General Health

The 7 Best Foods to Help You Sleep

Foods we eat strongly influence our alertness, energy levels, and sleep cycle. Some foods keep us awake, whereas others help us fall asleep. Most people don’t get enough good night’s rest. Reasons behind sleep deprivation vary from one person to another. We have one thing in common, though. What is it? Simple lifestyle adjustments could help us sleep better. Starting with dietary changes is a good idea. Scroll down to see the best foods that help you sleep like a baby.

1) Almonds

Almonds are nutritious nuts that prove to be a healthy snack option for persons who love to munch at night. One ounce (28g) of the dry roasted almonds delivers 18% recommended daily intake of phosphorus and 23% for riboflavin (vitamin B2). The same amount of almonds also provides 25% of recommended daily intake of manganese for men and 31% for women. 

Consumption of almonds improves your health in many ways. Many people aren’t aware these tree nuts can promote sleep quality too.

Similar to other types of nuts, almonds contain melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm and signals your body to get ready for sleep. Pistachios are also a wonderful source of melatonin.

Additionally, almonds are abundant in magnesium. This mineral has the potential to improve sleep quality, especially in persons with insomnia.

Even though constituents of almond are known for sleep-promoting effects, studies focusing on almond specifically are scarce. That said, one study found almond consumption led to longer and deeper sleep. Scientists explained this evidence supports the therapeutic use of almonds in insomnia.

One way to see whether almonds could help you sleep better is to eat a handful (about one ounce) before bedtime. Avoid eating too much. Strive to eat them for a while to see whether there are any improvements. 

2) Turkey

Turkey is highly nutritious as well. Besides protein, turkey meat supplies the body with vitamin B6, riboflavin, selenium, and phosphorus. If you have a habit of snacking at night, you may want to replace unhealthy options with turkey. Why? Turkey is an effective sleep aid. The main culprit for the sleep-promoting effects of turkey is tryptophan. 

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid the body is unable to produce. For that reason, you need to obtain this amino acid through diet. The body utilizes tryptophan to produce serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin regulates mood, pain, appetite, and sleep. On the flip side, melatonin production controls the sleep-wake cycle, as mentioned above. Studies show higher tryptophan intake can increase sleep efficiency and sleep time. At the same time, this amino acid can decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Besides tryptophan, turkey can promote sleep due to its protein content. Evidence shows moderate consumption of protein before bedtime can improve the quality of sleep. This means you are less likely to wake up during the night. 

If you tend to wake up frequently during the night, you may want to try having a few slices of turkey as a bedtime snack.

3) Walnuts

Walnuts are among the most nutritious foods you can consume. They are an abundant source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, walnuts are a plant source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Most people know walnuts improve brain and heart health. But they can do so much more than that. 

Just like almonds, walnuts also contain melatonin. When eaten, walnuts increase blood melatonin concentrations. This can also increase your antioxidant capacity. Through melatonin, content walnuts can improve the quality of sleep and help you get enough good night’s rest.

Another mechanism through which walnuts promote sleep is the fatty acid content. Walnuts supply the body with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The body converts ALA to another Omega-3 fatty acid, DHA. As one of the most important Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA can support the production of serotonin. 

Further research is necessary to uncover all the mechanisms of action through which serotonin promotes sleep. Studies show serotonergic modulation on the sleep/wake cycle occurs through a multitude of post-synaptic receptors, which mediate different or opposite responses.

Try eating a handful of walnuts for a better night’s sleep.

4) Fatty fish

The term fatty fish refers to fish species with fat in soft tissue and the gut’s coelomic cavity. These fish are abundant in Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. The latter is quite tricky to obtain in the diet in decent amounts. The best options include salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, among others.

Fatty fish is the major component of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Now you have yet another reason to introduce oily fish to your daily menu – you can sleep better. You will be happy to know both vitamin D and Omega-3s influence serotonin production. As a result, they have a positive impact on your sleep-wake cycle. You see, brain serotonin is synthesized from tryptophan, but vitamin D is the one that activates that amino acid in the first place. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA take part in serotonin synthesis through different mechanisms. Inadequate levels of vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids are common. In these situations, the synthesis of serotonin in the brain isn’t at the optimal level.

