New York Times Eye-Opener on Bad Sleep & Dementia: 7 Foods for Great Zzzz’s

Poor sleep habits have been linked to dementia in older adults, according to a recent New York Times article in the Health section. The study measured sleep duration, wakeful periods and sleep apnea. The findings are strong enough to jolt you out of bed! It’s all about how much oxygen gets to the brain during sleep —those with poorer sleep were 4X as likely to have dead tissue in the brain caused by oxygen deprivation! 

There are foods that can help with getting the sleep we need and we should all know what they are. Sleep deprivation clearly has serious health consequences and not something to take lightly!

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The importance of sleep as part of a healthy lifestyle cannot be underestimated.  The medical facts are now showing that chronic lack of enough sleep increases the risk of many health problems, including:

Heart disease, diabetes, memory lapse, obesity, stroke, low sex drive, skin aging, substance abuse, impaired judgement, depression and psychiatric illness—even cancer, according to medical studies. See the end of this page for links to informative articles regarding the medical evidence.

That’s quite a scary and comprehensive list. Many of these diseases will strike at the end of many years of inadequate sleep habits and when they do, unfortunately, you may not think about years of lost sleep as being a contributing factor.  Does your doctor ask you what the quality of your sleep is, unless you come to him for that reason? If you eat healthily and exercise regularly, your inadequate sleeping habits could be undoing some of the good you’re doing with a healthy lifestyle.">

If 7-8 hours is considered a good night’s sleep, how many of us routinely only get 5 or 6? Or is your conscious attempt at a 7 hour’s night of sleep thwarted by waking up in the middle of the night or restless tossing and turning? The ironic part of it is that everyone seems to love a great night’s sleep but busy schedules, bad habits, aches & pains, your to-do list, family and work life and just wanting to watch one more rerun of “Friends” (not saying who that is) has turned us into night owls and it’s apparently very harmful!

Since I don’t sleep well about half the time, I wanted to learn whether there are any natural foods that could help, beyond having chamomile tea before bed, and I found that there are several:">

Melatonin is the naturally produced sleep hormone that helps regulate our body’s clock and cherries are one of the few natural foods that contain it. A small study found that drinking tart cherry juice improved the quality of sleep in adults.  The Montmorency cherry is a type of sour cherry which has about 6 times the amount of melatonin than a regular cherry. If you can find a cherry juice concentrate, this will also increase the concentration of melatonin even more. Sometime they can even be found in the frozen section.

Melatonin and tryptophan and magnesium, all sleep-helpers, are all found in bananas. While melatonin helps to regulate the body’s internal clock, trytophan converts to serotonin, which induces relaxation, and magnesium relaxes the muscles. According to Dr. Oz, serotonin levels are typically low in people who cannot stay asleep and are wakeful thought the night.

Pumpkin Seeds and Pumpkin Seed Powder

Pumpkin seeds and the powder from pumpkin seeds have relatively high amounts of trytophan, as well as high amounts of zinc, which helps convert tryptophan to serotonin. It’s recommended to eat about 1 cup of seeds or 1/2 cup of the pumpkin seed powder with applesauce.


Oatmeal is a cereal made form the herb Avena sativa, which is known in traditional herbal medicine as a calming plant. Oats contain small amounts of melatonin and can help regulate your sleep and sleep efficiency. Complex carbohydrates help more tryptophan get into the brain to you sleep. Adding bananas and dried cherries to your oatmeal in the evening is a triple-header. & Almonds

Why not add nuts to the mix too? Walnuts are good source of melatonin and healthy fats and can help in  attaining good sleep. Almonds are a source of calcium that helps with melatonin production.


Tahini, the paste made from ground sesame seeds, also naturally contains tryptophan, the amino acid linked with getting to sleep. Tahini is an ingredient in hummus but it can also be spread alone on bread about an hour before sleeptime to help get to sleep.

Dark, Leafy Greens

Vegetable-sources of calcium have been known to help the body generate melatonin, the hormone that helps the body regulate its circadian rhythm.  Spinach, Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens and collard greens are great sources of calcium.

All of these wonderful plant-based remedies are healthy and nutritious for many other reasons, all of them full of essential vitamins and nutrients.  I’m going to try having oatmeal with some dried, tart cherries and sliced bananas with a sprinkling of a a few nuts of each, walnuts and almonds, about an hour before I head for bed.  I’ll let you know what happens….hopefully it will involve lots of zzzzz’s!

Enjoy the Zzzzz,



Ellen Francis Vegan American Princess








For more important information about why Lack of Sleep is so detrimental to your health….

New York Times: Poor Sleep Tied to Brain Changes of Dementia.

Menopause: Certain Foods May Ease Symptoms

ABC News: 6 Health Hazards Link to Lack of Sleep

NIH: How Does Inadequate Sleep Affect Health?

Jane Brody of the New York Times: Cheating Ourselves of Sleep

Decadent Pizza with Fresh Summer Fruit

Banana-Oatmeal Peanut Putter Cookies



  1. This is great information! I’m going to try the oatmeal with all the sleep-inducing foods too!

  2. Lorenzo Barto says:

    As a biologist, this is somewhat confusing information. Just because a fruit, vegetable or nut has certain chemicals within it, does not mean the body absorbs or utilizes these chemicals as the article would suggest. If I eat oatmeal, with bananas and nuts, for breakfast, will I end up sleepy during the day? We have not found that to be the situation. Otherwise oatmeal with toppings would cease to be a popular breakfast food.

    The best remedy for sleep is an early-day exercise program, since most people do not exercise enough or at all, and as a result, we see masses of people out-of-shape, overweight, and sleepless (part of a vicious cycle). Exercise helps the body produce its own chemical balances and that is a natural as it gets.

    Lastly, recently MIT presented a lecture and data to show that the bacterial balance within and outside your body is a major factor in over all metabolism, health, sleep, and weight. Eating oatmeal before bedtime is just treating a symptom, not the cause of sleeplessness.

    • We are strong proponents of the health benefits and affects of whole foods on the body. We don’t hold ourselves out as scientists, doctors or medical professionals. Therefore, we cannot comment upon how each person’s body utilizes certain chemicals. We do not disagree with your assertions that early-morning exercise is excellent to induce sleep, or that other methods are also excellent. We research known health benefits of certain foods and blog accordingly. Thank you for your insightful comment.

  3. Never knew that oatmeal could help you sleep! That is interesting! I usually eat that and a banana in the morning and I have never really had any trouble to sleep – I wonder if this is because of that.

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