There's a reason sleep deprivation can be considered a form of torture: A prolonged lack of sleep can induce confusion, desperation, and despair. With one in three people in the world suffering from insomnia, we're basically a generation of high-functioning zombies. There are a few methods that can help, though: Eating certain foods that can help you sleep better, for one.
Personally, I can't function without sleep. There are some people (like, allegedly, James Franco) who can be highly productive on as little as four hours of sleep a night. Four hours! These people are called "short-sleepers," and reportedly have a genetic mutation that allows them to get twice as much done as the rest of us on half as many ZZZs. Sadly, I am not one of these people.
When deprived of sleep I default to my most basic human self — a baby. I get frustrated. I cry. I throw tantrums. Because I am aware of this, I try to get six to eight hours of sleep a night. The key word here is try. While not gifted with the mutant short-sleeper gene, I unfortunately am one of the lucky one-in-three insomnia sufferers, and many nights I feel like I don't get any sleep at all.
So what should you be eating instead? These 10 foods will reportedly lull you off to la la land.
The Trick Is In The Tryptophan
I always thought the story about getting sleepy on Thanksgiving after eating too much turkey was an old wives tale. It turns out, according to Web MD, that eating foods rich in tryptophan does indeed induce sleep. And, turkey is not the only food that contains this magical sedative.
If you're having trouble getting enough shut eye, consider making yourself a mug of warm milk. If you're like me, and think this sounds a little gross, there are other ways to get your tryptophan: Foods like nuts and seeds, bananas, honey, and eggs can also do the trick. If the idea of warm milk is meh, try a mug of hot water with honey instead.
Let Us Have Lettuce
Need another reason to reach for a healthy choice? Having a salad with your dinner can promote a restful night's sleep. Lettuce contains lactucarium, which is sometimes referred to as lettuce opium.
The book Stealth Health recommends simmering three to four large lettuce leaves in a cup of water for 15 minutes, adding two sprigs of mint and enjoying just before bed for a good night's sleep. Who knew?
These Pretzels Are Making Me Thirsty
Aside from being featured in an epic Seinfeld episode, pretzels can also, surprisingly, make you sleepy. Pretzels, and snacks like corn chips, have a high glycemic index, which promotes a spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Christopher Herrera told ABC Science, "It is a very easily attainable modification for someone's diet that can be done to actually promote sleep."
Fish Are Your Friends
You probably already know fish is good for you, but certain types of fish like tuna, halibut, and salmon can help you get a better night's sleep.
These type of fish are high in vitamin B6, which your body uses to produce melatonin (which helps you fall asleep), and serotonin (which helps you feel happy).
If fish isn't your favorite, other foods high in vitamin B6 include raw garlic and pistachios.
Get Ready For Rice
Rice is another food with a high glycemic index. Personally, I love rice. And, if you do too, it's a perfect light bedtime snack to help carry you off to dreamland.
Chug Your Cherries
I think cherries are a very underrated fruit. And, if you want better sleep, you might want to consider making cherries, or at least cherry juice, a staple of your diet.
Researchers at University of Pennsylvania and University of Rochester claim that cherries, tart cherries in particular, naturally boost the body's supply of melatonin, which helps promote sleep.
Where does one buy this mysterious cherry juice? You can get it at most natural foods stores. If you don't want to drink your cherries, you can get the same effect the old fashioned way. Simply eat some cherries (fresh or dried) before bed.
Bring On The Broccoli
Broccoli is high in fiber, and getting enough fiber during the day could help you sleep better at night, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
According to the study, results showed that greater fiber intake predicted more time spent in the stage of deep, slow wave sleep. In contrast, a higher percentage of energy from saturated fat predicted less slow wave sleep. Greater sugar intake also was associated with more arousals from sleep.
If broccoli is not your bag, there are other ways to get your daily dose of fiber. Reach for raspberries, avocados or oatmeal instead.
Serve Up The Cereal
You can officially stop feeling deprived for being fed cereal for breakfast as a child in the '90s versus the bacon and eggs bonanza your parents grew up on.
It turns out cereal can promote a good night of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the carbs in cereal, along with the calcium in milk, can help send you off to bed ready for dreamland.
So, don't feel bad about having that second bowl of cereal before bed; it might be just what you need.
Hooray For Hummus
Hummus is made of chickpeas, and chickpeas fall into the B6 family. Getting your daily dose of hummus can help your body produce more melatonin, which in turn can help you sleep better at night.
You can eat hummus on its own, or add it to soups, salads, sandwiches, or stews.
Eat More Elk
You're probably thinking to yourself, "but I have never eaten any elk." Eating wild game is not for everyone, but if you are in dire straights — like you haven't slept well in a week — you might want to give this a try.
Elk contains twice as much tryptophan as turkey, so you're more likely to feel like crashing after eating it. And, if you're lucky, you're elk meal will help carry you off into a peaceful slumber, just like the above photo.