Oatmeal, whole-grain cereals and breads, and other complex carbohydrates increase production of serotonin, a kind of chemical lullaby, if you will. Serotonin slows nerve activity, calming the brain and spreading a "feel-good" message throughout your body. When darkness enters the picture, the brain converts serotonin to yet another hormone, melatonin, which regulates sleep.
Red Meat and Other Iron-Rich Foods
If restless legs keep you awake, it's possible that you have a form of anemia caused by iron deficiency. Consult a physician to find out if you do. The doctor may prescribe supplements or a diet rich in iron to help correct the problem. Choose lean red meat for the least saturated fat, and eat it for lunch rather than dinner because its protein can counteract sleep-inducing serotonin.
You've probably heard the jokes about the Thanksgiving turkey putting
people to sleep, but this folk wisdom has a leg—make that two legs—to stand on. Turkey is rich in
tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to produce serotonin.
You can also try honey with warm milk. A fast-digesting carbohydrate like honey or mashed potatoes stimulates the release of insulin, which in turn allows more tryptophan to enter the brain.
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Sometimes all it takes to fall asleep is going to bed with the confidence that you will fall asleep. The scientific evidence on chamomile tea for insomnia is thin, but many people find it relaxing. If you think a nice warm cup of this tea before bed will help you drift off, it probably will.