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Nutrition Tips and Supplements for Insomnia

Dietary Changes for a Better Night's Sleep
  -- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
Is a good night’s sleep eluding you?
Tossing and turning the whole night through,
Drowsiness, fatigue, a lack of sleep,
There is more help than just counting sheep.


There are many factors that can cause sleep problems, and even more potential solutions. The steps you take to improve your sleeping patterns will be individual, based on the cause of your insomnia and the treatment plan laid out by your health care provider. In addition to the many lifestyle changes that can help you sleep better, the following nutrition tips and supplements may also help improve the quality and quantity of your shut-eye:

Stop eating at least two to three hours before your regular bedtime. If your body is trying to digest food, you won't be able to fully relax, fall asleep or stay asleep.

Limit: fried and fatty foods, refined carbohydrates (such as white rice, breads, pasta, and sugars), and spicy foods (especially if you are prone to heartburn), especially before bedtime. The effects of these foods can interfere with your ability to get a good night's sleep.

Enjoy a light snack approximately two hours before bedtime, as falling and staying asleep can be difficult if you are hungry. A healthy snack can help take the edge off of your hunger and help you sleep through the night. Your snack should contain mostly carbohydrates and a small amount of protein. This combination may help increase the availability of tryptophan (an amino acid that helps induce sleep) to your brain. A few pre-bedtime snack ideas include: Avoid alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep quickly, but it can disrupt your normal sleep patterns and leave you feeling un-rested the next morning. <pagebreak>

Avoid caffeinated drinks and foods during the afternoon and evening. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate that can delay your sleep or cause you to wake up during the night. You may want to avoid caffeine entirely and see if your sleep improves.

Limit the consumption of liquids in the evening, to decrease the urge to go to the bathroom during the night.

Along with these lifestyle measures, you may wish to consider a natural sleep aid supplement. Supplements should NEVER be taken together or with other sedative drugs. Discuss the appropriateness of these supplements with your doctor first, as well as dosage and the risk of physical and psychological dependency. The two best-researched, most effective supplemental sleep aids are valerian root and melatonin. When it comes to treating insomnia, there is insufficient evidence or limited research to support the following supplements:
While nutritional changes and supplements alone are possibilities for curing your insomnia, it's best to take a comprehensive approach. Work with your doctor to find potential underlying causes to your sleeping problems, and create a treatment plan that encompasses lifestyle, diet and exercise changes to help you sleep better.