Basically, vitamin D and Omega-3s support serotonin synthesis through different mechanisms of action. When you don’t consume these nutrients enough, the levels of serotonin are impaired. This can also translate to problems with sleeping. Insufficient serotonin synthesis may also be linked with other conditions that are associated with this neurotransmitter.

Strive to eat a few ounces of fatty fish before bedtime for healthy sleep. Make sure to avoid eating too much. 

5) Tart cherry juice

Tart cherry juice is made from the fruit of the Prunus cerasus tree. The tree is native to Europe and southwest Asia. Consumption of this juice provides a wide spectrum of health benefits. The nutritious and antioxidant-rich juice helps improve your sleep patterns as well. Why? Tart cherries are naturally high in melatonin. That’s not all. This fruit also contains tryptophan and anthocyanins, which help the body produce melatonin and prolong its action. 

Studies confirm consumption of tart cherry juice significantly increases time in bed, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency. In one study, participants with insomnia drank either 16oz (480ml) of tart cherry juice or the same amount of placebo every day for two weeks. Subjects who consumed tart cherry juice experienced longer sleep time. Their sleep time increased by 85 minutes on average. 

Tart cherry juice could be equally effective as valerian root and melatonin for insomnia. Further research is necessary to learn more about this subject. Drinking tart cherry juice could be a delicious yet natural way to get sound sleep. This is particularly important if we bear in mind that this beverage has other health benefits such as better brain health, stronger immune system, reduced arthritis symptoms, increased strength, and decreased muscle soreness, among others. 

6) Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is one of the most well-known natural remedies for better sleep. You probably have chamomile tea in your kitchen. If you don’t have the habit of drinking this warm beverage before bedtime, it’s not too late to start, especially if you don’t want to take a sleeping pill.

Apigenin, an antioxidant in chamomile tea, is the main reason behind calming and sleep-boosting effects of this beverage. Studies show this antioxidant can bind to certain brain receptors that promote sleepiness, decrease insomnia, i.e., tackle the chronic inability to sleep. 

The benefits of chamomile tea for sleep are not just a matter of speculation. A growing body of evidence confirms this tea can significantly improve sleep quality, even in elderly people. It’s also useful to mention research that focused on chamomile and its impact on postnatal women’s sleep. Subjects who consumed chamomile tea had lower scores of physical symptoms-related sleep inefficiency, and symptoms of depression. Scientists concluded that chamomile tea might be recommended to postpartum women as a supplementary therapy to improve sleep quality and reduce depression. 

Before bedtime, you may want to drink a cup of warm chamomile tea. This tea promotes relaxation, calmness and will help you sleep better. You’ll have better effects if you do it regularly. For that reason, you may want to make it a habit to prepare chamomile tea every night.

7) Passionflower tea

Do you know there are over 500 species of passionflower? Native to the southeastern United States and Central and South America, passionflower is a flowering type of vine with many health benefits. You’ve probably come across skincare and beauty products containing passionflower. This plant can do a lot more than that. 

The most notable health effect of passionflower is its potential to promote calmness and sleep quality. Evidence shows passionflower works by elevating gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the brain. You see, GABA is an amino acid known for decreasing activity in the central nervous system (CNS). Reduced CNS activity promotes relaxation, better sleep, and even better mood.

Besides calming your mind, passionflower tea can also calm your stomach. This is particularly useful if you have problems such as ulcers that may interrupt your sleep. 

For a good night’s sleep, you may want to sip a cup of passionflower tea before bed. By acting as a mild sedative, this tea could help you fall asleep faster-steep dried sunflower or a tea bag in boiling water for six to eight minutes. Passionflower tea has a mild flavor. If you want to drink a stronger tea, you may want to steep it for 10 to 15 minutes. Floral honey is a good sweetener choice if you like your teas sweet. 

8) Kiwi

Although native to mainland China and Taiwan, Kiwi is primarily grown in New Zealand and California. This fuzzy fruit is delicious and abundant in nutrients such as vitamins C, K, E, and folate, minerals such as potassium, just to name a few. Consumption of kiwi can strengthen the immune system, promote weight loss, aid digestion, and improve your health in many ways. 

