Coming from a girl who, beside languages, cooking and football, bears an intense passion for deep sleep, what I’m about to tell you is really serious — at least in my book: Ever since I came back from Europe, I haven’t been able to sleep.
You would figure that with jet lag from an eight−hour flight from a place six hours ahead of Boston, I would have no problem passing out for the night … or really, the three weeks of nights that have followed. Wrong.
I don’t know where I’m going wrong here. Am I, without even realizing it, reaching for a cup of coffee too late in the evening, with the caffeine cocktail leaving my nerves jittering until sunrise? I thought that, after last semester, I was done with light−roast−filled all−nighters. Am I innately worried about something that’s keeping my brain awake for literally hours on end? Can’t be: I’m not out to brag, but the immediate future’s set for me, so I’m not lying awake wondering what I’m doing post−graduation.
Maybe the problem, then, is what I’ve been eating.
Even though Easter has come and gone and, with meat and those bulky proteins back in my diet, I’m curious as to whether my diet has anything to do with my insomnia. Yes, we’re all aware that caffeine, for one, has that quick−jolt trait, but in my research I discovered that other foods do indeed impact your ability to sleep.
Some natural sugars, like those in apples, stabilize your blood sugar and keep you awake. Similarly, hard, aged cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano and Asiago, rich with the amino acid tyramine, ward off sleep; spicy foods cause restlessness and alertness; and without any complementary carbohydrates, complex proteins like steak and chicken also keep you awake, thanks to the amino acid tyrosine. Bingo.
Once I discovered what might be keeping me up at night, I wondered what the heck I could eat to counteract the reintroduction of meat from this so−called “awake diet” I’ve been eating lately.
What’s surprising is that bananas, rich with tryptophan, melatonin, serotonin and the muscle relaxant magnesium, can send you straight to sleep.
Hence, I suggest banana muffins, a dessert, snack or breakfast recipe that will not only use up those bananas before they turn that nasty shade of brown, but will also welcome a very necessary, calming sense of sleep. Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups of all−purpose flour 1 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. baking soda 1/2 tsp. salt 3 large, ripe bananas, mashed with a fork 3/4 cup sugar 1 egg 1/3 cup melted butter — or a little more than half of one stick
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Grease a cupcake tin with either non−stick cooking spray or manually, using a couple of slices of butter held in a paper towel. You could also line the tin with paper cups.
In one mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Meanwhile in a different bowl, combine the remaining wet ingredients: the mashed bananas, the sugar, the egg and melted butter. Fold in the dry mixture and mix until smooth — so that there are no big clumps or any whiteness at the bottom of the bowl. Pour this mixture evenly into each of the cups, so that the same amount of batter is used to make each muffin.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin’s center comes out clean.
I’m not saying that these muffins have enough punch to knock you out for a night, but they’ll certainly leave you feeling extra−satisfied and ready to catch some much−needed “Z’s.”