15 Best Foods To Help You Sleep Better
Our body needs many things to stay healthy, and one of them is quality sleep. Health practitioners and experts have preached about the importance of sleep for the longest time. They recommend getting between 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. A good night’s sleep allows our body to rest and heal itself.
Unfortunately, not all of us can fall asleep easily or get good quality sleep. Despite being exhausted, we have trouble falling asleep, and even when we do fall asleep, we wake up in the middle of the night. If you are one of them, you can try one of these 15 best foods to help you sleep better.
Almonds are an excellent source of nutrients that offer numerous health benefits and help us sleep better. These nuts contain tryptophan and magnesium, both of which improve the quality of our sleep. We need tryptophan to produce melatonin, a hormone that prepares our body for sleep and provides good quality sleep.
Meanwhile, magnesium calms the nervous system, relaxes our muscles, and reduces the stress hormone cortisol. All these factors affect the quality of our sleep so it is important to include magnesium-rich foods like almonds in our diet.
2. Tart Cherries
As the name suggests, tart cherries have a unique sour-sweet flavor, unlike sweet cherries. These cherries are a natural source of melatonin, which is responsible for regulating our circadian rhythm.
Tart cherries also contain sleep-regulatory substances like tryptophan, potassium, and serotonin. These substances work together to improve our sleep quality. According to a 2018 review that examined the health benefits of cherries, the authors found that consuming cherries improved sleep.
3. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea has been used as a sleep remedy and relaxation aid for centuries and good reasons. Chamomile contains apigenin, a naturally occurring flavonoid that has sedative effects and may reduce insomnia. The flavonoid stimulates certain receptors in our brains that inhibit the function of our nervous system. This inhibitory effect relaxes our muscles and lowers stress in our brains.
Apigen also promotes the release of melatonin, which, as we mentioned, is needed to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Additionally, chamomile tea is non-caffeinated, and caffeine is awful for sleep.
Rice is a popular dish and is consumed as a mealtime staple worldwide. In fact, most of us are probably familiar with the feeling of drowsiness after eating a rice-heavy meal. That is because rice is rich in carbohydrates. When we consume foods high in carbohydrates, our body converts it into glucose. Glucose is then converted into energy using insulin, which causes an insulin surge. This increase in insulin causes our tryptophan levels to increase.
As a result of this, the melatonin and serotonin levels in our body also increase which makes us sleepy. Therefore, eating rice during dinner could help you combat some of your sleep problems.
As kids, most of our parents gave us a glass of warm milk before going to bed. They probably knew it would knock us out. Milk contains sleep-inducing compounds such as calcium, tryptophan, vitamin D, and magnesium. According to science, these four compounds reduce anxiety, relax the mind and brain.
Apart from the four compounds, milk also contains casein, a protein responsible for milk's white color. Casein, once ingested, reacts with trypsin to produce a bioactive peptide complex called casein tryptic hydrolysate (CTH). Experts claim CTH possesses stress-relieving and sleep-promoting effects.
If you want a healthy dose of tryptophan but are lactose intolerant, avoid milk and consume yogurt as a bedtime snack. Yogurt is rich in tryptophan, which we know plays a crucial role in our sleep quality.
Yogurt also contains lots of probiotic cultures that help increase the diversity of good bacteria in our gut. These good bacteria keep our gut healthy and strengthen our digestive tract. They also help regulate our sleep patterns by producing sleep-inducing hormones like GABA, serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin.
7. Pumpkin Seeds
If you have trouble falling asleep, try snacking on some pumpkin seeds before bed. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, which is associated with better sleep. According to a study, magnesium improves insomnia and sleep efficiency in elderlies.
Pumpkin seeds also contain tryptophan (trp), an amino acid that promotes healthy sleep patterns.
Like pumpkin seeds, honey is also rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is a precursor to many sleep-inducing hormones like melatonin and serotonin. People usually take supplements to combat sleep problems, but research shows that honey is more effective than these supplements.
