Diet. Treatment of insomnia may center on developing general healthy diet guidelines, in addition to making some key adjustments in your relationship with food. This involves adjusting the diet to eliminate foods suspected of stimulating or disrupting the nervous system or triggering food allergies, such as lactose (dairy) intolerance. Also, consuming the right carbohydrates prior to bedtime may encourage the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which reduces anxiety and encourages sleep.
Dietary recommendations for insomnia include:
- If you’re hungry at night, eat quality, complex carbohydrates such as a piece of whole-grain sprouted bread, a bowl of oatmeal, organic unsweetened yogurt, or a raw apple.12
- Eat foods rich in L-tryptophan such as organic turkey and chicken (poultry), organic milk, cheese, and yogurt (if you’re not allergic to dairy), beans, and cashews.13
- Combine your dairy products with carbohydrates. The L-tryptophan from dairy products reaches your brain more easily when it’s combined with a carbohydrate. As an example, choose cheese and a whole-grain sprouted slice of bread.13
- Eat foods that contain lecithin, an excellent source of choline (a B vitamin). These foods include egg yolks (from organic, cage-free hens), cauliflower, grape juice, and cabbage. Lecithin has positive benefits in helping with sleep, stabilizing mood, and enhancing brain function.14
- Add saturated fats to your diet that have antimicrobial properties such as organic virgin coconut oil.
- Eat foods that are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as organic flax meal, fish oil, wild salmon, minimal-mercury tuna, avacados, and sprouted walnuts.
- Add nutrient-dense and unprocessed foods such as sprouted nuts and seeds to your diet.
Foods to AVOID include:
- All simple or refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, crackers, processed snacks, etc.) – Read more about good carbs and bad carbs.
- All foods containing refined sugar or synthetic sugar-substitutes such as aspartame, Nutrasweet, Splenda®, etc. Choose a natural sweetener like Xylosweet™ instead.
- Alcoholic beverages – Although alcohol has a sedative effect initially, it actually disrupts good-quality deep sleep.
- Foods and beverages that contain caffeine, such as soft drinks, coffee, tea, and chocolate – caffeine is a stimulant that disrupts healthy sleep patterns.
- Energy-boosting drinks – These stimulate the nervous system and can contribute to insomnia.
- Sweetened fruit juices that spike blood sugar levels too rapidly
- Bottom crawlers such as oysters, clams, and lobster that may contain toxic levels of mercury
- Deep-sea fish such as albacore tuna, mackerel, and swordfish that may contain toxic levels of mercury. Choose minimal-mercury albacore tuna instead.
- Sodium nitrite found in processed foods such as hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) found in many foods as a flavor enhancer
- Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) found in many processed foods, deep-fried foods, fast food, and junk food – Read more about good fats and bad fats.
- All tobacco products – Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals, many of which are extremely harmful.
Other tips for insomnia sufferers:
- Purchase a comfortable bed and quality sheets that make you feel relaxed.
- Avoid heavy meals in the evening hours. High-protein meals may keep you awake.
- Practice meditation, deep breathing, and guided imagery while in bed to help ease your overactive thinking.
- Review your calendar and write down a checklist of all the things you need to do the next day so that you unload your brain before you go to sleep. Journaling before bedtime also helps to unload your thoughts.
- Get plenty of morning sunlight to help regulate your circadian rhythms.
- Avoid exposure to bright light before you’re going to sleep, and during sleep. Bright lights may disrupt sleep/wake cycles and keep you awake. Use nightlights in the bathroom to avoid turning on bright lights in the middle of the night, and use heavy blinds/shades to keep the room dark.
- Try to fall asleep and wake up during the exact time every day (even on weekends) to help your body establish a normal sleep pattern.
- Light therapy can be used to reset the body’s circadian rhythms and reestablish natural sleep/wake patterns. Carefully timed exposure to bright light can bring the body’s cycle back into synchronization with the natural cycle of night and day. Read more about blue light technology.
- Discuss heavy metal toxicity with your healthcare professional before receiving any diagnosis or treatment for a serious chronic condition. Read more about heavy metal toxicity.
- If you have “silver” dental fillings, get an evaluation from a mercury-free dentist who specializes in the safe removal of mercury amalgam fillings. Mercury is a neurotoxin that can cause wide-spread damage throughout the body and be a contributing cause of insomnia. Find a mercury-free dentist in your area now!
Exercise. Experts recommend aerobic exercise 3 to 5 times per week as a means of improving the quality and regularity of sleep. Researchers at Stanford University found moderate exercise to be especially helpful for insomnia sufferers between 50 and 76 years of age.11