As the age-old proverb goes, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” For centuries people have known the power food. There are certain foods believed to ward off the common cold, boost your metabolism and even help you sleep.
Sleep, just like a balanced diet, is critical to your health and wellness. Sadly, many people struggle with it, finding it challenging to fall asleep or waking up in the middle of the night. Many factors can contribute to sleep difficulties, including certain foods and beverages. For example, coffee, alcohol, high fat, or spicy foods can disrupt your sleep and contribute to a number of health issues like cardiovascular disease, weight gain, and diabetes. However, just as there are foods that can disrupt your sleep, there are foods that can improve the quality of your sleep.
These sleep-inducing foods contain chemicals, enzymes, amino acids, and nutrients that act as a natural sleep aid. When eaten at the right time, they can help you fall fast asleep on your buckwheat pillow. These exceptional sleep-inducing compounds include zinc, B vitamins, tryptophan, melatonin, potassium, magnesium, histamine, folate, and copper. With a higher concentration, it will have a greater sleep-promoting effect.
When eating certain foods to help you sleep, timing is important! Avoid eating a large meal right before bed. A full stomach at night can cause digestion issues, heartburn, and stomach pain, which can keep you awake. Your last meal should be at least 3 hours before bed, and if you do need a snack, you should keep it light.
Now, on to the eats. For a foodie approach to better sleep, try the following 13 foods.
If you like a sweet treat after dinner, swap out the cake or ice cream for a bowl of kiwi slices. Not only is this green fruit delicious, but it can help you sleep better at night. This is because it contains many sleep-inducing compounds like magnesium, folate, calcium, melatonin, anthocyanins, flavonoids, and carotenoids. One study looked at this further, examining whether eating kiwi before bed could help a person sleep better. The study found that those who ate two kiwis 1 hour before bed for four weeks had improved their total sleep time and sleep efficiency, and they fell asleep faster.
A nutritious evening snack that can also help you sleep is walnuts. This is an excellent substitute if you like to snack on chips or popcorn while watching TV at night. Just a 100-gram serving contains a sufficient amount of magnesium, potassium, folate, and calcium. Although there hasn’t been a great deal of scientific research on the link between sleep and walnuts, the nutrients they contain, in addition to being high in melatonin, make them a safe bet.
Walnuts aren’t the only sleep-inducing nuts; almonds are also great! They too contain a high amount of melatonin which is a hormone that helps regulate sleep. Further, a 1 ounce serving of almonds will provide you with 77 milligrams of magnesium and 76 milligrams of calcium which aid in sleep. Finally, if you get hungry at night, they are a healthy option as they will make you feel satisfied and are low in sugar and saturated fats.
- Salmon or other fatty fish
For a sleep-inducing dinner, serve up a fatty fish like salmon. Fatty fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which aids in serotonin regulation. Serotonin plays an active role in your sleep-wake cycle and will therefore help you sleep better. Additionally, these fish contain a significant amount of potassium, phosphorous, zinc, B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, and folate. A study completed in 2014 had participants eat 300 grams of Atlantic salmon three times a week for six months and then measured their sleep quality and how they functioned during the day. They were also compared to those who ate chicken, pork, or beef. The study found that those who ate salmon fell asleep faster and functioned better during the day.
Serve up your salmon with a leafy salad to boost the sleep-inducing effects. Lettuce and lettuce seed oil is believed to be an effective treatment for insomnia and improve sleep quality. This is due to its mild sedative-hypnotic effect from the compound called lactucin which contains n-butanol fraction. In a mouse study, the n-butanol fraction increased sleep duration and decreased sleep latency, meaning they fell asleep faster.
Chamomile is notorious for its impact on sleep (read more on our blog here). This is primarily due to the flavonoid compound apigenin, which activates GABA A receptors that stimulate sleep. Our sleep tea contains organic chamomile and lavender to help you enjoy a better night's rest. Make a cup of this before bed, and you’ll be fast asleep on your buckwheat pillow in no time!
- Warm Milk
If you prefer to sip your way to better sleep, in addition to a hot cup of chamomile tea, you could try a glass of warm milk. This tried and true home remedy is full of sleep-inducing compounds like melatonin, vitamin D, calcium, and tryptophan. These benefits are enhanced when you make it a part of your bedtime ritual. As a nightly practice, your body will associate the warm milk with sleep and help you relax and fall asleep faster.
Turkey is probably one of the most well-known sleep-inducing foods there is. Its sleep effects have been referenced in television shows and movies for years. The reason it works is because of an essential amino acid known as L-tryptophan. Our bodies need L-tryptophan, yet we can’t produce it on our own – we must get it from food, and turkey is a great source. Tryptophan produces serotonin which is used to make melatonin that controls sleep and wake cycles. Here’s the shocker, though – turkey has less tryptophan than chicken. We more often associate turkey with making us sleepy because it is eaten as a large holiday meal, giving us that sluggish feeling.
Farm fresh cherries are incredible! So whether you make a sauce to top your turkey, a cherry pie or eat them as a late-night snack- they taste great and can even help you sleep better. Cherries contain serotonin, tryptophan, melatonin, and potassium, which are all critical for sleep regulation. Further, researchers also believe they contain antioxidants known as polyphenols that can help with sleep regulation. When examining the health benefits of cherries, a 2018 review found a correlation between cherry intake and an improvement in sleep quality. Studies also found that a small glass of tart cherry juice could relieve insomnia and improve sleep quality as it contains a high amount of melatonin. In one study, adults with insomnia drank an 8-ounce glass of tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks. The results found they slept 84 minutes longer and had an improved quality of sleep.
- White rice
White rice is a food staple many people already have in their cupboards. It is high in carbs and lacks fiber, which makes it high on the glycemic index (GI), which is a measurement of how quickly a food will increase your blood sugar. Preliminary research suggests that eating foods that are high on the glycemic index can improve sleep quality. To help aid in sleep and prevent any digestion issues, you should eat it at least one hour before bed.
A lesser-known sleep-inducing food is chickpeas. Though they may not have the same notoriety as turkey and chamomile tea, they also contain many compounds that aid in sleep. For example, they are a great source of vitamin B6 and tryptophan which helps create serotonin. If you like to munch on something before bed, try hummus wraps so you can receive the benefits of lettuce as well!
Bananas are a great way to start the day and end it! This fruit is rich in sleep-inducing compounds like tryptophan and potassium. These two are natural muscle relaxants that will help you relax before bed and have been found to increase sleep time. In addition, eating a banana before bed will give you a boost of magnesium, a mineral that has been found to treat insomnia and other sleep disturbances effectively.
- Peanut Butter
If you are craving something sweet and savory before bed, try a spoon of peanut butter or top some banana slices with some PB. Peanut butter has plenty of tryptophan and is also believed to boost metabolism while you sleep. That said, if you are concerned about weight gain, avoid peanut butter sandwiches. Though it could make you sleepy, it could cause weight gain or digestion issues.