There are few things more frustrating than insomnia. Tossing and turning and doing that internal debate about whether you should just go ahead and get up and clean out your kitchen cupboards or tackle the taxes or scroll through your Facebook page. For the ever-growing tribe that cannot fall asleep — or, worse, wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake — you all have heard the usual advice: Don’t drink coffee after noon, don’t guzzle wine before bed, don’t check your social.
But we’ve got some possible solutions that are much easier to swallow: foods that are high in tryptophan, the amino acid that is essential in helping the body produce seratonin, which makes people sleepy. Like every nutritional based approach, this isn’t a quick fix; be patient while your body adjust to the boost in tryptophan.
1) Nuts and Seeds
Not just a good source of protein and quality fats, these crunchy ingredients weigh in with high levels of tryptophan. The biggest numbers come from chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, pistachios, almonds, and filberts. Try exploring these chia seed recipes.
Tofu, especially the freeze-dried tofu called koyadofu, tempeh, and edamame deliver 100 grams of tyrptophan in each cup serving. Try getting your fill with these tofu recipes.
Why sip warm milk before bed when you can nibble a piece of cheese? Maybe take a page from the French, who choose cheese after dinner, instead of dessert. Parmesan and cheddar are especially high in tryptophan, followed by mozzarella, Gruyere, Swiss, Fontina, and Gouda. Oui, oui!
4) Red Meat
Now, this isn’t an excuse to gorge on a slab of prime rib or a massive steak, but even a 3-ounce serving brings home the bacon in terms of tryptophan. And, it’s game on, with rabbit, goat, and wild boar showing up on the list, too.
Turkey gets high praise in the sleep-inducing department, but it’s interesting to note that stewing chicken (think slow cooker chicken and dumplings) ranks slightly higher, just ahead of turkey wings, which deliver 113 percent of the recommended daily intake of tryptophan. Turkey breast meat, chicken wings, and drumsticks are also about 100 percent, while fat-free ground turkey and turkey drumsticks are just below that, at 99 percent and 98 percent, respectively. While delivering much lower levels, eggs are also a good source of tryptophan.
Fin fish such as halibut, salmon, trout, snapper, and mackerel have nearly as much tryptophan as red meat, while shellfish including lobster, clams, prawns, and oysters are also winners on that amino acid content. Experiment with this huge catch of more than 4,000 seafood recipes.
7) Whole Grains
No shocker that these good-for-you grains from whole oats to buckwheat and wheat germ are high in tryptophan, though the 1-cup serving size might be a chewing challenge. Fold some of those whole grains into muffins or pancakes.
8) Beans and Legumes
Cooked beans and legumes like lentils deliver an average of 115 milligrams of tryptophan for each 1-cup serving, with cranberry beans, pinto and kidney beans, navy and black beans hitting that target. Lentils are slightly lower in the important amino acid, coming in at 57 percent of the recommended daily intake. There are so many options for getting your fill of beans and lentils you could fall asleep counting them all.