Foods to Promote Sleep

We all know that healthy eating is critical for every aspect of our lives. Developing good sleep hygiene habits is important, having the right mattress a definite must, and even eating the right food can improve the quality of our sleep and ramp up the ability to sleep deeper to get the restorative rest we need.

Eating—and drinking—to improve our sleep, involves a whole lot more that just avoiding caffeine and wolfing down heavy, heartburn inducing foods at night. There are a host of food and beverages that actually help you fall asleep more effectively and get deeper, less interrupted sleep, too. Here’s our grocers list of items you can start integrating into your diet to get more restful nights.

Complex Carbohydrates

Stop inhaling white bread, processed pasta, and sugar loaded baked goods, which actually sinks your serotonin levels causing your sleep to suffer, especially sleep induction (falling asleep). Options include whole grains for your bedtime snack: Popcorn, oatmeal, or whole-wheat crackers with almond or cashew butter are all perfect choices.

Go Nuts – Especially With Almonds And Walnuts

Nuts are an excellent source of heart-healthy fats. Even better, almonds and walnuts contain pretty good amounts of melatonin, the hormone that helps to stabilize and regulate your circadian rhythm , your sleep/wake cycle. Eating them, especially before bed,  can increase your plasma levels of the hormone, helping you sleep more deeply, in deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

Almonds are not only a highly nutritious food, but they are especially beneficial for sleep, and products made with almonds, such as almond milk, concentrate the effect even more.

Almonds are an excellent source of many nutrients, and just one  ounce contains 14% of your daily requirement for phosphorus, 32% for manganese and 17% for riboflavin.  And munching on almonds regularly has been associated with lower risks of a few chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This is attributed to their content of healthy monounsaturated fat, fiber and antioxidants, too. 

Almonds are also an excellent source of magnesium, providing 19% of your daily needs in only 1 ounce. Magnesium improves sleep as well, and consuming adequate amounts of magnesium improves sleep quality, especially for those who have sleep disorders or family history of sleep issues.

Magnesium’s role in promoting sleep is thought to be due to its ability to reduce inflammation. Because of this ability, almonds may help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to interrupt sleep. Even with all of this knowledge about almonds, research and further investigation is sparse and not easy to find. 

One study examined the effects of feeding rats 400 mg of almond extract. It determined that the rats slept longer and more deeply than they did without consuming almond extract.  The potential sleep-promoting effects of almonds are promising, but more extensive human studies are needed.

If you want to eat almonds before bed to determine if they impact your sleep quality, a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving, or about a handful, should be adequate.

Walnuts are loaded with nutrients, providing over 19 vitamins and minerals, in addition to 2 grams of fiber, in a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving. Walnuts are rich in magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. Additionally, walnuts are a great source of healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids and linoleic acid. 

They also provide 4 grams of protein per ounce, which may be beneficial for reducing appetite Walnuts may also boost heart health. They have been studied for their ability to reduce high cholesterol levels, which are a major risk factor for heart disease

Cottage Cheese

Foods that are high in protein such as cottage cheese, are also loaded with the amino acid tryptophan, which bumps up serotonin levels. Serotonin is a brain chemical and not getting enough of it can contribute to insomnia. To add some excitement, top the cottage cheese with raspberries, which happens to be a rich source of melatonin.

Eating foods that contain the essential amino acid known as tryptophan can help the body to create more serotonin, too. Foods, including salmon, eggs, spinach, and seeds are among those that help boost serotonin naturally. These foods can be a part of a dinner that helps drive serotonin levels higher before bed.

A Cup of Bedtime Tea

A nightly cup of tea, without the caffeine, can be a perfect relaxing ritual. Chamomile, ginger, and peppermint are calming choices for bedtime. Other teas include valerian root, lavender, lemon balm, and magnolia bark.

Adding milk to the tea improves the sedative and relaxing qualities of tea also, but be cautious about adding sugar. Use a natural sweetener like honey to improve the taste if you need to.

Chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in your brain that actually  promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.

A study in 34 adults found those who consumed 270 mg of chamomile extract twice daily for 28 days fell asleep a full 15 minutes faster, experienced less night time wakening, and generally slept deeper and more soundly, compared to those who did not consume the extract. 