Kiwi can help you sleep better, too. Studies show intake of kiwi may improve sleep onset, duration, and efficiency in adults with sleep problems. In one study, the improved sleep benefits occurred when subjects consumed two kiwis one hour before bedtime for four weeks.

Since kiwis are a good source of serotonin, they could promote quality of sleep and even reduce anxiety. More research on this subject is necessary, though. 

Healthy diet for sleep 

Although numerous foods can promote quality of sleep, some options are bad for us. Restful sleep comes after making an effort to introduce lifestyle modifications. It always starts with diet. 

Besides the options mentioned above, other sleep-inducing foods include peanut butter, sweet potato, calcium-rich cottage cheese, milk (nobody can resist a glass of warm milk), pumpkin seeds, and almond butter.

To sleep better, you need to avoid some foods at night, such as:

  • Chocolate – a hidden source of caffeine that acts as a stimulant and may keep you up at night. But dark chocolate can help provide quality sleep due to its serotonin levels.

  • Alcohol – drinking alcohol before bed can make you more likely to wake up during the night. As a result, the quality of sleep reduces significantly. It’s also useful to mention alcohol can lead to snoring. That means you could disturb the sleep of the person next to you.

  • Fatty foods – the body takes longer to digest these foods. In turn, you may experience bloating and indigestion. Both problems can affect your sleep.

  • Dried fruit-eating too much-dried fruit at night could cause gas and cramps, thereby preventing you from getting enough sleep.

  • Spicy foods – consuming these foods late in the evening can cause heartburn. Falling asleep with heartburn can be difficult.

  • Peppermint – just like spicy food, peppermint is a heartburn trigger.

  • Pizza – if you have a habit of munching on pizza late at night, you may want to reconsider your choice. A combination of fat, cheese, and acid can lead to problems such as acid reflux. This can interrupt your sleep.

  • Raw onions – can cause gas that affects the pressure in your stomach and may contribute to heartburn. Eating raw onions at night may not be the best idea.

  • High-sugar cereals – may cause blood sugar to go up and down, which can prevent you from getting good sleep.

  • Caffeine – a stimulant that promotes alertness 

Other foods you may want to avoid eating at night include ketchup, junk food, matcha or green tea, steak, grapefruit, and water.

Conclusion

Most of us experience difficulties falling asleep at one point or another. Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do to sleep better. Just by eating certain foods before bedtime, we can get more rest during the night. This article outlined some of the best sleep-promoting foods. You may want to give them a try. Also, strive to avoid consuming certain foods at night to sleep better. Moreover, sleep hygiene also matters. For that reason, you should make sure your bedroom is quiet, tidy, and has no distractions such as TV.

Sources

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  2. Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghniiat, K., Shirazi, M. M., Hedayati, M., & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences17(12), 1161–1169.
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  7. Reiter, R. J., Manchester, L. C., & Tan, D. X. (2005). Melatonin in walnuts: influence on levels of melatonin and total antioxidant capacity of blood. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.)21(9), 920–924. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2005.02.005
  8. Reiter, R. J., Manchester, L. C., & Tan, D. X. (2005). Melatonin in walnuts: influence on levels of melatonin and total antioxidant capacity of blood. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.)21(9), 920–924. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2005.02.005
  9. Grosso, G., Galvano, F., Marventano, S., Malaguarnera, M., Bucolo, C., Drago, F., & Caraci, F. (2014). Omega-3 fatty acids and depression: scientific evidence and biological mechanisms. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity2014, 313570. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/313570
  10. Patrick PR, Ames BN. (2015). Vitamin D and the Omega-3 fatty acids control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior. The FASEB Journal, 29(6), 2207-2222. https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.14-268342 
  11. Howatson, G., Bell, P. G., Tallent, J., Middleton, B., McHugh, M. P., & Ellis, J. (2012). Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. European journal of nutrition51(8), 909–916. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7
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2 Comments Newest

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  1. Alphonse Havugimna

    I don’t understand why you suggest to drink teas or juice as I have to make trips to bathroom.

    • Ben's Natural Health Team

      Hi Alphonse, some of the drinks mentioned in the article can help to calm and aid falling alseep. However, if you do find that drinking liquid increases your need to get up at night, you can reduce your intake and try the foods suggested instead. Wishing you good health, The Ben’s Natural Health Team.

 
 
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