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Healthy Foods that Promote Deep Sleep

If you're following sound advice on how to get a good night's rest, and still having trouble sleeping soundly, you may want to try eating a bedtime snack that combines a concentrated dietary source of tryptophan with a healthy carbohydrate-rich food.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body cannot make; you must obtain it from the foods that you eat. Once tryptophan crosses your blood-brain barrier to gain access to your brain, it is used to make a hormone called serotonin.

Serotonin acts within your body to promote feelings of sleepiness, calm, and relaxation.

Without adequate levels of serotonin in your system, you might have a hard time feeling sleepy enough to rest soundly. And without adequate levels of tryptophan within your brain, you may not be able to produce significant amounts of serotonin.

The challenge with shuttling tryptophan through to your brain is that it has to compete with other amino acids for access to the limited number of channels that line your blood-brain barrier. And tryptophan tends to be outnumbered by other amino acids in natural foods.

The key to getting enough tryptophan to your brain to sleep well at night is to combine a tryptophan-rich food with a carbohydrate-rich food. This is because ingesting a carbohydrate-rich food causes your body to release insulin, which diverts many of your other amino acids away from your brain, leaving tryptophan with little competition to cross your blood-brain barrier to gain access to your brain.

Here is a list of some healthy foods that are naturally rich in tryptophan:

  • Beans
  • Whole grains, including rice
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Eggs
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Miso (fermented soy beans)
  • Unsweetened soy milk
  • Raw dairy products (if you can tolerate dairy)

If you combine any of the foods listed above with a healthy carbohydrate-rich food as an evening snack, your body should be able to produce enough serotonin to facilitate a good night's rest.

What follows are some suggestions for healthy meals and snacks that combine a tryptophan-rich food with a carbohydrate-rich food:

  1. Rice with miso soup

  2. Whole grain pita with hummus (add tomato and red onion slices for flavor)

  3. Whole grain crackers with organic peanut butter (add a touch of honey for sweetness, if desired)

  4. Unsweetened whole grain cereal with soy milk

  5. Rice with lentils

  6. Rice, black beans, and guacamole

  7. Hummus with steamed broccoli

  8. Eggs with whole grain toast

Clearly, the possible combinations of tryptophan-rich foods and carbohydrate-rich foods are endless. Be creative and enjoy the process of figuring out which combinations suit your palate and help you sleep like a bear.

Related Posts:

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need To Be Healthy?

How to Make Guacamole

How to Make Hummus


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Hi Dr Kim
Your articles are fantastic!
One of the simplest ways to get tryptophan is simply to combine a cup of hot milk with a full teaspoon of sugar. I have used this for years and it works almost immediately. It is especially handy as you can prepare it in the middle of the night when you can't sleep, and it is simpler than trying to prepare other food combinations.
Keep up your wonderful work!

Dr. Kim, I wish to express my gratitude for all your e-mails. They are very much appreciated. I find them invaluable for me and my family. Best Regards to you and your family. Lori Ann Garza

I've read in the Fit for Life page 231 to 269 by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond regarding animal and dairy products. I do agree and support you when you recommend that we consume natural or vegetable products but I disagree when you recommend raw dairy products in your posting it seems to go against your knowledge or belief unless I am wrong.


Can't remember where I heard it but according to the info I gained - all dairy products are detrrimental to adults, esp. adult males. Despite this assertation I have found that eating ice cream before bed made me sleepy. The reason given was that your digestive system has to work much harder to process dairy products than other types of food.

Dear Rosnah, you don't know what you talking about ,the recomendation about Raw milk or in general Raw dairy is the best thing we can look for ,so dr Kim knows very well what he talking about other wise I invite yo to read or search on Weston A Price Foundation or sally Fallon

Ben Kim,

Your list of "healthy foods that are naturally rich in tryptophan" is:

1 Beans
2 Whole grains, including rice
3 Lentils
4 Chickpeas
5 Hazelnuts
6 Peanuts
7 Eggs
8 Sunflower seeds
9 Sesame seeds
10 Miso (fermented soy beans)
11 Unsweetened soy milk
12 Raw dairy products (if you can tolerate dairy)

During almost all of our evolution, we humans have eaten raw food. And, from the time that we were weaned, we had no "dairy products."

Fruits, non-starchy vegetables, meat, fish, nuts and seeds that are edible raw -- that is the diet on which we evolved, and the diet to which we are very well adapted.

On your list of 12 items, only 5, 7 and 8 could and would have been eaten raw, regularly. The other items include many harmful elements for which we have few defences.

- Stefan

Homo sapiens did evolve solely on a diet of raw food. There is overwhelming evidence that the energy demands of our increasing brain size necessitated adaptations to eating cooked food, which is both more calorific and more easily digestible.