How a nutritionist developed insomnia and discovered natural methods to combat it.
By Sunithi Selvaraj, RD
NUTRITION Insomnia hits most people at certain periods of their lives. According to the National Institute of Sleeping Disorders, eight out of 10 people have suffered from insomnia at some point in time.  You can develop insomnia like I did. About 10 years back, probably the busiest time of my life, I was shuttling between a 2-year-old child, studying, interning and working part time.
In spite of having the most supportive spouse in the world, I had so much to do study-wise and otherwise, that I slept an average of four hours a day, starting at 2:00 a.m. Well, after those two hectic years, I couldn’t sleep before 2:00 a.m. That's how I became an insomniac.
As a nutritionist, I prefer non-pharmacological remedies, although I do take 5 mg of melatonin when needed. I have, however, experimented with several natural foods which have helped my insomnia. Most of these are not strictly just for chronic insomniacs but also just to help people enjoy deeper sleep. Hope you will find that these foods can help you get better Zzzzzz's and ramp up energy for the day.
|Best Foods To Combat Insomnia|
|Dried Cherries and Cherry Juice: Research has shown that dried cherries (about 20) can be the perfect bedtime snack. They contain high amounts of sleep inducing melatonin! Eight ounces of Cherry juice an hour before bedtime should have the same effect.|
|Celery Juice: The minerals and essential oils in celery juice have a calming effect on the nervous system, making it beneficial for insomniacs. Its high magnesium levels help people to relax into a soothing and restful sleep. You would need 8 ounces 90 minutes before bedtime to get sleepy. And don't forget to empty your bladder before going to bed or trips to the restroom will keep you up. This is my preferred method.|
|Serotonin-Forming Foods: Eat a light snack before bedtime to help increase serotonin (the calming hormone). Many scientists claim that by combining an ample dose of carbohydrate together with a small amount of protein (which contains the amino-acid tryptophan), your brain produces serotonin, which is known as the "calming hormone."  And when we're calm, we are certainly more apt to fall asleep. Examples are bananas with peanut butter, turkey on a 1/2 slice wheat bread, whole-grain cereal with milk or crackers and cheese.|
|Calcium: Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are some of the top sleep-inducing foods. Milk, yogurt, soy milk, almond milk, cheese are good sources.|
|Magnesium: This is a natural sedative. Magnesium deficiency can result in difficulty sleeping, muscle tremors or cramps, anxiety, irritability, and pain. Foods rich in magnesium are legumes and seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, black-strap molasses, brewer's yeast and whole grains.|
|Nutmeg: In small doses, nutmeg reportedly relaxes the body to induce sleep. Mix no more than one half teaspoon of ground nutmeg with a warm glass of milk for a super snooze treat!|
|Herbal Teas: Infused with valerian, melatonin, dandelion root, peppermint, honey and other sleep inducing herbs, teas are a great way to nod off onto sleepy land. I love this method and often use sleepy-time teas to lull me to sleep.|
- Avoid large, high-fat meals late in the day. Also avoid garlic-flavored and highly spiced foods. These foods can make you uncomfortable or cause heartburn.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Both can interfere with sleep. I don’t take any caffeine after 1:00 p.m. (I find it interferes with my sleep if I do.)
- Don't drink too much liquid just before bedtime. Remember it takes 90 minutes to get all fluids to reach your bladder. So time accordingly and make the restroom your last stop before bed.
I have provided many suggestions from my personal experience of dealing with insomnia but you don’t have to implement everything. Try a couple and stick with one or two that work best for you. I wish you all the best with getting a better snooze and some quality sleep. I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.
P.S. I have only dealt with the food side of insomnia. But if you want some great tips on sleeping well, read Dr. Andrew Weils' tips for combating insomnia the natural way. 
About The Author
Sunithi Selvaraj is a Registered Dietitian with a sweet tooth and a passion for eating healthy. (Quite a combo.) She works as a community Nutritionist in Washington DC and has a practical approach to living a healthy lifestyle. She blogs over at Sue's Nutrition Buzz.
- Can't Sleep? What To Know About Insomnia. sleepfoundation.org
- Effects of normal meals rich in carbohydrates or proteins on plasma tryptophan and tyrosine ratios 1'2'3. nutrition.org
- Ten Natural Sleep Tips. drweil.com