Can you really eat your way to a good night’s sleep? Turns out, it’s possible! We’ve compiled a list of what we believe are the best healthy foods to help you get some shut eye.
Food for Sleep
We’ve all heard that if you can’t sleep, you should drink a glass of warm milk. Some of us have even tried it (and if you haven’t, it’s gross, I promise). But while it may not taste too good, there is a very good reason why this home remedy has stuck around.
Milk, like many other foods, contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that can make you sleepy! But milk isn’t the only option. Read on to learn more.
The Top Ten
Below I’ve listed my top picks for foods that promote sleep. Enjoy, and happy eating!
1. Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. Multiple studies condone the positive effects of tart cherry juice on those who struggle to get a good night’s sleep, including people suffering from insomnia. Just make sure you’re buying the good stuff at the store. The real, 100% tart cherry juice is normally found in the health food section.
Almonds are full of magnesium and tryptophan. The magnesium helps to relax your muscles, while the tryptophan is converted into melatonin, which promotes sleep. Nuts can be hard for your stomach to digest, so make sure you eat them a few hours before bedtime rolls around or they might not have the desired effect.
3. Jasmine Rice
With a high glycemic index (GI), jasmine rice breaks down slowly in the body. Why is this good for sleep? When your liver secretes insulin, all amino acids, apart from tryptophan, are removed from the bloodstream. With no other amino acids to compete against, tryptophan is free to travel to your brain, where it is converted into serotonin and melatonin. The steady break down means that the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin and melatonin is continuous, so you fall asleep faster and sleep better!
Bananas are a powerhouse for promoting sleep! They contain multiple nutrients including magnesium and potassium, which aid in muscle relaxation and the production of melatonin. A low-calorie snack you can usually find for cheap at the grocery store, it makes no sense not to stock up on these yellow fruits! Eat it plain, add it to cereal and oatmeal, or, if you don’t like the taste (like me), try tossing one into a fruit smoothie.
5. Herbal Tea
I used to drink coffee All. The. Time. During college, I could easily polish off one or two pots a day without breaking a sweat. I thought herbal tea was for the weak. Wrong. Now that I’m in my late twenties, I accept that I can’t get away with guzzling caffeine 24/7 and still sleep like a baby. Caffeine-free herbal teas, chamomile especially, help you wind down at the end of the day. But if you’re like me, and the taste of chamomile doesn’t appeal, there are other options, such as valerian root and passionflower teas. Many brands also sell a tea blend specifically for sipping before bed.
This whole grain contains tryptophan, that magical amino acid your brain converts into melatonin. Oatmeal is low in calories, high in fiber, and will give you that warm, happy-tummy feeling. The trick is not to drown your bowl with added sweeteners! Instead, slice up half a banana, or, if your sweet tooth is overpowering (and I completely understand, by the way), add a spoonful of raw honey.
7. Leafy Greens
Yum! Dark leafy greens boast a TON of health benefits, including calcium, which helps your body produce melatonin. They also have magnesium, making them a double-threat! So give this low-calorie, nutrient-dense food a try. Kale, chard, and spinach are all excellent options. Again, if you really don’t like the taste, try throwing them into a smoothie. Heck, add a banana in there too while you’re at it for a double dose of sleep-inducing goodness!
Also known as garbanzo beans, these legumes contain vitamin B6, needed for melatonin production in the body. Chickpeas are a great addition to any salad (see above!), or you can use them to make your own hummus. OR, you can go ahead and buy pre-made hummus from the store. We won’t tell….promise!
9. Raw Honey
Add some of this super food to your sleepy time tea and let your eyelids sink you down, down, down into dreamland. Raw honey – which is different from most honeys you will find in the store – helps with sleep by raising your insulin levels and feeding your liver. Raised insulin levels allow the amino acid tryptophan to be released into the blood, causing the brain to secrete melatonin. The sugar in honey is used by the liver during sleep to produce glycogen, helping your liver clean out toxins from the body while you sleep more soundly.
10. Pumpkin Seeds
These bad boys should be eaten year-round, not just after Halloween pumpkin carving. Why? First, they’re high in protein, meaning they will keep you feeling full longer. Nothing is worse than cozying up under the covers only to hear your stomach growl. Hunger pains make it hard to fall asleep, so stop them in their tracks! Pumpkin seeds have a lot of magnesium, helping your muscles relax and promoting the production of melatonin in the body.
Don’t see anything you like? On a specific diet? No problem!
This list is tailored specifically to my own diet (I eat minimal meat, dairy, and gluten). Not everyone eats the way I choose to, but most every type of healthy, well-rounded diet is going to contain foods laden with the nutrients you need for a good night’s sleep. So if this list doesn’t have what you’re looking for, keep up the search! I’m confident you’ll find what works for you.
Diet and Health
A healthy diet is vital for looking and feeling our best throughout the day, but our eating habits do more than affect our bodies when we’re awake. Sleep quality is dependent on overall diet. If you aren’t feeding yourself the good stuff regularly, you can’t expect to reap the benefits.
The list above consists of the types of healthy super foods your body needs daily. Don’t just reach for them as an answer when you can’t get to sleep; make them diet staples. Do this, and watch your sleep habits improve!