Has Your Dessert Been Getting in the Way of Better Sleep?
Most of us are aware of the sweet treats that affect our sleep and cause insomnia, but every once in awhile we ignore all wise things and indulge in something like ice cream chocolate cake topped with heavy whipped cream. You get the message, if it’s not that particular dessert, it’s the dessert you are thinking of right this moment! If we pay close attention to our body we notice how such desserts affect us negatively and may leave us feeling wired in the evening and keeping us from getting better sleep.
What can we do then for the occasional sweet treat? Fortunately, there are foods out there, which can be both satisfying and healthy, and promote sleep that leaves us feeling rejuvenated and fully awake in the morning.
- Tart Cherries Pie – Tart cherries have high melatonin content. Melatonin is a hormone that influences our sleep cycles. Since some of my patients report that gluten causes insomnia, I recommend a gluten free recipe. If you are on a dairy free diet, you may replace the butter with coconut oil. Be light on the white sugar or even better, replace it with coconut sugar.
- Mary’s Gluten & Dairy Free Ginger Snaps or Homemade Ginger Snaps – I personally have found this to be one of the most satisfying treats after my evening meal. Use Mary’s Ginger snaps (found in health food stores) or make your own recipe. Served with a digestive tea, it is usually just enough to satisfy your sweet tooth and help digest your dinner so you can sleep better. It is ideal that dinner is eaten at least 3 hours prior to sleeping time. Also, some of my patients have reported significant changes in their sleep just by avoiding red meat in the evening meal.
- Coconut and Rice Milk Ice Cream – Regular diary ice cream is loaded with sugar and fat. If you love ice cream and absolutely must have it once in a while, I recommend coconut or rice milk ice cream. In Chinese medicine, cold foods affect your Spleen and the main emotion associated with this organ is worry. If you already tend to worry in the evening or in the middle of the night, cold foods and dairy products will most likely make it worse. Be mindful how often you choose ice cream and look for alternatives such as the ones mentioned above.
- Quinoa Walnut Cereal – Complex carbohydrates such as quinoa help increase the production of serotonin, which slows your nerve activity and helps you produce more melatonin. This is a great breakfast meal, but many people love having this kind of meal in the evening as their comfort food. Mix cooked quinoa with walnuts and cranberries. You may also add almond milk to the mix.
- Banana almond spread – Bananas are good sources of tryptophan, magnesium, and potassium, and almonds have both tryptophan and magnesium. For people with already weakened digestive system this may be a bit harsh on your digestion, but most people do well with a small amount. This is a very satisfying treat, just a half a slice of gluten free or whole grain bread with some almond butter and a few pieces of banana is very filling.
- Dates Smoothie – Dates have the proper ratio of tryptophan, phenylalanine and leucine which lead to increased serotonin levels in the brain which in turn helps you sleep better. A few dates and half a banana with almond milk can make a super tasty smoothie.
- Seaweed – This is a salty treat, the odd treat of the group. Many people craving sugar have a sugar imbalance oftentimes rooted in adrenal fatigue. Most of us live with continuous stress that constantly tires our adrenal glands. Both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine theory shows that healthy salty treats, such as seaweed, support our adrenal glands and help with our sugar imbalances. As I was going through college, always stressed about some test, I used to often chew on a piece of kombu or kelp seaweed.
I often recommend to my patients supplements such as Loomis Pan (formerly Thera-zyme Pan) with meals to properly digest sugars and grains, and therefore minimize sugar cravings. For better sleep, here are some of the most useful supplements my patients respond to very well: Magnesium or Cal Mag, Somni-TR, and for traveling or jet lag – Premier Melatonin. For people with continuous stress, I highly recommend an adaptogenic formula such as Premier Adaptogen-R3.
You can eat your sweet treats and sleep well now too. Enjoy and share with us your experience!
Damiana Corca is an acupuncturist specializing in sleeping disorders practicing in Boulder, CO. Visit the Corca Sleep Center for more sleep tips on how to sleep better tonight.