Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s AfterGlo

Six foods to help you catch some shut-eye

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

If you suffer from sleep issues, then you know the list of potential remedies is long – power down electronics at least an hour before bed, make a to-do list to ward off late-night worrying, sip comforting tea and so forth. Friends will tell you to try meditating, and it will take every ounce of your willpower to keep from hurling something at them in your zombie-like state.

But what if you could eat certain foods and reap the benefits once you hit the sack? Sounds like a good deal, right?

For starters, studies have shown sipping on cherry juice – in particular, tart cherry juice – can help you catch some shut-eye. New research presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting finds drinking tart cherry juice twice a day can help you sleep nearly 90 more minutes a night. The extra benefit? Cherry juice has tryptophan, the same amino acid found in turkey (and the reason why we want to nod off after Thanksgiving dinner).

When tart cherry juice isn’t available, fresh, frozen and dried cherries are also rock stars at providing melatonin, a hormone that is secreted by our brains and helps control our sleep and wake cycles. Tart cherries are best, but other varieties also have sleep benefits.

Not a fan of cherries? Try incorporating one of these other foods into your diet for more restful sleep.

Kiwi

If you’re a lover of this tropical fruit, you’ll be happy to know research has shown kiwi can encourage longer, more restful sleep. At Taipei Medical University in Taiwan, researchers studied how kiwi consumption affects sleep and found that eating one of the fruits every day resulted in improved sleep quality. Not only is kiwi high in antioxidants, but it is also rich in serotonin, a hormone that affects a number of psychological functions, including appetite, mood and the regulation of sleep.

Bananas

You might have heard magnesium and potassium supplements can benefit those of us who have a hard time achieving restful sleep. But what if you want a natural source of the two friendly minerals? Try a banana! Experts say eating a banana before bed can not only provide a potassium and magnesium boost, but also a dose of tryptophan. The amino acid converts into melatonin and serotonin, making it a breeze to fall asleep.

Dark chocolate

Like kiwis and bananas, dark chocolate – as opposed to its milky counterpart – contains serotonin, making it an ideal treat to have before bed. And, hey, it’s perhaps the yummiest option on this list, right? Of course, dark chocolate also boasts other benefits, including antioxidants that help skin appear softer and more hydrated. Have a square or two with a cup of herbal tea before bed and call it a night.

Chickpeas

If you love hummus, then you just might want to consider having a scoop with some fresh cut veggies before bed. Chickpeas contain B-6, a vitamin that is needed to help produce – you guessed it – melatonin. Not so keen on chickpeas? Try roasted chickpeas by The Good Bean (thegoodbean.com), which offers salted, sweet cinnamon and cracked pepper varieties.

Oatmeal

Don’t you love how a warm bowl of oatmeal can make you feel all warm and cozy, especially during the chilly winter months? Well, here’s the thing about oatmeal: It has the same effect on your brain, naturally raising your blood sugar to make you feel ready for a nap. Oats – like many of the aforementioned foods – also contain melatonin, making them an ideal before-bed snack.

And since we’ve talked so much about the foods that can help you sleep, it’s probably a good idea to review the ones that will disrupt your ability to rest. Coffee, alcohol, milk chocolate, spicy foods and even soy have all been shown to contain ingredients that can act as stimulants or cause digestive upset, leaving you wide-eyed at 3 a.m.

I’m curious: What are your tried-and-true tricks for catching some shut-eye? Email me your ideas!

Raw Tart Cherry Almond Bars
(gluten-free & vegan) 

Makes 8 bars

Whip up these bars for a post-dinner treat that will have you feeling ready to hit the pillow in no time!

Ingredients

• 2 1/2 cups raw almonds
• 1/3 cup dried tart cherries
• 1 cup dates, pits removed and chopped

• 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
• Juice of 1/2 a lemon, seeds removed

Directions

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender until pulverized. Scoop mixture into a 9×9-inch square baking dish, using a spatula to press it into the dish and spread it evenly. Refrigerate for 1 hour and then cut into squares. Store bars in the refrigerator.

Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at
afterglo@daytoncitypaper.com.

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About Caroline Shannon-Karasik

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Caroline Shannon-Karasik

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