You’re tired. Exhausted. Downright living dead sleepy. But, no matter how badly you need some shut-eye, that’s all that’s happening. Your eyes are shut – but you’re not sleeping. Like many insomniacs, maybe you get out of bed with a sigh of defeat and head to the kitchen to grab some munchies to assuage your frustration. It’s okay. It’s perfectly normal. Just do yourself a favor and feed your frustration something that will promote some peacefulness.
“Will cookies do the trick?” you might be thinking (and assuming they will not). But, guess what? Made with the right ingredients, cookies can be exactly what your body needs to drift off to dreamland.
1. Carbs + Protein = BFFs for Better Sleep
Cookies can be the perfect, bite-sized vehicle for carbohydrates and protein – which work hand-in-hand to trigger your body’s natural mechanisms for ushering in sleep. Protein increases the level of sleep-inducing tryptophan in the blood, but it has a hard time crossing the blood-brain barrier [BBB] where it makes its magic. That’s because protein also contains other amino acids (in much higher levels) that compete with the tryptophan to access transport sites in the BBB. It’s like a little car in a big truck traffic jam. Carbohydrates step in to help by knocking out enough of the competition to allow significant levels of tryptophan to cross through.
2. There are many players in the cast of characters that have a role in the act of sleep.
THE MAIN ACTORS:
Tryptophan – As mentioned above, tryptophan is a key sleep trigger. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Your body uses tryptophan and turns it into a B vitamin called niacin. Niacin plays a key role in creating serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s associated with sleep and melatonin levels (a hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycles).” Some good tryptophan sources include: Dairy products (milk, low-fat yogurt); Nuts and seeds (flax, chia, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, cashews, peanuts, almonds, walnuts); Fruits (apples, bananas, peaches, avocado); and, Grains (wheat, rice, barley, corn, oats).
- Magnesium – Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D. says magnesium “is an antidote to stress, the most powerful relaxation mineral available, and it can help improve your sleep.” Nearly half of the population in the U.S. isn’t getting enough of this magnificent mineral daily, which can increase the risk of many diseases, as well as cause insomnia. Excellent sources of magnesium include: Nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, cashews, pine nuts, flaxseed, pecans);
- Wheat germ;
- Low-fat yogurt; and,
- Dark chocolate.
Melatonin – Melatonin is the natural hormone our brains secrete at night to promote drowsiness (which is why it’s also known as “the hormone of darkness”). In studies, it’s been found to decrease cortisol, which is the “stress hormone” that can keep you up at night, as well as helping muscles relax, helping to give you a calm “sleepy” feeling. Many of the nutrients on this list help aid in the production of turning serotonin into melatonin. Still, there are a few excellent sources of naturally occurring melatonin in foods, too: Tart sour cherry juice and tart sour cherries; Ginger root; Fresh Mint; Grains (rice, barley, rolled oats); Nuts (walnuts, peanuts); and, Milk.
- Calcium – Calcium plays a number of roles in sleep: it helps us fall asleep; it helps control how long we sleep; and, it helps us reach the deep sleep we need for optimal health. Sources of calcium include:
- Dark leafy greens;
- Low-fat milk;
- Fortified cereals;
- Soybeans; and,
- Enriched breads and grains.
- Vitamin B6 – Research suggests vitamin B6 deficiency promotes psychological distress that results in sleep disturbances. It also helps your body make melatonin. New research shows it might even help make our dreams more vivid and maybe help us remember them better. Could that be important to our health and well-being? Maybe we’ll learn someday that it is. Some great sources of B6 are: Nuts and seeds (Sunflower seeds, Pistachio nuts, Flaxseed); Dried Prunes; Bananas; and, Avocado.
- Vitamin D – It turns out the “sunshine vitamin” is also important to healthy physical functioning at night, too! In fact, vitamin D can help you fall asleep faster and help you feel more well-rested the next day. Find vitamin D in: Fortified milk, Egg yolks, and Fortified cereal.
- Chamomile - chamomile has been used as an herbal remedy for insomnia for thousands of years. In one animal study, it calmed down mice as effectively as tranquilizers, and in the only human study to study the effectiveness of chamomile, the herb reduced mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder much better than placebo.
- Gotu Kola - While studies regarding anxiety and sleep applications have mostly been conducted on animals, gotu kola has been a botanical remedy used for thousands of year in India, China, and Indonesia. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “It has been called ‘the fountain of life’ because legend has it that an ancient Chinese herbalist lived for more than 200 years as a result of taking gotu kola.” One of its traditional uses has been as a sedative and scientists are exploring how it calms our nervous systems.
- Swap out butter and use an equal amount of mashed banana or mashed avocado.
- Swap out canola or vegetable oil for Greek yogurt. Add ¾ cup of yogurt for every cup of oil called for.
- Swap out white flour and use wheat flour (1 cup of white flour for ~¾ cup of wheat flour) or a nut flour (try to incorporate ¼ cup nut flour with ¾ cup wheat in or add an extra ½ tsp leavening agent to ensure your cookie isn’t too dense).
- Swap out sugar for honey, maple syrup, or even banana.
- Add in nuts and seeds and dried prunes and sour cherries and dark chocolate and whatever else sounds good from the foods above every chance you get!
7 DIY Recipes for Insomnia Cookies
Using the ingredients listed above, you can make delicious cookies that are low in fat and sugar, use the healthiest options for fats and sugars, and – best of all – help you get the zzzzz’s you so desperately desire.
Here are 7 recipes that just need a little tweaking using sleep-inducing ingredient swaps (and additions), but you could really tweak almost any cookie recipe with ingredients from above for a great insomnia cookie!
- Calming Chamomile Flower Cookies
- Chamomile Flower Tea Cookies
- Ayurvedic Calming Biscuits
- Rose Dream Cookiess from Yogi Teas
- Peanut Butter Snooze Chunks
- Anti Stress Chocolate Chip Cookies from Eat Healthy, Eat Happy
- Before Bed Biscuits from Patient.info (a leading UK health and wellness site, where they call cookies “biscuits”)
Bonus tip #1: To beat your snooze blues, have your cookies with a glass of milk. The tryptophan in milk will help you feel sleepy and the carbs will get it where you want it to go in your brain, says Mary Susan Esther, M.D., and president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Bonus tip #2: Add any of these ingredients to your dinner for an extra boost to your snooze system. Some of these foods and nutrients work best when consumed 4 hours before bed. So, maybe don’t wait until you’re lying awake, frustrated in bed. Nip things in the bud with a pre-bedtime, calming cookie snack.
Remember: Don’t overdo it! Eating too much can make it more difficult to sleep (not to mention cause weight gain over time).
Now, bon appetit and bon nuit!
All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.