

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