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Foods That Help Can You Sleep Better

Ana Marie Schick Jan 31, 2024

Foods that can help sleep

Getting your body and mind settled down for a good night's sleep can often take some doing. Hectic workdays and busy home life can interfere, keeping us revved up and high-wired far into the nighttime hours. The next day? You guessed it. Fatigue, lack of concentration, and irritability put a wrench in your plans to be productive and enjoy your friends and family.

Yes, lack of sleep is a definite funbuster.

Eating the right foods may help you wind down and sleep more soundly, giving you more energy and better focus to tackle the next day's challenges. Furthermore, if exercise is in your routine, the good sleep you get at night has a major positive impact on meeting and exceeding your fitness goals.

We're diving into the fascinating world of nutritional science to uncover how certain foods can enhance your sleep. We all know that a good night's sleep is crucial for our health and well-being, yet so many of us struggle to achieve it.

Fortunately, there are a variety of foods that can help promote better sleep than counting sheep. Below, we will discuss different sleep-promoting foods to include in your diet to help you get the quality of sleep you deserve.

Enhance Your Sleep Beyond Diet

While incorporating foods for better sleep is essential, don't overlook the impact of temperature. Experience a superior night's sleep with our top-of-the-line cooling mattress pad. Make every night a journey to peaceful, quality sleep.

Why Certain Foods Help Improve Sleep Quality

Certain foods can enhance sleep due to their specific nutrients interacting with the body's sleep mechanisms. Foods rich in melatonin, such as cherries and nuts, help regulate our sleep-wake cycles.

Magnesium, found in almonds and spinach, is known for its relaxation effects and promotes sleep. Additionally, tryptophan, an amino acid in foods like turkey and milk, is crucial in increasing serotonin levels.

This, in turn, converts to melatonin, the hormone primarily responsible for sleep. These nutrients effectively influence the brain's chemistry and our internal clock, fostering relaxation and aiding in the onset of sleep.

Foods High in Melatonin

Melatonin is a very important hormone in regulating the circadian rhythm, also known as the sleep-wake cycle. The pineal gland releases melatonin when the time for sleep approaches. As morning approaches, melatonin levels decrease, signaling to the body that it is time to awaken.

Although melatonin production is affected by the cycle of darkness and light, certain foods and beverages contain high amounts of melatonin.

  • Tart cherries
  • Tart cherry juice
  • Certain nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios)

Study: 16 oz of cherry juice could result in a decrease in insomnia. [1]

Research has determined that levels of melatonin production decrease with age. Thus, the increased nighttime awakenings, sleep disturbances, and poor sleep patterns that plague older adults may be directly related to the progressive depletion of this sleep hormone.

Magnesium Rich Foods

Magnesium helps to produce melatonin, that all-important sleep hormone. Additionally, it may play a role in reducing inflammation, which can improve sleep quality. Eating foods that contain high amounts of magnesium are:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Seafood
  • Leafy greens
  • Bananas

Research also supports the value of magnesium as a factor in reducing cortisol, a stress hormone that can interrupt the sleep cycle. [2]

Foods High in Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid that contains protein. Dairy products have high amounts of tryptophan. Meats such as turkey also contain tryptophan. (Although your ‘food coma' after Thanksgiving dinner was more likely due to the massive size of that yearly feast).

This powerful amino acid plays a role in the production of serotonin, the end-product of which is melatonin.

  • Cheese
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Fish

Here are some of the best foods to eat that can help improve the quality of your sleep.

Yogurt Helps Promote Sleep

Yogurt

Research studies have suggested that the consumption of dairy products such as yogurt can have a positive impact on sleep quality and alertness. [3] This is due to the presence of alpha-lactalbumin, a protein component found in whey, which is known to help reduce morning grogginess and increase alertness the following day. 

Dairy yogurts are rich in calcium, which is associated with encouraging the process to fall asleep faster and experiencing restorative sleep. This means incorporating dairy products, particularly yogurt, into your diet could improve restful sleep and daytime alertness.

Food Tip: Avoid yogurts high in sugar because they can interfere with your blood sugar levels.

