You know those nights where you know that you have to wake up earlier than usual, but instead of sleeping, your mind repeats the unpleasant experience of social interaction that goes back to middle school.
Sleep disorders are more common than you think. Studies show that about 30% of the US population is affected by chronic insomnia. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 50% of the adult population suffers from bouts of insomnia. But can you improve the quality of your sleep by changing your diet?
Plant foods with melatonin
According to the Sleep Foundation, melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles, can help you sleep better. The body first produces melatonin by converting the tryptophan food to serotonin and then to melatonin. It is released by the pineal gland at night to encourage and maintain sleep.
According to the foundation, eating high in carbohydrates can make you sleepy. This is because carbohydrates make tryptophan more accessible to the brain.
Protein is the basic ingredient of tryptophan, which is why a snack that combines protein and complex carbohydrates is the best snack before bed time. However, Live Science notes that you need to eat 15 grams of tryptophan to feel its calming effect.
Before we look at a vegan diet to help with sleep, we need to understand melatonin and why we need it.
Why take melatonin to sleep?
Melatonin supplements are a popular sleep aid. Per a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleeping aids were commonly used by more than 3 million Americans in 2012, or about 1% of the population.
Louis F. Buenaver, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral specialties specializing in behavioral sleep medicine at Johns Hopkins University, says that our bodies produce melatonin naturally. As such, Dr. Buenaver recommends taking melatonin supplements for a short period of time, “if you suffer from insomnia, want to catch up on sleep, or for night owls who have to go to bed early and wake up early.”
Dr. Andrew Huberman talks about supplements to aid with sleep.
The body starts producing melatonin about two hours before going to sleep. To help your body produce melatonin, Dr. Buenaver recommends dimming lights around you, switching off your computer, smartphone or tablet, and keeping, at least, a distance of 1 metre from your TV screen.
You can also “reprogram” your body to produce melatonin to sleep at the right time by getting enough sunlight both in the morning and in the evening.
More on this by Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University.
Dr. Buenaver added that supplements can help overcome insomnia, with studies showing that melatonin supplements can help insomniacs fall asleep faster.
Buenaver recommends taking 1 to 3 milligrams of melatonin before going to bed for a few weeks.
According to John Hopkins, you should not use melatonin if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have autoimmune disorders, seizure disorders, or depression. People with diabetes or high blood pressure should consult their doctor.
CBD vs melatonin
How does melatonin compare to CBD? Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the second most common ingredient in the cannabis plant – the other is THC.
More research is needed to better understand whether CBD can help you sleep. Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and sleep doctor, told Bustle that many people associate CBD with sleep because of its anti-inflammatory properties. “We also know that it helps reduce inflammation. We know that lower inflammation helps sleep,” he said.
The best vegan food to improve your sleep
The question lingers – can a vegan diet improve your sleep?
Tryptophan is an important essential amino acid. In a vegan diet, it can be harder to get without a better understanding of which foods to get it from.
Nonetheless, it’s still not difficult to meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of Tryptophan for vegans in only 1 to 2 servings per day.
There’s a very handy chart to help you organize a balanced vegan meal to help you with your sleep over at VegHQ.