A double-blind clinical trial conducted by the University of Saskatchewan evaluated the effects of honey and melatonin supplements on sleep. They found that honey improved sleep more than melatonin supplements. Additionally, honey also contains glycogen, which affects sleep quality.
Avocados contain numerous essential nutrients that have positive impacts on our sleep quality. A 200-gram avocado provides 41%, 14%, and 21% of folate, magnesium, and potassium of the dietary reference values, respectively. Magnesium helps us fall asleep and improves our sleep quality, while potassium relaxes our muscles and helps with sleep apnea.
However, it is worth noting that eating too much avocado before bed has a reverse effect on our sleep quality. Avocados contain an amino acid called tyramine, which causes sleep problems.
10. Fatty Fish
Fatty fishes are fish species with oil in their tissues and gut, and some popular ones include salmon, herring, and anchovies. These fishes are rich in omega-3 and vitamin D, two nutrients that improve sleep quality by increasing the production of serotonin.
Serotonin is a hormone that works with dopamine, another hormone, to help us sleep better by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is not harmful, but too much REM sleep can lead to headaches and confusion after you wake up. It is usually an indication of stress and sleep deprivation.
11. Leafy Greens
As much as some of us hate our leafy greens, we cannot deny their importance for our health and sleep. Leafy green vegetables like arugula, spinach, chard, or kale are rich in calcium and magnesium. Magnesium, as we know, improves our sleep by calming us and relieving anxiety and depression.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS), or “fidgets in the leg,” is a condition whereby one has an overpowering urge to move their legs. Health practitioners consider it a sleep disorder because RLS worsens while we are resting and trying to fall asleep. Although magnesium is not the cure-all remedy, people with RLS often have low levels of magnesium.
Chickpeas are a great source of tryptophan and magnesium, both of which play a crucial role in our sleep quality. A cup of chickpeas has the same amount of magnesium as some magnesium supplements on the market. If you want to increase your magnesium levels naturally, you can include them in your diet.
Chickpeas also contain vitamin B6, a precursor of melatonin. Additionally, these beans are a complex carbohydrate, meaning they take longer to digest. When food breaks down slowly, our blood sugar levels remain low, and low sugar levels have been found to boost our serotonin levels. So whether you blend your chickpeas into hummus or toss them in a salad, eating them will help you sleep better.
You can have oatmeal for breakfast, or you can have it at night for better sleep. Oats are rich in melatonin, a hormone that promotes better sleep, and magnesium, a mineral that has a calming effect on our mind and body. Oats also contain potassium, which has an indirect role in improving sleep problems.
There are many causes of sleep problems, and one of them is muscle cramps. Muscle cramps, especially in our legs, can cause discomfort, pain, and tightness. This pain and discomfort make it difficult to fall asleep and could lead to insomnia in the long run. Muscle cramps occur when our body lacks potassium, therefore, increasing our potassium intake could indirectly help us sleep better.
Another food that improves sleep is kiwi. The brown hairy fruit is well known for its high vitamin C content, which affects sleep quality. Vitamin C increases the length of sleep, minimizes RLS symptoms, and improves sleep apnea. All these can help us sleep better. It also contains potassium, which, as mentioned before, improves our sleep indirectly.
But the main reason kiwi is effective at inducing sleep is the serotonin content in the fruit. Serotonin regulates our sleep cycle and improves our sleep quality. There are studies to back these claims. A study evaluated the effects of kiwis on sleep. Based on the study, adults fell asleep faster and experienced fewer sleep disturbances after consuming kiwi.
Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, is used in Ayurvedic healing to treat various conditions, including sleep problems. One of the major causes of sleep problems is stress. Stress increases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which raises our heart rate and circulates blood to vital organs in the body. It alerts our body and puts it in a flight or fight state.
This constant state of alertness can cause sleep deprivation. Ashwagandha contains withanolides, a group of naturally occurring steroids that reduce stress and exert therapeutic effects. It also influences the production of serotonin and GABA, both of which improve mood and relax the body.
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