Insomnia is almost always nutritional deficiency related. Often times stress can contribute, and most of the time insomnia can be remedied through proper nutrition. I used to suffer from horrible insomnia, so I was determined to fix it with proper nutrition. After much research, these are my findings, and the studies are referenced at the bottom of this article.
Most people suffering from insomnia are Magnesium, B Vitamin, and Zinc deficient and often are not getting enough Dietary Tryptophan. Tryptophan is the precursor to Serotonin production, and Serotonin is the precursor Melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone what regulates both sleep and wakefulness.
Vitamin deficiency can be a multi-fold issue. Often it is a combination of not getting the right nutrients from your diet, along with malabsorption of nutrients / vitamins in your intestinal tract.
One way to help absorption is by eating a diversified diet in order to improve your overall gut microbiome. One can also slow down digestion by eating the right foods. ‘Slow-Foods’, or slowly digesting foods that are especially helpful in order to give your digestive tract more time to absorb nutrients are whole grains like Quinoa and Oats. Both are also good sources of Tryptophan, Magnesium, and Zinc (which are all necessary for the production of Melatonin).
Those that suffer from Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS) may also have a difficult time with sugars, as well as fruits that are high in fructose. Fructose will ferment in the small intestine and cause foods and nutrients to pass more quickly through the digestive tract. Lowering your intake of sugars and fructose will help you absorb nutrients.
Dietary Sources of Nutrients to Aid in Sleep
Sources of Dietary Tryptophan: Soy, Walnuts, Cucumber, Sesame Seeds, Mushrooms, Leafy Greens, Tomato, Potato, Quinoa, Oats, Banana.
Foods High In Folate: Beans, Greens, Asparagus, Beets, Citrus Fruit, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Banana, Avocado, Nuts & Seeds.
Foods High in Magnesium: Pumpkin Seeds, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Soy, Sesame Seeds, Black Beans, Quinoa, Cashews, Sunflower Seeds, Tempe, Oats, Flaxseed, Broccoli, Tomato, Lime.
Foods High in Vitamin B6: Banana, Sweet Potato, Sunflower Seeds, Spinach, Potatoes, Carrots, Tomatoes.
Foods High In Zinc: Nuts (especially Cashews), Legumes, Oats, Nutritional Yeast, Garbanzo Beans, Quinoa, Sesame Seeds.
Foods High in B3 / Niacin: Peanuts, Mushrooms, Green Peas, Brown Rice, Avocado, Sweet Potato, Asparagus.
Vitamin B12: Best to take a supplement on a plant-based diet. Some foods are fortified, and some nutritional yeast is fortified (but not all).
Food Highest in Natural Melatonin: PISTACHIOS! Pistachios may help a little, but studies on Melatonin supplements show that they don’t really work. It may be the placebo affect. Pistachios are higher in Melatonin than the supplement, and higher than any other foods including tart cherries.
As you can see from the lists here, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds have many essential nutrients to aid in sleep. Nuts and seeds in general need to be an integral part of the human diet. Whole grains (particularly Oats and Quinoa) also have many essential nutrients to aid in sleep. In fact, centenarians in ALL of the ‘Blue Zones’ snack on nuts and seeds and eat whole grains. They also all consume greens and beans! Banana is also a good source for many of the nutrients needed for Melatonin production.
More info on Blue Zones Longevity Foods:
More info on Blue Zones Lifestyle:
If you have difficulty with a diverse diet or need to kick-start a better sleep pattern, supplementing is not a bad idea. A Vitamin B complex that includes B3, B6 and B12, along with a Magnesium and Zinc supplement will help. Long term, it is best to have an appropriate diet and a healthy gut microbiome.
In addition to nutrient deficiency, blue light (ALL devices and TV’s) inhibit the production of Melatonin. It is best to turn off all devices at least an hour before bed and perhaps grab a book or listen to music instead.
Per Harvard: Blue light has a dark side https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
For a more detailed scientific analysis of nutrient deficiency and insomnia, my original sources for this article:
Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3402070/
Neurobiology, Pathophysiology, and Treatment of Melatonin Deficiency and Dysfunction https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354573/
As always, if you have any questions about my content, please feel free to reach out to me directly at ctixec @ gmail. I also do personal coaching via phone or Skype. ~ JT