Almonds

Almonds are often considered a sleep-promoting food due to their magnesium content. Magnesium is a mineral that plays a key role in supporting deep, restful sleep.

They play a vital role in calming the mind and body, essential for initiating sleep. This mineral also helps manage the body's response to stress, leading to much fewer sleep disturbances and disruptions caused by stress-related issues. Basically, magnesium acts as a natural aid in creating a more conducive environment for better sleep quality.

When you consume almonds, a natural magnesium source, you're essentially giving your body a tool to help manage sleep-inducing processes more effectively. So, what are you waiting for? Get your hands on this amazing snack. Not only does it provide excellent nutritional benefits, but it can help you get better sleep!

Pistachios, walnuts, cashews, and pumpkin seeds are also regarded as beneficial for sleep, much like almonds. They contain other nutrients that can help enhance sleep quality. [4]

White Rice

White rice, an everyday dietary staple, can be helpful for promoting sleep, because it has a high glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index may enhance sleep quality, as they potentially increase the production of tryptophan and serotonin in the brain.

Eating white rice a few hours before bedtime might contribute to falling asleep faster and experiencing a more restful night. However, it's important to balance it with a healthy diet for overall well-being.

Tart Cherries can Help with Sleep

Tart Cherries

Tart cherries are known to aid sleep because they are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Tart cherries contain anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants, which may contribute to better sleep by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.

This combination of natural melatonin and anti-inflammatory properties makes tart cherries a popular choice for those seeking to improve their sleep quality naturally. There are over 100 types of cherries, each rich in nutrients like vitamin C and potassium.

Research has shown that drinking tart cherry juice can positively impact sleep. In a particular study, [5] participants who consumed two cups of cherry juice daily experienced increased total sleep time and efficiency. Adding tart cherry juice to your diet seems to be a great way to enhance your sleep.

Bananas

Here's a simple and effective way to improve your sleep quality-consider having a banana before bedtime instead of your usual breakfast. This small change can make a big difference in your sleep routine.

Bananas are known to be one of the best foods for promoting quality sleep, as they contain high levels of magnesium. It's a natural muscle relaxant that eases tension and calms the nervous system, promoting sleep. Bananas also provide potassium, which supports muscle relaxation and nerve function, helping prevent nighttime muscle cramps for uninterrupted sleep.

Adding a banana to your nighttime routine can help promote a calming atmosphere, leading to better sleep. Try adding a tablespoon of natural nut butter to a sliced banana.

Did You Know: Bananas are a good source of sleep-promoting nutrients like magnesium, tryptophan, vitamin B6, carbs, and potassium, which have been linked to improved sleep quality.

Kiwi

Did you know that eating this small, fuzzy-skinned fruit can promote better sleep? Well, it can! This is due to the high concentration of serotonin and antioxidants found in kiwi.

Serotonin is a brain chemical that plays a key role in regulating sleep, while antioxidants help reduce inflammation and stress, which can interfere with sleep.

When combined, these nutrients help to relax the body and mind, making it easier to fall and stay asleep, and enjoy a restful night. So, if you're looking for a natural way to improve your sleep, consider adding kiwi to your diet.

Research has found that consuming two kiwis an hour before going to bed can significantly improve your sleep duration and quality. Participants in the study fell asleep more quickly and experienced a deeper, higher quality sleep and spent more time sleeping overall. Adding kiwis to one's diet can improve sleep. [6]

Turkey

Turkey is known for promoting sleep due to its tryptophan content. How often have you heard that tryptophan sets in after a Thanksgiving meal?

This is because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid essential for the production of serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and appetite, while melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

When you eat turkey, the tryptophan in it gets converted to serotonin, which then gets converted to melatonin, leading to a sense of drowsiness and helping you sleep better. In addition to tryptophan, turkey is also high in protein, which can further contribute to its sleep-promoting properties. Protein is important for building and repairing tissues in the body, and it can also help regulate blood sugar levels.

When your blood sugar levels are stable, you are less likely to experience fluctuations in energy levels, which can interfere with your sleep. Overall, turkey is a great dietary choice for those seeking better sleep, as it contains both tryptophan and protein, which can help regulate mood, appetite, blood sugar levels, and sleep.

