Everyone wants a good night’s sleep.
No one wants to be tossing and turning into the early hours of the morning because that lack of sleep will weigh you down throughout the rest of the day.
And if you happen to struggle with sleep-related conditions such as insomnia or sleep apnea, then that can put your eight hours a night almost completely out of reach.
There are several factors that dictate whether you get sound sleep or not and what you eat it one of them.
Let’s look at particular nutrients and foods that may help you get better sleep.
Most Prominent Sleep-related Nutrients
● Tryptophan is an amino acid which can be converted into important molecules, including serotonin.
It is one of the nine essential amino acids we need to function.
However, the body cannot synthesize it and we need certain foods in order to acquire it.
● Serotonin is a significant chemical that concerns our moods and mental wellbeing.
It can also help to regulate a person’s sleep-wake cycles and body clock.
● Magnesium is a mineral that can act as a deterrent to stress and tension.
The lack of it can considerably affect the health of those who struggle with certain ailments, such as digestive issues and even diabetics.
It is understood to be helpful to a better night’s sleep.
● Vitamin B6 is vital because it converts the tryptophan found in certain foods into serotonin, allowing for a calming state before entering sleep.
● Vitamin D – Known in some circles as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, low levels of Vitamin D can lead to bouts of insomnia.
Even though we get the bulk of Vitamin D from the sun shining on our skin, it is an insufficient amount and we are still dependent on particular foods and supplements.
Common Foods That May Help You Sleep
And now, onto the food and drink you should be looking at to get you snoozing, as well as a rundown of some of the nutrients they contain and produce to help you sleep.
Dairy products contain the amino acid tryptophan, which has been used as a sleeping aid.
Milk, cheese, and yogurt will be your go-to evening snacks.
Many of us will have childhood memories of our families making us a warm glass of milk before bed.
Dairy foods are also rich in calcium, which is used to help the brain produce melatonin.
If you want to maximize the impact, you should look at a few combos such as cheese on wholewheat bread or tea with milk.
Your meat intake is going to be one of the deciding factors in how well you sleep. Meat contains many of the pivotal elements that you need for a healthy diet.
Fatty fish includes salmon, tuna, and trout.
These fish contain high levels of vitamin D, which strengthens bones and teeth.
Multiple studies have also demonstrated that Vitamin D deficiency is linked to sleep deficiency, with one study focusing on the elderly male community revealing a low intake amounted to little more than 5 hours of sleep a night.
Fatty fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered an essential contribution to the body’s daily intake.
Another vitamin commonly found in these products is Vitamin B6, which aids the development of both melatonin and serotonin.
Although there are relatively few studies into turkey meat’s impact on the sleep cycle, it has been noted to contain the amino acid tryptophan, which in turn helps to produce the hormone melatonin.
In fact, tryptophan is consistent in most poultry-based meats, including chicken and duck.
Many fruits will help to maximize your sleeping pattern because certain ones contain the hormone melatonin, which induces sleep.
● Tart cherry or tart cherry juice contains the body clock regulator melatonin.
Multiple studies have been carried out investigating how tart cherry juice can combat insomnia. One such study from Louisiana found that adults who ingest tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks increase their sleeping time by an hour and a half.
● Bananas are an ideal late-night snack; mainly for being a prominent source of the nutrient magnesium, which can regulate and relax the nerve muscles.
If your body’s not getting enough magnesium, then you leave yourself susceptible to night cramps and difficulty relaxing during sleep.
Bananas also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which helps to create serotonin, which helps allow for emotional stability when falling asleep.
● Kiwi is a low-calorie fruit and is said to contain high levels of the chemical serotonin, which is vital for regulating mood and wellbeing, called in some circles a ‘happy chemical’, with sleep falling under those benefits.
There have been many studies demonstrating how including kiwi fruit benefits the sleep pattern, mainly how kiwi fruit can take people straight into the sleep onset stage, with minimum delays in falling asleep.
One such study revealed that due to four weeks of kiwi consumption, patients’ waking time after sleep onset was decreased by 28.9%, while their sleep time increased by 13.4%.
Tea is supposed to have a soothing effect on you.
It’s the type of beverage you can consume when you want to kick back and relax.
But it can be a bit of a balancing act.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all relied on caffeine to give us that little extra boost to keep us going.
So, drinking your weight in caffeinated tea is probably not the best avenue to pursue.
Instead, you should try to look at trying herbal teas, some of which impact specific ailments.
● Chamomile tea has long been regarded as an effective sleep inducer.
This is due to an antioxidant called apigenin, which targets receptors in your brain that decrease anxiety and initiate sleep.
Ongoing studies are investigating the impact of chamomile tea on the sleep pattern.
One example study looked into chronic insomnia and found that insomniac patients who receive 270 mg of chamomile extract twice daily for 28 days fell asleep about 15 minutes faster than those who don’t.
● Research into its impact on sleeping is still ongoing, but peppermint tea has been proven to settle the other factors that keep you up at night. In addition to being an anti-stress tea, peppermint tea can also be used to settle an upset stomach.
It is an essential supplement for people struggling with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
● An alleviator of anxiety, passionflower tea is a prominent source of flavonoid antioxidants, which is used to boost immune health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
A study of adults revealed that those who drink passionflower tea for a week report much better sleep compared to those who don’t.