Another study found that women who drank chamomile tea for two weeks reported improved sleep quality, compared to non-tea drinkers. Those who drank chamomile tea also had fewer symptoms of depression, which is commonly associated with sleep problems and can be compounded by taking pharmaceuticals for sleep.

Drinking chamomile tea before going to bed is certainly worth trying if you want to improve the quality of your sleep.

Warm Milk

Scientifically, there may be some link between the tryptophan and melatonin content of milk and its effect on sleep. Equally as powerful though, might be the link between warm milk consumption and bedtime as a child. Warm milk, hot chocolate, and other bedtime treats have strong ties to our youth, which can provide a strong, almost ASMR like effect on preparing us for bedtime.

Fruits

Certain fruits that contain melatonin may help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night. Tart cherry juice and whole tart cherries contain loads of melatonin, and bananas, pineapple, and oranges are good sources as well. If you have insomnia, eating two kiwis before bed can increase your sleep duration by an hour over the course of a month. 

As we all know, eating fruit is  an integral part of a healthy diet. They are high in fibre and low on calories. Fruits are loaded with phyto-chemicals that help eliminate free radical damage to your body. But your choice of fruit before bedtime is very important. Certain fruits like berries, prunes, raisins, and plums are also highly beneficial for sleep, as well. 

It may be perfectly alright to eat a slice of melon, pear, or kiwi. Loading up on too much on fruits loaded with sugar can be a problem too. Avoid eating bananas right before you hit the hay, too, as they can interrupt the uptick in serotonin production you are looking for.

It is essential, however, to remember that there needs to be a pretty good gap in time between a full meal and consumption of fruits. Fruits being high in fibre get digested and moved to the intestine faster than protein and fat-rich foods. This means that fruits should be eaten well  before a heavy meal, or immediately after. 

Another point to remember about consuming fruit at night along with dinner is that the spike in sugar can give you an unwanted burst of energy which disturbs sleep just as your body is winding down and preparing for sleep.

We should probably elaborate on the benefits of tart cherry juice, since its ability to benefit and improve sleep is pretty powerful and compelling.

First, it’s high in a few important nutrients. An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving contains 62% of your daily needs for vitamin A, 40% for vitamin C and 14% for manganese.

Additionally, it is a rich source of antioxidants, including antho-cyanins and flavonols. Antioxidants may protect your cells from harmful inflammation that can lead to crippling chronic ailments such as diabetes and heart disease. Tart cherry juice is also known to promote sleepiness, and it has even been studied for its role in relieving insomnia. 

For these reasons, drinking tart cherry juice before bed may improve your sleep quality The sleep-promoting effects of tart cherry juice are due to its high content of melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates your internal clock and signals your body to prepare for sleep.

In two studies, adults with insomnia who drank 8 ounces (237 ml) of tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks slept about an hour and a half longer and reported better sleep quality, compared to when they did not drink the juice 

Although these results are promising, more extensive research is necessary to confirm the role tart cherry juice has in improving sleep and preventing insomnia. Nevertheless, drinking some tart cherry juice before bed is certainly worth a try if you struggle with falling or staying asleep at night.

Kiwi fruit offers amazing nutritional benefits and has a profound effect on sleep. One medium kiwi contains only 50 calories and a significant amount of nutrients, including 117% of your daily needs for vitamin C and 38% for vitamin K.

It also contains a decent amount of folate and potassium, as well as several trace minerals. Furthermore, eating kiwis may benefit your digestive health, reduce inflammation and lower your cholesterol. These effects are due to the high amount of fiber and carotenoid antioxidants that they provide 

According to studies on their potential to improve sleep quality, kiwis may also be one of the best foods to eat before bed 

In a four-week study, 24 adults consumed two kiwifruits one hour before going to bed each night. At the end of the study, participants fell asleep 42% more quickly than when they had not consumed anything before bedtime.

