If you are having a tough time getting a good night’s sleep, cutting tyrosine-rich foods out of your late afternoon and evening meal plans might help. Tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid, meaning your body can manufacture it on its own. You’ll find it in numerous foods and even in alcoholic beverages.
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Tyrosine serves as a building block for the excitatory neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine. Consuming it will perk up your brain, making it tougher to fall asleep.
If you are suffering from insomnia, avoid tyrosine-laden foods, including fermented cheeses such as cheddar, fermented meats like pepperoni and bologna, avocados, some imported beers and red wines, especially chianti, recommends Kansas State University. You’ll also find tyrosine in soy products, fish, chicken, peanuts, almonds, bananas, lima beans, sesame and pumpkin seeds, yogurt, cottage cheese, turkey and milk.
Foods like turkey, chicken, sesame and pumpkin seeds, soy products and milk also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which calms your brain and helps you sleep. The trick to taking advantage of tryptophan is consuming it with carbohydrates. A high-carbohydrate meal promotes insulin release, which in turn helps clear from your bloodstream amino acids like tyrosine that compete with tryptophan. This allows more tryptophan to enter your brain and manufacture sleep-promoting substances, including melatonin and serotonin.
Timing is key when you are eating to promote sleep. If you need to be awake and alert in the morning and early afternoon, consume medium-carbohydrate, high-protein meals at this time. This allows you to take advantage of the tyrosine in protein-rich foods. At dinnertime and for a bedtime snack, consume foods high in complex carbohydrates along with a small amount of tryptophan-containing protein to help relax your brain. Good examples are whole grain cereal with milk, oatmeal-raisin cookies with milk, a peanut butter sandwich with ground sesame seeds, apple pie and ice cream or a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread.
- AskDrSears.com; Foods That Help You Sleep; William Sears and Martha Sears; 2011
- Kansas State University; How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep; David G. Danskin; 1997
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Tyrosine; July 2010
- AskDrSears.com; Best Bedtime Snacks; William Sears and Martha Sears; 2011
- Medline Plus; Tryptophan; February 2010