Over 30 percent of Americans suffer from some form of sleep deprivation, and 10 percent of the population struggles with the associated symptoms of insomnia during daytime hours. While there are many medicinal aids for insomniacs referred to as sedative-hypnotics, many of which have anti-anxiety properties but increase drowsiness or depress the central nervous system, these medications can be habit-forming.
For those interested in avoiding pills, take a look at your diet.
Studies have shown that sleep-inducing plant-based foods have had successful outcomes in helping insomniacs fall asleep and, most importantly, stay asleep.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is the routine inability to fall asleep, along with constant wakefulness throughout the night. Even when an insomniac obtains a full night of sleep, they often feel as if they never slept. While there are 90 different sleep disorders, most of which share one or more of the same symptoms, insomnia, in general, is broken into two types: acute insomnia, brief sleeplessness caused by life circumstances, and chronic insomnia, characterized by at least three nights of sleeplessness per week for up to three months.
Insomnia has many causes, including changes in your normal environment, unhealthy sleep habits, strange work schedules (such as shift work), certain medications, or other health or psychological disorders, also referred to as comorbid. While acute insomnia usually passes on its own, it’s important to contact a medical professional when suffering from chronic insomnia.
What are the side effects of insomnia?
With prolonged insomnia comes a host of unwelcome side effects, including fatigue, difficulty concentrating, low energy, mood swings, and, resulting from these effects, poor performance at work or school or within personal relationships. Yet, even more, serious health concerns have been documented concerning lack of sleep, including “increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.”
Sleep-Inducing Foods for Every Kitchen
For chronic insomniacs, professional intervention can be a key ingredient to finding your normal sleep rhythms again. But along with treatment programs, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help calm your mind and prepare for sleep. One change you can make is through your diet. Reducing caffeine intake, increasing water, and introducing sleep-inducing foods to your diet are all great ways to help combat sleeplessness.
Stress can be a huge influencer in falling and staying asleep. Certain teas help promote sleepiness. Chamomile, a relaxing herb harvested from a flower in the same family as marigold and Echinacea, is a popular choice for bedtime teas. The decaf version of green tea can also be used as a sleep aid. Green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that promotes relaxation and sleepiness by causing three reactions within the brain: boosting calming chemicals (GABA, serotonin, and dopamine), reducing stress and anxiety-inducing chemicals (excitatory chemicals), and enhancing alpha brain waves, which inspire relaxation, creativity, and focus.
There are various ways to incorporate tea and tea leaves into your diet creatively. While you may not be the sipping type, try using matcha, and powdered green tea leaves. Here are a few unique ways to get those calming cues from your tea: Peach and Chamomile Ice Pops, Fig Curd Tarts With Lavender and Chamomile, Matcha Buns With Raspberry Jam, or this Mint Matcha Chip Ice Cream.
Almonds are a staple found in plant-based diets. These little morsels contain large amounts of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Yet, almonds also promote sleepiness due to magnesium and protein. Almonds have 255 milligrams of magnesium which aids in relaxing muscles, while protein balances blood sugar levels and switches the body into rest-digest mode.
Almonds can easily be integrated into your diet. They are great as a snack — Stuffed Mushrooms With Almond Feta — crushed in salads — Easy Broccoli Salad With Almond Lemon Dressing — used in desserts — German “Honey” Almond Cake — and even via almond nut butter — Creamy Almond Butter Tomato Pasta or this Almond Butter Swirl Brownie.
3. Miso Soup
This warm, salty, broth-based soup is a staple of Japan. Miso soup is a mixture of dashi — a stock made from dried baby sardines, dried kelp, and dried shavings of skipjack tuna or shiitake mushroom — and miso paste, fermented soybeans via salt, fungus, rice, or barley. This comfort food not only warms your belly but also can be imbibed as a sleep aid. The miso part of miso soup contains amino acids that promote the creation of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that’s linked to sleepiness.
While there’s no need to change the base of the soup, try making your basic vegan style Soothing Miso Soup. Yet, if the basic is too boring, try spicing it up a bit with these unique miso soup recipes: Miso Soup With Garlicky Lentils, Kale, and Mushrooms, Immunity-Boosting Miso Soup, Comforting Miso and Ginger Soup, or this Zucchini and Edamame Miso Soup.
Simple is sometimes the best, and that holds for bananas and sleep! Similar to miso soup, bananas have high levels of magnesium (60.8 milligrams), which promote the relaxation of muscles. Yet, bananas also contain trace amounts of tryptophan. Traditionally called L-tryptophan, this amino acid creates serotonin. Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter associated with melatonin creation and sleep.
Even better, bananas are incredibly diverse in the kitchen! Delightful in their raw form, bananas are also great for desserts and baking, such as this classic-with-a-twist One-Bowl Almond Butter Banana Bread, this breakfast delight Caramelized Banana Porridge, or this banana infused dessert Raw Chunky Monkey Banana Cream Pie.
Source: Pumpkin and Kale Steel-Cut Oatmeal/One Green Planet
Last, but not least, oatmeal is a powerhouse of nutritious sleep aids. Oats are packed full of calcium-containing tryptophan, along with magnesium, which works as a muscle relaxer, phosphorous, which reduces muscle pain and regulates energy, silicon, which aids to grow and maintain healthy bones, and potassium, which reduces muscle contractions and spasms.
Oatmeal is yet another incredibly varied ingredient in the kitchen. From the basic morning bowl of oats to the more eccentric recipes, such as this Pumpkin and Kale Steel-Cut Oatmeal With Sausage, Turmeric Ginger Oatmeal, or this Coconut Golden Chai Oatmeal, to a unique take on oats, such as this High-Protein Oat Groats and Lentil Salad, this ingredient can fit into any diet or lifestyle.
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Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health, and more! Unfortunately, dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer, and has many side effects.
For those interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend purchasing one of our many plant-based cookbooks or downloading the Food Monster App which has thousands of delicious recipes making it the largest vegan recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
Easy Ways to Help the Planet:
- Eat Less Meat: Download Food Monster, the largest plant-based Recipe app on the App Store, to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy. You can also buy a hard or soft copy of our favorite vegan cookbooks.
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