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Chinese Super Foods to Help you Sleep

Can adding certain foods to your diet help you sleep better? Yes! According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), various sleep problems result from an imbalance in the body. Food can help you put your body back into balance, leading to better sleep, as well as physical and emotional well-being. Read on to learn what foods to eat for different types of problems sleeping.

In the first article of our Sleep Series, A Good Night’s Sleep Using Traditional Chinese Medicine, we explained how TCM sees the body in general and different sleep problems specifically. Sleep problems covered include insomnia (both difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep), vivid dreams or dream disturbed sleep, night sweats, or sleeping too much. We also explained that children might suffer from night-time bedwetting and night crying or screaming.

We will cover how to help children overcome their sleep issues in a separate article.

Before you read further, it’s a great idea to sign up for Elemental Wisdom’s newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive a link to take a FREE TCM Health Assessment. The results will suggest foods that you should and should not eat. Click on the link below to get started.

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Chinese Super Foods Recommended for Sleep Problems

Each sleep issue, whether insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, wakefulness, difficulty falling back to sleep, vivid dreaming, etc., has a root cause. What you eat can either help or hurt your body’s ability to get a good night’s rest.

Food makes a big difference, so what should you eat to help you sleep better? Below, you will see several Chinese super foods used to treat various sleep problems at the root. We include ways to prepare and eat the foods, as well as contraindications for why some foods might not be right for you. We have suggestions for where to purchase the foods on our Resources page.

NOTE: This information is only a guide and not meant to prescribe or make recommendations for you. The premise is that you can use this information to talk with a TCM doctor about what might be happening in your situation in a meaningful way. It is also designed to help you start thinking about your body differently so you can move towards optimal health.

Please read the Contraindications for each food carefully.

Chinese Yam

  • Sleep problems treated with Chinese yams
    • Night Sweats
    • Waking in the night to go to the bathroom
  • How to Prepare
    • Steam: Wash the fresh yam and then peel. They are super slippery! Holding half of the yam with a paper towel when peeling helps you have a better grip. Steam the yams until they are tender and easy to mash. You may mash with steamed lotus bulb as well.
    • Stir-fry: Fry with pre-cooked rice until the Chinese yam turns bright yellow.
  • Contraindications: Do not take when you have indigestion, feel bloated, have a poor appetite, or your tongue has a thick, greasy coating. Do not eat raw, in order to avoid food poisoning caused by poor handling.

Gluey Millet

 

  • Sleep problems treated with gluey millet
    • Insomnia
    • Difficulty falling asleep
    • Wakefulness
    • Difficulty falling back to sleep
    • Vivid dreams
    • Hyposomnia
  • How to Prepare
    • Cooked like rice: Place 1 cup of millet in a small to medium saucepan. Add 2 cups boiling veggie stock or water to the millet. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff immediately with a fork.
    • Cooked like porridge: Bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. Add millet and stir. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally. Make sure there is enough water to make a soupy porridge, adding more if needed. Simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  • Contraindications: Eat no more than ¼ cup of dried millet each day. Children who do not have a strong appetite, should not eat millet often.

Jujubes

  • Sleep problems treated with jujubes
    • Insomnia
    • Difficulty falling asleep
    • Waking in the middle of the night
    • Difficulty falling back asleep
    • Vivid dreams
  • How to Prepare
    • Elixir: Wash and chop 5 dried jujubes. Boil in 2 cups of water for approximately 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and then drink the water.
    • Fresh or dried: Eat five to ten jujubes daily, two to three hours before bed. If eating fresh jujubes, be sure to wash thoroughly. You may also boil in 2 cups water for 20 minutes before eating.
    • Cooked with Rice: Put 2 cups water, 6 dried jujubes, ½ cup rice, and 2 tbsp dried longan fruit in a pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes. Each one bowl twice daily.
  • Contraindications: Do not eat jujubes if you have phlegm or indigestion that decreases your appetite.

Lily Bulb

  • Sleep problems treated with lily bulb
    • Insomnia
    • Difficulty falling asleep
    • Wakefulness
    • Night sweats
  • How to Prepare
    • Soup: Boil 2 cups of water with ¼ cup mung beans. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Add ½ cup dried lily bulb and simmer for another 30 minutes.
    • Stir-fry: Wash and dry fresh lily bulb. Separate sections. Stir-fry with celery or black fungus for three minutes.
  • Contraindication: Do not eat if you have a cough or stomach problem combined with diarrhea.

Lotus Seeds

  • Sleep problems treated with lotus seeds
    • Insomnia
    • Difficulty falling asleep
    • Wakefulness
    • Difficulty falling back to sleep
    • Vivid dreams
    • Waking in the night to go to the bathroom
  • How to Prepare
    • Raw: Wonderful to eat fresh in the summer as a raw fruit.
    • Porridge: You will most often find lotus seeds in dried form. You can add them to oatmeal, soups, and other porridge-like dishes. For traditional, long-cooking oatmeal and porridge: Add 10 lotus seeds to boiling water when you add your grains. Make sure the grain takes at least 20 minutes to cook. For instant grains, boil 10 lotus seeds in hot water for 20 minutes. Add to cereal.
    • Soup: Add 10 lotus seeds when making stock. If reheating soup, make sure the lotus seeds boil for at least 20 minutes. You may choose to boil them in water ahead of time.
    • Tea: Add 10 lotus seeds, 5 jujubes, and 7 wolfberries (goji berries) to 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Drink the liquid as a tea. You can also eat the lotus seeds, jujubes, and wolfberries on their own or add to soup or porridge.
  • Contraindication: Do not eat if you have a bloated stomach or constipation.

Rose Buds

  • Sleep problems treated with rose buds
    • Insomnia
    • Difficulty falling asleep
    • Wakefulness
    • Difficulty falling back to sleep
    • Vivid dreams
    • Restlessness caused by Derangement of Stomach Qi
    • Hyposomnia
  • How to Prepare
    • Tea: Combine 2-3 tsp. rose buds with 1 ½ cups water and let steep for 5-7 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before drinking.  You may find rose bud tea bags for sale if you cannot find dried rose buds.
    • Desserts: Rose buds are sweet and can be added to desserts or sweet soups. Soak the dried rose buds first to allow them to soften and open up. Add rose buds to the dessert before cooking (for example add to boiling water for sweet rice pudding or to the dough when making coconut sugar muffins).
  • Contraindications: None

Wolfberry
(Goji)

  • Sleep problems treated with Wolfberries
    • Insomnia
    • Difficulty falling asleep
    • Wakefulness
    • Difficulty falling back to sleep
  • How to Prepare
    • Steam: Steam the wolfberries and then stir-fry with mixed vegetables. You can also garnish steamed wolfberries to soups and desserts.
    • Tea: Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add 7-10 wolfberries. Allow to simmer until the wolfberries are tender, about 5 minutes. Drink the tea and eat the berries.
    • Porridge: Mix ½ cup wolfberries and 1 ¼ cups glutinous rice or ½ cup oats, with 1 ¼ cups water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add a bit of honey. You may also add 5 jujubes when cooking.
  • Contraindications: If you suffer from diarrhea or tend to have mucus in your throat and nose, you should use wolfberries with care.

Summary

Please use the chart below as a quick summary of what Chinese super foods to eat for each sleep problem.

If you sign up for the Elemental Wisdom newsletter, you can take a Free TCM Health Assessment which will provide details on imbalances that might be affecting your sleep.

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