Getting enough quality sleep at the right times is vital to good health and well-being. Sleep deficiency can negatively affect your physical health, mental health, quality of life, and safety. Making the right food choices is one frequently overlooked practice that can help improve the quality of your sleep.
Several foods can help you get a good night’s rest, thanks to their content of sleep-regulating vitamins and minerals that aid in promoting sleep: vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and tryptophan. Some of these help the body produce the neurotransmitter serotonin and then convert it into the hormone melatonin, the hormone that regulates your body clock. Close to bedtime, melatonin production increases naturally to help you sleep while in the morning, it tapers off to help you be awake and alert during the day. A few foods are direct, good sources of naturally occurring melatonin.
These foods are excellent sources of Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and tryptophan, most contain all four:
- Dairy products – cheese, milk, yogurt
- Fruits – apples, avocados, bananas, peaches
- Grains – barley, oats, rice, wheat
- Nuts and seeds – almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, flaxseed, pine nuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds
- Seafood – cod, halibut, salmon, sardines, shrimp, tuna
- Vegetables – asparagus, any green leafy vegetable such as kale and spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, onions, seaweed
These foods, specifically, are great sources of naturally occurring melatonin:
- Fruits – grapes, tart cherries, pomegranate, tomatoes
- Vegetables – asparagus, broccoli, corn, cucumber, olives
- Grains – barley, rice, rolled oats
- Nuts and seeds – flaxseed, mustard seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, walnuts
Many drinks contain essential vitamins and minerals that help promote quality sleep. Try these before bedtime:
- Almond milk
- Chamomile tea
- Peppermint tea
- Valerian tea
- Warm milk
Of course, these foods and drinks would ideally be organic and minimally processed. To reap their benefits, consume them a few hours before you go to bed to avoid any digestive issues that can occur when you sleep on a full stomach.
If you find yourself hungry before bed, have a light snack that contains tryptophan and calcium such as a small handful of nuts or some cheese with whole grain crackers, or a small piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter.
Foods and Drinks to Avoid Before Bedtime
Just as the foods and drinks covered above, there are foods and drinks that can prevent quality sleep. Although a number of them are healthy, it is better for you not to eat them before bed.
Alcohol can make you feel drowsy and fall asleep quickly, but then disrupts sleep and alters sleep phases.
Caffeine and dark chocolate
Avoid or cut down on caffeine, especially during late afternoon and evening, as it can interfere with sleep. Avoid caffeinated coffee and tea but think also of dark chocolate which is high in caffeine.
Foods high in fat
A high-fat diet interferes with the production of orexin, one of the neurotransmitters that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle along with melatonin. Fat also triggers the digestive processes, causing a buildup stomach acid, which can creep into the esophagus and cause discomfort while you’re lying down, thus interfering with sleep.
Foods high in protein
When eaten too close to bedtime, protein-rich foods can disrupt sleep by causing the body to spend more time on digestion as protein is tougher for the digestive system to break down.
Eating spicy foods near bedtime may cause heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux.
Foods containing water
Water-rich foods such as celery and watermelon are natural diuretics. Avoid them, as well as drinking anything right before bedtime, so as not to lose to make middle-of-the-night bathroom trips.
If you’re following these nutrition tips and other sleep-promoting practices, but still have trouble getting a good night’s sleep you might want to consult with your doctor to rule out any underlying medical problem.
Let us know which foods and drinks help you get enough sleep in the comments below.