Additionally, their ability to sleep through the night without waking improved by 5%, while their total sleep time increased by 13%.  The sleep-promoting effects of kiwis are thought to be due to their content of serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate your sleep cycle 

It has also been suggested that the antioxidants in kiwis, such as vitamin C and carotenoids, may be partly responsible for their sleep-promoting effects. This is thought to be due to their role in reducing inflammation 

More scientific evidence is needed to determine the effects that kiwis may have in improving sleep. Nevertheless, eating 1–2 medium kiwis before bed is likely to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Turkey

Turkey has a reputation for being that sleep inducing food that puts everyone to sleep at family gatherings around the holidays. And we love it. It’s delicious, high in protein, providing 4 grams per ounce (28 grams). Protein is important for keeping your muscles strong and regulating your appetite.

And, turkey is a great source of a few vitamins and minerals. A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving contains 5% of your daily needs for riboflavin, 5% for phosphorus and 9% for selenium. Many people claim turkey is a perfect food for consumption prior to bedtime, due to its ability to promote sleepiness, although no studies have examined its role in sleep. 

Despite this, turkey does have a few properties that backup all of our anecdotal evidence to explain why some people may become sleepy after eating it. This is likely because turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which increases the production of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin.

The protein in turkey may also contribute to its ability to promote tiredness. There is evidence that consuming small amounts of protein before bed helps to deliver better sleep quality, including less waking up throughout the night. With that said, eating some turkey before bed may be worth trying, to see if it might be able to help you fall asleep.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel, are healthy and nutritious food sources, but did you know that they are extremely beneficial for sleep and wellness in general?

What makes them extraordinary is their exceptional vitamin D content. For example, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon contains 525–990 IU of vitamin D, which is over half of the recommended daily intake. Additionally, fatty fish are high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, both of which are known for reducing inflammation.  Omega-3 fatty acids may also protect against heart disease and boost brain health by strengthening neurons and allowing the brain to grown new cells. 

The combination of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D in fatty fish have the potential to enhance sleep quality, as both have been shown to increase the production of serotonin.  In one study, men who ate 300 grams of Atlantic salmon three times a week for six months fell asleep about 10 minutes faster than men who ate chicken, beef or pork.  

This effect was thought to be due to the vitamin D content of the salmon. Those in the fish group had higher levels of vitamin D, which was linked to a significant improvement in sleep quality 

Eating a few ounces of fatty fish before bed may help you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply, but more studies are needed to make a definite conclusion about the ability of fatty fish to improve sleep. Try eating some smoked salmon and some crackers. 

White Rice

White rice is a ubiquitous grain that is widely consumed as a staple food all over the world. Rice comes in a variety of textures and flavors, and can prepared in hundreds of different ways. White rice contains many ingredients that help with sleep, especially nutrients that help with sleep induction, and maintaining deep, restorative sleep.

The major difference between white and brown rice is that white rice has had its bran and germ removed, which makes it lower in fiber, nutrients and antioxidants. Nevertheless, white rice still packs a powerful punch with its complement of vitamins and minerals. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of white rice provides 14% of your daily needs for folate, 11% for thiamin and 24% for manganese.

Also, white rice is high in carbs, providing 28 grams in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving. Its carb content and lack of fiber contribute to its high glycemic index, which is a measure of how quickly a food increases your blood sugar. It has been suggested that eating foods with a high glycemic index, such as white rice, a few hours before bed may help improve sleep quality.

 In one study, the sleep habits of 1,848 people were compared based on their intake of white rice, bread or noodles. Higher rice intake was associated with improved sleep, including longer sleep duration. It has also been reported that white rice may be most effective at improving sleep if it is consumed at least one hour before bedtime.

Other Foods That Promote Sleep

Several other foods have sleep-promoting benefits, but they have not been studied as thoroughly for their effects on sleep.

  • Milk: Another known source of tryptophan, milk has been shown to improve sleep in the elderly, especially when taken along with melatonin and paired with exercise 

  • Bananas: contain tryptophan and are a good source of magnesium. Both of these properties may help you get a good night’s sleep 

  • Oatmeal: Similar to rice, oatmeal is high in carbs and has been reported to induce drowsiness when consumed before bed. Additionally, oats are a known source of melatoninCottage cheese: Contains a significant amount of casein, which is a milk protein that is well known to sustain overnight muscle repair and growth when consumed before bed.