If you’re feeling slightly tense before bed for whatever reason, honey can help to take the edge off.
It restocks the liver with the glycogen needed to block the triggers in the brain that sends it into crisis mode.
The high quantity of sugar in honey also raises a person’s insulin levels, which makes it easier for tryptophan to enter the brain.
Because honey is also quite sweet due to the amount of sugar it contains, it is better to have it in small doses, ideally as part of an evening drink like milk or tea.
Ideally, you want to be using raw honey (like this one infused with hemp) as opposed to pasteurized honey because raw honey is said to be 22% better at making liver glycogen.
Walnuts are a valued inclusion in a healthy diet due to containing an abundance of nutrients and vitamins.
Although more research is required to understand the impact walnuts have on the sleep cycle, they are known to contain nutrients key to tackling sleep disorders, such as high omega-3 fatty acid.
A previous study revealed how omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can contribute to sleep disorders in children.
Almonds come with a lot of health benefits, with research showing that the inclusion of almonds decreases the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
And because almonds are a source of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin.
Oatmeal is one of the go-to foods but what makes it ideal for a sleep-savvy diet is its combination of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all of which promote sleep.
Grains present in oatmeal can trigger insulin production that raises your blood sugar and makes you drowsy.
Rice is another all-important food to support the sleep cycle.
Rice is one of many foods that are high in carbohydrates that boost the production of serotonin.
●Although white rice has minimal fiber, this combined with its high level of carbs gives it a high glycemic index (the scale representing the amount of glucose in the body after consumption).
A study of over a thousand participants oversaw the intake of white rice, bread, and noodles, finding that those with a higher intake of white rice benefit from extended periods of sleep.
●Jasmine rice also comes with a high glycemic index.
Research carried out by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that meals which include jasmine rice causes people to fall asleep much faster compared to those without.
●Brown rice actually has a fair amount of fiber in it.
It also contains GABA aka gamma-amino butyric acid, which works to calm the nervous system and can ease an individual towards a sleep-like state.
Pretzels may not be the first food to come to mind when it comes to a healthy sleep diet.
But like rice, pretzels have a high glycemic index.
And this will cause the blood sugar and insulin levels to spike, which makes it easier for tryptophan to enter the body.
They also provide magnesium, with the United States Department of Agriculture stating that pretzels make up 2% of our daily intake of magnesium.
At some point in our lives, most of us have sat down with a bowl of cereal to start us off in the morning.
But how many of us think about having a bowl shortly before bed?
Cereal is a good source of carbohydrates while the milk provides some calcium.
However, if you’re tucking in just before bed, it might be better to go with a cereal that is low in sugar.
Related: How Lack Of Sleep Affects Your Weight
Avoid These Foods Before Bed
But for every food you need to eat, there are always the ones you need to avoid like the plague.
These are the foods that you should be actively avoiding if sleep is at the top of your priority list.
Fast food may seem like a simple meal sorted out, but it brings a lot of health issues with it.
High in cholesterol and dripping with fat.
For example, the fat in a cheeseburger can stimulate the production of acid in the stomach, which spills over into the esophagus, giving someone a mild case of heartburn.
This isn’t necessarily food you should avoid altogether, but consider long it takes to digest.
Because red meat takes a lot longer to digest than other meats and if you go to bed shortly after finishing your meal, the bulk of your sleeping period will be spent digesting.
The clue is in the name for this one.
Getting to sleep for the required eight hours is dependent on your energy levels being low enough that your tired.
So prying yourself with energy drinks that are designed to perk you up and keep your brain alert isn’t the best idea.
We’ve all been in one of those scenarios where we need to focus and we drink our weight in coffee to keep ourselves going.
The caffeine in coffee restricts your body from identifying how fatigued it truly is, which also means that you might want to give coffee after 5pm (for some of us after 1 pm).
Sugar should be a general avoidance as you head into the evening.
Anything more than a small intake will have your energy levels spiking.
Avoid dark chocolate because it normally contains a higher level of caffeine, on par with what you get with a normal cup of coffee.
Timing Of When You Eat
Of course, even if you ate and drank all of these things just before bedtime, there isn’t necessarily a guarantee it will pan out.
It’s not solely about what you eat, but when you eat.
Everyone has the typical meals throughout the day; breakfast, lunch, and dinner (with the occasional snack in-between).
We keep these paced out so that we have time to digest and avert the calorie overload.
So, if you’re one of those people who has their dinner within an hour of dozing off, your body is unlikely to be prepared for rest because you’ve prompted it to digest instead.
Allow for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime.
If you find yourself craving a midnight snack, try and keep it small and stick to one of the foods listed above.
Exercise Might Help
Exercise can also be used to speed up the digestion process and wear you out in time for bed.
A gentle walk for half an hour or a nice brisk jog can help you walk off your evening meals.
So now you’re familiar with the best nutrients for sleep and the next time your shopping you’ll know what to get.
A good, thought-out diet may save you a lot of nights staring at the ceiling.
If nothing else, it’ll be the first time you look at a shopping list and think about where to stock up on tryptophan. 😉
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