Salmon

Salmon, as a fatty fish, is excellent for promoting good sleep. It's rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to enhance the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in sleep regulation. Omega-3s also contribute to the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle.

Plus, the vitamin D content in salmon further supports sleep regulation. Including salmon in your diet not only offers these vital nutrients but can also lead to better overall sleep quality.

Study: Over a period of several months, the study found that individuals who consumed salmon three times per week experienced an improvement in their overall sleep quality and daytime functionality. [7]

Chamomile tea and herbal tea can help with sleep

Drinks That Help You Sleep

Now that you know which foods (including healthy fats) can help you fall asleep easily, there are drinks that can also affect sleep. There are various types of drinks we can consume before bedtime. Some of them can significantly contribute to helping us relax and improve our sleep quality.

Some include milk, chamomile tea, tart cherry juice, warm milk, and more offer a variety of health benefits. View our complete list of the best drinks that help you sleep.

Embracing Healthy Sleep Habits

When it comes to utilizing food to improve your nighttime routine, there is no magic bullet. Try to keep the big picture in mind. This means making dietary choices that are healthy and nutrient-rich, as well as those that promote a better night's sleep.

Eating at Night

Eat early in the evening so that you are fully digested prior to bedtime. If you eat late (also known as pre-bedtime eating), choose foods to eat that aren't fried, fatty, or spicy. This will help you avoid acid reflux, another sleep-destroyer. We also suggest that you choose non-caffeinated, non-sugary beverages in the evenings.

The sleep environment and daily routines that establish those consistent, restful, and uninterrupted ZZ's are known as sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene is a major factor in getting the most out of sleep. We encourage you to make the choice of a healthy environment that is conducive to a good night's sleep, including mattresses, pillows, and a darkened room.

In Conclusion: Take the Journey

Nutritional and sleep science continues to change and evolve. We learn more about sleep hormones, nutrients, and the specialized neurotransmitters that relax, rejuvenate, and renew us every day.

One thing that all research is consistent about, however, is that there are a myriad of easy-to-get, inexpensive foods that might help you fall asleep better at night and promote better sleep quality. What we have learned to help establish an excellent overall sleep routine is just as important.

We invite you to take the joyous journey to that sweet spot of perfect sleep.

Citations

[1] Pigeon, W. R., Carr, M., Gorman, C., & Perlis, M. L. (2010). Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. Journal of medicinal food, 13(3), 579–583. View Study

[2] Zeng Y, Yang J, Du J, Pu X, Yang X, Yang S, Yang T. Strategies of Functional Foods Promote Sleep in Human Being. Curr Signal Transduct Ther. 2014 Dec;9(3):148-155. doi: 10.2174/1574362410666150205165504. PMID: 26005400; PMCID: PMC4440346.

[3] St-Onge MP, Zuraikat FM, Neilson M. Exploring the Role of Dairy Products In Sleep Quality: From Population Studies to Mechanistic Evaluations. Adv Nutr. 2023 Mar;14(2):283-294. doi: 10.1016/j.advnut.2023.01.004. Epub 2023 Jan 31. PMID: 36774251; PMCID: PMC10229376.

[4] Reiter, Russel J., et al. “Melatonin in Walnuts: Influence on Levels of Melatonin and Total Antioxidant Capacity of Blood.” Nutrition, vol. 21, no. 9, Sept. 2005, pp. 920–924, View Study Accessed 1 Feb. 2020.

[5] Losso, J. N., Finley, J. W., Karki, N., Liu, A. G., Prudente, A., Tipton, R., Yu, Y., & Greenway, F. L. (2018). Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms. American journal of therapeutics, 25(2), e194–e201.

[6] Lin, H. H., Tsai, P. S., Fang, S. C., & Liu, J. F. (2011). Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 20(2), 169–174.

[7] Hansen, A. L., Dahl, L., Olson, G., Thornton, D., Graff, I. E., Frøyland, L., Thayer, J. F., & Pallesen, S. (2014). Fish consumption, sleep, daily functioning, and heart rate variability. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 10(5), 567–575. View Study

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