Foods That Help You Sleep Better

What you eat can influence how well you sleep. Try adding these foods to your diet that can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.

By Nicole Gleichmann

Your sleep quality is directly related to the amount of much energy you have the following day, but it’s also much more important than that. It plays a role in every aspect of your health and wellbeing. When you don’t get enough sleep for long periods of time, it can lead to chronic diseases and mood disorders like depression.

And with 1 in 4 Americans experiencing insomnia in any given year and nearly ½ of the world’s population experiences a sleep disorder at one time in their lives, this inability to sleep is at epidemic levels.

So, what can you do to sleep better? Fortunately, there are a variety of lifestyle factors that you can influence which will support a good night’s rest.

What you eat might just be one of the most important factors in how well you sleep. Not only does your diet influence your mood and overall health, but there are macronutrients and micronutrients found within plant and animal food sources that are essential for a healthy sleep/wake cycle.

Simply adding in a healthy, sleep-promoting snack shortly before bedtime can help with falling asleep and sleeping restfully throughout the night.

How Eating the Right Foods Can Help You Sleep Better

Certain foods contain healthy compounds that promote a good night sleep. There are a variety of these phytonutrients that can help you sleep better. Some of the most important include:

  1. Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone in your body known as your sleep hormone. Having enough melatonin at the correct times of the day can help regulate your sleeping/waking cycle. Certain foods are high in melatonin, and eating them later in the day can help you drift off to sleep.
  2. Tryptophan: Tryptophan is an amino acid, which is a building block of protein. Through stimulating the activity of the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) serotonin, tryptophan can promote sleep.
  3. Calcium, Potassium, and Magnesium: Consuming adequate quantities of these three minerals is particularly important for optimal sleep and muscle relaxation.
  4. Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a hormone that the body can produce on its own when we get enough sunlight. Unfortunately, few of us get enough, leading to widespread vitamin D deficiency. With sleep quality correlated with serum vitamin D levels, it’s important for us to get enough. Some foods contain vitamin D and may therefore help with sleep.
  5. Antioxidants: Sleep disorders and a variety of diseases can contribute to, or be caused by, oxidative stress. Reducing oxidative stress and the related damage through consuming more antioxidants might be helpful in improving sleep.
  6. Vitamin B6: This B vitamin is used by your body in the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin, a neurotransmitter and hormone important for sleep.

Keep in mind that this is only a short list of some of the most common nutrients that can help us obtain a better night’s sleep. There are others that can have a positive impact as well through things like boosting the level and activity of certain neurotransmitters and hormones.

The Top Six Snacks to Eat Before Bedtime

Having a small snack about an hour or two before bed can help some people sleep better thanks to reducing hunger pains over the night. If you eat the right foods, you can even receive a nutritional boost that can help you fall asleep faster and get a good night sleep.

One word of caution: listen to your body when it comes to eating food before bedtime. While there are health benefits to eating certain things, eating too much food too close to bedtime can aggravate acid reflux, leading to a poor night of sleep.

1. Tart Cherry Juice

Research has found that consuming cherries might be beneficial for sleep. Tart cherry juice, in particular, is rich in five sleep-promoting nutrients:

  • Melatonin
  • Potassium
  • Serotonin
  • Tryptophan
  • Antioxidants

Plus, a small amount of tart cherry juice can go a long way. For those who find eating before bed difficult thanks to things like acid reflux, a small amount of tart cherry juice might be a good option.

2. Walnuts

Nuts, in general, are a good source of melatonin. Plus, they are high in healthy fats, protein, and fiber while being low in sugar, making them a great snack to have shortly before bed. Walnuts have one of the highest levels of melatonin and all-around health benefits in the nut family.

3. Warm Milk

You’ve probably been told by your parents or your grandparents to have a glass of warm milk when you have trouble sleeping. This old-school remedy has scientific backing. Thanks to its high levels of tryptophan, melatonin, calcium, and vitamin D, milk might be able to help you sleep better. Plus, the protein can help keep you satisfied as you sleep, and the warmth can encourage relaxation.

4. Whole Grain Crackers

Whole grains are a good source of tryptophan, magnesium, complex carbs, selenium, and butyric acid. These compounds can help sleep through enhancing GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) production, plus the blood sugar spike caused by the carbs help to deliver tryptophan to the brain.

Whole grain crackers are a fast and easy snack full of nutritional value, although you can always try other whole grain products like brown rice or whole grain pasta instead.

5. Salmon

If you’re wondering what you can put on your whole grain crackers, try adding some salmon (wild caught smoked salmon if you’re wanting to maximize both taste and health benefits). Salmon is high in vitamin B6 and melatonin, plus, low fish intake has been tied to poor sleep.

6. Chamomile Tea

Another beverage that’s long-been-known for its relaxing properties is chamomile tea. The chamomile flower is even a folk remedy for insomnia, and there is some evidence to support this use. In a 2017 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, researchers found that chamomile extract improved sleep quality in elderly people.

Final Thoughts

If you’re tossing and turning, struggling to fall asleep at night, try adding in different snacks that might help. Each night, try something different to see what works best for you. You might find that only one snack does the trick, so don’t give up hope easily. There might just be a snack that helps you get the sleep you need.

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