Trouble Sleeping? Try Adding These 6 Foods to Your Diet

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It may feel as if caffeine can solve your every problem, but nothing beats the natural buzz of a good night’s sleep—but what if you just can’t catch those quality ZZZs? 

While another cup of coffee might not be the answer, food could be the solution.

We know a snack enjoyed right before hitting the hay may lead to a snooze struggle, but certain bites can give you the drowsy head start you need. Try munching on these six foods so you can be your best-rested self. 

Tart Cherries

Skip the bottle of melatonin pills and grab tart cherries instead. These fruits contain high levels of both melatonin and tryptophan: two compounds famous for aiding sleep. Your body regularly produces both of these chemicals, but tart cherries may be the extra boost you need. 

Not just any cherries will do. Look for the Montmorency variety! If you can’t find them fresh or frozen, gulp down some unsweetened juice shortly before bed. 

White Rice

White rice? As a sleep-inducer? It’s a shocker, we know! 

Refined carbohydrates have gained a bad reputation, partially because of their high glycemic index (GI), but could that same trait improve your sleep? It sure seems like it! 

Studies show that high GI foods eaten a few hours before bed can help you fall asleep faster. While whole grains are typically best for your body, overloading on high-fiber snacks right before calling it a night can leave you feeling less refreshed. Who would’ve thought? 

Related Article: 5 Iron-Clad Tips to Get Better Sleep at Night

Chamomile Tea

It’s no surprise that chamomile tea makes this list. Herbal teas have been touted as a sleep aid for centuries. Simply enjoying a warm drink can be soothing, but chamomile also has sedative effects to support its claim to fame. 

We should acknowledge that endless factors can impact our sleep. One major culprit? Anxiety. Chamomile can actually reduce that as well! You can even go above and beyond by adding lavender to your chamomile tea (buds, not oil!) to reap the soothing aromatherapeutic benefits of both flowers. 

Seed and Nuts

How does a spoonful of seed butter sound as a bedtime snack? What about a handful of your favorite nuts? We hope you’re into it, because nuts and seeds generally have the highest concentration of sleep-inducing melatonin of all.

Pistachios have the highest melatonin content of all the nuts, but pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and almonds rank at the top of the magnesium chart. This essential mineral promotes quality sleep and relaxation, as well as eases muscle cramps that may interrupt your night. 

Tofu

Tofu may not be your go-to midnight snack, but soy can help you snooze. One study suggests isoflavones found in soy can improve the quality and duration of sleep. So, in the same way that estrogen positively impacts our sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythms), soy does too. There’s one major difference, though: soy doesn’t contain estrogen. It just mimics it. 

It’s a dream for plant-based eaters, so eat that tofu and drink that soy milk to wake up feeling refreshed. 

Related Article: The Flexitarian Diet: What, Why & How To Eat Less Meat

Kale

Yet another reason to jump on the kale train: it’s great for sleep. It’s nutrient makeup is no joke. Kale is calcium-rich, and this mineral goes on to support melatonin production. Kale salads don’t have to be boring, but they still might put you to sleep. 

Not sold on kale yet? It’s all good. Choose another dark green veggie for the same result!

Foods to Avoid Before Bed

As fun as they may be, midnight snacks are usually a bad idea for sleep hygiene. Digestion slows while you doze, so indulging in big meals before heading to bed isn’t a good idea. Instead, try to limit how much you eat in those few hours before you close your eyes. 

Certain types of foods are a nightmare (pun intended) when it comes to sleep. On top of heavy meals, avoid this kind of grub immediately before bed:

  • Fatty, processed foods. Typical late-night snacks like wings, fries or chips can be super tempting, but they’re a disaster in the sleep world. These foods tend to be high in saturated fats linked to sleep disturbances. It’s a no-no. 
  • Spicy snacks. You know that fiery feeling you get when consuming super spicy food? It’s not just a sensation. Your body temperature actually rises. While this might be temporary, warmer body temperatures don’t pair well with quality sleep. Plus, spice can trigger acid reflux which can also keep you awake. 
  • Alcohol. Have you ever had an awful night of sleep after downing a few drinks? You’re not the only one. While a boozy beverage may make you sleepy at first, it can wake you up later. Mix that in with a hangover, and let’s just say we’re sending condolences.
  • Caffeine. Sorry, coffee-lovers. You’ve heard it a million times, but consuming caffeine late in the day can be a recipe for a sleep disaster. Stimulants and snoozing just don’t mix well. However, it can be okay in smaller amounts. Drinking low-caffeine green tea can improve sleep quality by reducing stress levels. So, next time you’re reaching for a mid-afternoon cup, try low-caf green tea instead. 

Final Thoughts

From physical to emotional health, sleep plays a pretty big role in our overall well being, but diet can play a pretty big role in our sleep hygiene. If you’re a restless sleeper desperate for some shut-eye, try consuming more sleep-friendly foods and do your best to avoid processed or spicy foods before bed, snacking too late, or drinking alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. Sweet dreams!

Sources

  • Abbasi, Behnood et al. “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 Sciences vol. 17,12 (2012): 1161-9.
  • Afaghi, Ahmad et al. “High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 85,2 (2007): 426-30. doi:10.1093/ajcn/85.2.426
  • Brennan, Dan. “7 Foods High in Magnesium and Why You Need It.” WebMD, WebMD, 5 Nov. 2020, www.webmd.com/diet/foods-high-in-magnesium#1. 
  • Casper Editorial Team. “25 Foods That Help You Sleep.” Casper Blog, 8 Jan. 2021, casper.com/blog/foods-that-help-you-sleep/. 
  • Cleaveland Clinic. “Can Cherries Help You Get a Better Night’s Sleep?” Cleveland Clinic, Cleaveland Clinic, 20 Jan. 2022, health.clevelandclinic.org/do-cherries-help-you-sleep/. 
  • Cui, Yufei et al. “Relationship between daily isoflavone intake and sleep in Japanese adults: a cross-sectional study.” Nutrition journal vol. 14 127. 29 Dec. 2015, doi:10.1186/s12937-015-0117-x
  • Kubala, Jillian. “6 Foods That Keep You Awake at Night.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 7 July 2021, www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-that-keep-you-awake. 
  • Meng, Xiao et al. “Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin.” Nutrients vol. 9,4 367. 7 Apr. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9040367
  • Pacheco, Danielle. “Menopause and Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, OneCare Media, 22 Jan. 2021, www.sleepfoundation.org/women-sleep/menopause-and-sleep. 
  • Sleep Advisor. “Sleep and Digestion – How to Improve Your Gut Health.” Sleep Advisor, 12 Oct. 2021, www.sleepadvisor.org/sleep-and-digestion/. 
  • Srivastava, Janmejai K et al. “Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future.” Molecular medicine reports vol. 3,6 (2010): 895-901. doi:10.3892/mmr.2010.377
  • Streit, Lizzie. “4 Benefits and Uses of Lavender Tea and Extracts.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 22 Apr. 2020, www.healthline.com/nutrition/lavender-tea-benefits.
  • Unno, Keiko et al. “Reduced Stress and Improved Sleep Quality Caused by Green Tea Are Associated with a Reduced Caffeine Content.” Nutrients vol. 9,7 777. 19 Jul. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9070777

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