Foods for Insomnia and Anxiety

Insomnia and anxiety are two of the most common conditions that many people never seek support for.  Too often, these become "the norm" in our lives, but in reality they have an impact much bigger than we might at first believe. 

A good night of rest - without any interruptions - is essential to our body's natural detoxification process, as is the ability to have restful times throughout the day.  When a constant state of anxiety or feeling nervous, fearful or "on edge" becomes our daily modus operandi, the brain and body are not able to properly produce the necessary hormones for restful sleep.  Once sleep, and therefore our ability to detox each day, is compromised, a domino effect occurs, leaving us with less than optimal liver function, leading to poor digestion, leading to IBS, gas and bloating, leading to poor lymph drainage leading....  the list goes on.

While lifestyle suggestions, such as limiting how much you perceive you can accomplish in one day or taking breaks periodically, are incredibly important to getting to the root of the problem, often nutritional factors are also at play.  The following are some diet-related changes you can make to calm insomnia and anxiety.

The Ayurvedic Perspective
Both insomnia and anxiety could be considered either vata or pitta conditions, depending on the nature and cause. 

Vata-type insomnia and anxiety is usually related to the light nature of vata.  It often shows up as the inability to fall asleep, or waking often throughout the night.  Vata insomniacs usually identify as a "light sleeper" in which any little noise can wake them up.  Vata type anxiety usually involves fear and worry, along with feeling "spacey" or disorganized.  In this case, a vata-balancing diet is helpful, including cooked, warm foods and plenty of good sources of fat and protein.  Animal protein is extremely beneficial for vata-types in order to stay grounded, which supports calming of both conditions.  To read more about a vata-balancing diet, click here.

Pitta-type insomnia is usually related to the fire element and work-related concerns.  This type of insomnia is often the inability to fall asleep because the brain won't shut off (although this could be said of vatas, too - the pitta version usually involves some kind of list making and problem solving, while the vata version is likely all over the board and a not-so-organized train of thought).  Pitta anxiety is also usually related to "needing" to finish a project or accomplish something.  It is important for pitta-types that are dealing with anxiety or insomnia to find a healthy balance of work and play, and to cool off by either spending time in/near water or taking a walk in the moonlight.  Foods should be of a cooling nature and anything spicy or very hot should be avoided.  Sweet fruits, cucumbers, cilantro, fresh basil and leafy greens are some of the best foods to include to calm pitta. To read more about a pitta-balancing diet, click here.

Specific Foods for Insomnia
Foods that are helpful for insomnia are those that are high in the amino acid tryptophan.  These are:
Nut butters

Specific Foods for Anxiety
Foods that are helpful for anxiety are those that are high in minerals that are usually found to be depleted in people with this condition, such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.  These are minerals that are depleted by stress.  These are:
Blackstrap molasses
Brown rice
Dried fruit
Fish (especially salmon)
Green leafy veggies
Nutritional yeast
Seeds - especially pumpkin seeds
Whole grains

Taking into consideration both your constitution type as well as the recommended foods can be valuable in your path toward complete well being.  Eating the foods on the list regularly, as well as including high-tryptophan foods in your evening meal, can be a simple and nourishing way to beat these common problems.  Also consider a hair mineral analysis to determine whether your condition is related to a significant mineral depletion.

Recipes related to this post:
Date & Almond Breakfast Muffins
Nourishing Cookies
Slow Rice Pudding
Banana Almond Meal Muffins
Blissful Goji Date Balls
Guilt Free Fudge Balls
Pho Quinoa Salad
Thai Quinoa


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