Is peanut butter a possible cure for insomnia?

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August 20, 2018 - 10:12 AM

Dear Dr. Roach: Several years ago, I attended a presentation about insomnia. A registered nurse discussed how, in her career as a nursing home nurse, she had many residents with insomnia. She stated that she had amazing success with these residents. The snack they gave residents was crackers and cheese or peanut butter crackers. I was skeptical at first, then one night at 2 a.m., on my fourth night of insomnia, I tried eating 2 teaspoons of peanut butter. Bingo! I slept. Whenever my insomnia occurs, I eat 2 teaspoons of peanut butter, and in less than 15 minutes I’m sleeping. I use a nothing-fancy store brand of peanut butter. Please pass this information on to other readers with an explanation. — B.J.T.

Answer: I appreciate your writing to give another option for this common problem. One reason that some people think this may work is that the protein content in peanut butter is a source of tryptophan, which increases serotonin levels to help one relax. I also have read that this effect is so small as to be clinically meaningless, and that any sleep effect is due to placebo. I suspect the truth is a combination.
Two tablespoons of peanut butter is almost 200 calories, so this is not a good choice for someone struggling with too much weight. I’m also not one for “fancy,” but be sure to choose a peanut butter with no trans fats and no added sugars.

 

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