Weekly Wellness: Sleep-healthy snacks? Yup!

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COLUMBIA - I love sleep, don't you? Getting enough sleep is vital to your health. And the quality of your sleep matters, too.

I have some clients who struggle to get to sleep and to stay asleep. It's so frustrating. Some of them turn to medications (both over-the-counter and prescribed) but I know they wish they could find more natural alternatives.

So this week's segment is for you: the non-sleepers out there.

This is a list of foods that have been proven to help people fall asleep and stay asleep. Don't believe it? Try it! What have you got to lose?

1. Honey: Add a drizzle of honey to warm milk or herbal tea a few hours before your planned bedtime. That small amount of glucose lowers levels of orexin (a neurotransmitter that raises your level of alertness).

2. Whole Grains: Feeling restless before bed? Try a piece of whole grain bread or toast. Whole grains encourage the production of insulin, which helps neural pathways get tryptophan to the brain. (Remember tryptophan? From your Thanksgiving turkey? It's an amino acid that acts as a sedative.)

3. Bananas: Potassium is a mineral that is essential to have a good night's sleep. And bananas are a good source. Bananas also contain tryptophan and magnesium! The perfect bedtime food!

4. Beans: Did you know that B vitamins have been used to treat insomnia for years? Did you know that beans contain different variations of B vitamins (like B6, niacin, and folate)? It's true!

5. Dairy: I know it seems like the old wives’ tale of "a warm glass of milk will help you sleep" but it's actually true. Dairy is a natural source of tryptophan, and the calcium content has a nice boosting effect.

6. Nuts: Nuts can help boost serotonin levels in the brain and are an excellent source of magnesium and tryptophan. Walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds contain the highest levels of the natural sedative.

7. Oats: Did you know that oats are a natural source of melatonin? True! So a small bowl of oatmeal might just do the trick for your late-night snack…

8. Poultry: Turkey isn’t the only bird to contain tryptophan – all poultry does! Maybe nibble on a piece of chicken or a slice of turkey to help you sleep.

9. Chickpeas: Chickpeas are high in vitamin B6 (which helps your body produce serotonin which is a hormone that helps you rest easy). Hummus, anyone?

10. Yogurt: Yogurt contains calcium. Calcium is needed to process tryptophan and melatonin. They all work together.

11. Cherry Juice: Cherries are also high in melatonin. A recent study found that regularly drinking cherry juice or eating cherries may help people with insomnia regulate their sleep cycles for better sleep.

12. Leafy Greens: Leafy greens contain high levels of calcium (see yogurt).

13. Chamomile Tea: Chamomile has a calming effect and drinking something warm (and decaffeinated) before bed might help you to drift off to sleep.

14. Grapes: Did you know that popular grape varietals used to make wine (like Merlot, Sangiovese, and Cabernet) contain high levels of melatonin? I'm talking about the FRUIT not the wine so don't reach for the wine glass (as you've learned in previous segments, alcohol can make it harder for you to stay asleep).

15. Eggs: Eggs (like their poultry counterpart) are also a good source of tryptophan, so have a hard-boiled egg alongside a cup of tea or a poached egg on whole grain bread.

I hope you’ll find some snack options that will help you get the Zs you need. Good night!

(Source: http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Foods-Help-You-Stay-Asleep-6962641)