- Recipe 1:
- 1 banana
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup Soy or Almond milk
- Warm for 5 minutes and blend
- Recipe 2:
- 1/2 cup of pitted cherries
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup of oats or cereal
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup of Soy or Almond milk
- Warm for 5 minutes and blend
You guys are my beauties! Let’s talk about sleep. Unfortunately, a nasty side effect of many medications and/or intolerances to food causing gas or pain is sleep loss. This includes light sleeping where you can never get into the proper rhythm. Physiologically speaking, you need tryptophan and serotonin from food to help you sleep.
There are other sleepy hormones like melatonin or herbal supplements like St. John’s Wart and Valerian that can also help. The issue with melatonin is it has actual peak hours, which are generally between 10 pm and 2 am. After 2 am, levels drop substantially. If you miss that window then it’s not really effective. To maximize the helpfulness of melatonin you must go to bed at approximately the same time every day. This is because hormones run on fairly strict schedules, which are largely based on the concentrations of their products or secondary responses in the bloodstream. You can take a melatonin supplement to boost levels at times conducive to your sleep schedule, but this is NOT a long term solution. Like any hormone, if you start externally supplying it, your body slows natural production of the hormone. If you have to use it more than two weeks then you can start damaging your production.
The issue with supplements is similar. Their efficacy is largely based on concentration in bloodstream. Because these are not naturally occurring in your body, it takes awhile for them to build up in your body. You wouldn’t see results for two weeks minimum. This is why we are going to use food. Your body takes it up faster than supplements and it won’t hurt any of your natural hormone productions.
Why Tryptophan and Serotonin? Simple- Tryptophan is the amino acid (smallest unit something can breakdown into and still be a protein) precursor to Serotonin. One literally begets the other. Serotonin is your happy hormone. It helps you sleep because it relaxes you and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the fancy terms for resting and digesting. The PNS also slows heart rate and respiration a bit because they are stimulated by the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). The quick and dirty version is stimulating the PNS helps you sleep.
As stated, Tryptophan is an amino acid. That means it comes from protein. You cannot simply eat a cup of turkey covered cottage cheese blended with walnuts. Too much protein actually decreases Tryptophan production in brain. That means we should largely focus on Serotonin, as it is the ultimate goal. Where does the happy hormone come from? Only the happiest category of food: carbs! Too many carbs can spike your blood sugar and counteract the effects of serotonin. This means balance and portion control.
The physiology lesson is over, so let’s talk food. First, you want to eat about an hour before you want to go to bed. Make this a touch longer if you have gastroparesis. This is adequate time to allow your stomach to empty and the desired proteins and hormones to get into your blood stream. One power food is the almightily banana. These bad boys have the potassium, which you guys are probably low on anyway, and also contain Tryptophan, Serotonin, Melatonin, AND Magnesium (a relaxing ion).
For maximum benefit, blend a banana with yogurt, especially greek yogurt. The yogurt is about half carbs and half protein. Just enough of everything to reap the rewards and not jeopardize effects. After you blend, heat it up a little over the stove mixed with soy milk. Warmth is naturally soothing and calming. Soy milk and yogurt contain Tryptophan, carbs, and a touch of fats. Plus, yogurt and milk contain calcium, which calms nerve fibers. Remember, you don’t want to overload, so the entire serving should be no more than 1.5 cups. That’s about 1 banana, half cup yogurt, and half cup milk. You may want to only do 1/4 cups of yogurt and milk to begin with while you learn your tolerance and needs. You can also add a few almonds. They contain tryptophan and magnesium.
Bananas not your thing? Cherries are useful too. They do not pack the punch bananas do, but have similar effects. Mix cherries with oatmeal cooked in soy milk. Remember that soy milk has more calcium than regular milk. Almond milk has more calcium than cow milk too and the power of almonds. This can help diminish the losses from not using bananas. Oatmeal has complex carbs that stimulate Tryptophan release. Bored with oatmeal? Use a cereal like Corn Flakes or Special K. You’re cooking and blending the snack, so they will soften. They contain the same grain and complex carb benefits as oatmeal.
It never hurts to use a chamomile tea as a night cap either. You can always mix and match the recipes too. You know what works and why now. Avoid caffeine, alcohol (sedating but weakens sleep depth), and too much of anything we discussed. Good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!