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#26 Foods That Help You Sleep

We all know a large turkey dinner makes us sleepy. You may have also heard a glass of warm milk before bed helps us get to dreamland.  It turns out it isn’t just an old wives’ tale.  In fact, many foods contain natural sleep aids.

Help getting to sleep is just what people with neuropathy need.  Often, painful burning feet is enough to keep us awake all night long.  A couple of things to avoid are sugar and alcohol, they are contributors to the inflammation that surely cause the nighttime flair up of neuropathy symptoms.  So what foods do naturally aid with sleep?

graphic of a live turkey wearing a pilgrim hat and holding a sign that says: happy thanksgiving
Does turkey make you feel tired?
Image Source: CNA

What’s the magic ingredient?

We’ve heard it’s the tryptophan in turkey and milk, or any dairy, that brings on the post-dinner zen, right? It’s a misconception though that tryptophan makes you sleepy, the tryptophan does however act as a precursor to the hormone melatonin, the body’s own natural sleep hormone. Your body needs time before bed to make the conversion, this means eating early is better for sleep. Tryptophan is also found in chicken, lean beef, leafy greens, beans, walnuts, peanuts and by association peanut butter.  If you’re a hunter you should know that elk meat has twice as much tryptophan as turkey.  That should make for a short evening before bed.

So why are we so sleepy after the big Thanksgiving dinner? It’s because your body needs its energy to digest all that food you’ve consumed!

Other sleep-inducing foods

Other sleep inducing foods include bananas, seafoods such as salmon and tuna, chick peas, also known as garbanzo beans, lentils, lettuce, dark cherries and almonds.  Then there are the teas chamomile, lemon balm, green and passion fruit teas.

It’s the potassium and magnesium in bananas and lentils that acts as muscle relaxants.  Seafoods, chickpeas and dark cherry juice contain vitamin B6 which also stimulate melatonin.  Lettuce contains lactucarium which has sedative properties. Chamomile and green teas have theanine, which is good for relaxation, but is not really a sedative. Finally, lemon balm tea contains terpenes which is thought to augment GABA, a neurotransmitter with a calming effect.

The ultimate sleep-promoting meal

If you’re looking for ultimate meal to help you sleep how about starting with a bowl of lentil soup. Moving on to a main course of elk or salmon with a spinach side salad that is topped with almonds, peanuts or walnuts and add in a side dish containing of beans including chick peas. Wash it all down with carbonated water mixed with dark cherry juice.  For dessert have a bananas and vanilla yogurt parfait.

Four Foods: spinach salad topped with walnuts, an elk steak, sparkling water with cherry juice, bananas and yougurt Image Source: CNA
Foods with vitamin B6, magnesium and tryptophan help you get to sleep.  Image Source: CNA

Finally, top it off with green or lemon balm tea.  With any luck, you’ll be sleeping like a baby.

Related CNA Resources:

#1 Manage Sugar, #2 Manage Salt, #3 Check Caffeine Intake#4 Limit Alcohol, #5 Cut Out Artificial Sweeteners, #14 Fight Pain with Magnesium and #21 Healthy Eating For Those With Neuropathic Pain 

We can't do it alone.

Food for thought...


  1. http://www.activebeat.com/your-health/children/10-foods-to-help-children-fall-and-stay-asleep/
  2. https://examine.com/supplements/theanine/
  3. https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/foods-that-help-you-sleep/

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