Sleep Promoting Foods

From Tryptophan to Serotonin to Melatonin


There are certain foods help the body relax and have a more restful sleep. Many beneficial foods contain tryptophan (L-tryptophan), an essential amino acid that the body uses to make the neurotransmitter, Serotonin. The effects of Tryptophan are that it can help you feel calm, at ease, and instill a sense of wellbeing. Tryptophan is important since it is the only substance that can be converted into Serotonin. In a two-step process, Serotonin is then converted into Melatonin, which has been shown to promote better sleep.


Our bodies cannot make Tryptophan so we get it from our diet. It was once available as an over-the-counter nutritional supplement, but in 1989 a Japanese manufacturer sent some contaminated shipments to the US, linking it to an outbreak of a rare blood disorder. The FDA response caused panic by recalling all L-Tryptophan supplements, and even now, the exact association between those supplements and the disease is unknown and debated.


There are still many ways to enjoy the naturally calming benefits of Tryptophan. One way is with the amino acid supplement, 5-hydroxy L-Tryptophan (5-HTP). When Tryptophan-containing foods are being converted in our bodies, they are first made into 5-HTP, then Serotonin, and finally, Melatonin. As a precursor for Melatonin, 5-HTP is found to aid in sleep, as well as keeping depression at bay.


Foods that contain Tryptophan


It takes one hour for the Tryptophan in food to reach the brain, so plan accordingly.

Tofu and Soy products                                   Black-eyed Peas

Walnuts: English and black                           Almonds, Hazelnuts, Peanuts

Sesame Seeds, Sunflower Seeds                 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Gluten Flour                                                   Milk, Cottage Cheese, Cheese, Yogurt

Beef, Poultry, Seafood                                   Beans, Lentils, Hummus

Whole Grains                                                 Rice

Eggs                                                              Bananas

Baked Potato (with skin)                                Kelp


Sleep-Promoting Bedtime Snacks


Foods that are high in carbohydrates and low-to-medium protein content are good for promoting sleepiness.

Apple Pie with Ice Cream                                            Whole-Grain Cereal with Milk

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and Milk                               Peanut Butter on Whole-Grain Bread

A Banana                                                                    Warm Milk

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