If your goal is to get a great night’s rest every night, you’re not alone. Finding a way to get better sleep ranks pretty high on most people’s ‘to do’ lists. The good news is you have a lot of control over fixing your nightly sleep issues, whether they involve trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or restlessness.
You already know about good sleep hygiene, like going to bed at the same time every night, putting down your smartphone at least 40 minutes before bedtime, and keeping your bedroom on the cooler side. But there are also certain foods you can eat for optimal sleep.
Research shows that diets high in saturated fat and sugar and low in fiber (like processed foods containing meats, cheeses, and white breads) are associated with poor quality sleep. So a good night’s sleep starts with what you eat.
First of all, avoid going to bed with a full stomach. Start with a well-balanced dinner more than three hours before bedtime. With your dinner, you want to get the right ratio of fat, protein, and carbohydrates in order to provide steady energy throughout the night. Aim for a small serving of protein, a small serving of healthy omega-3 fats, and enough complex carbohydrates to fill half of your plate.
Secondly, now that you know when to eat and what portions to eat, you need to know what to eat. Here are five sleep-promoting foods to add to your p.m. plan:
Add a baked sweet potato to your dinner plate. As a complex carb, sweet potatoes digest gradually, providing the steady energy your body needs to get through a night of fasting. They are full of many ‘ingredients’ to help your body unwind, like:
- Potassium, for muscle relaxation
- Magnesium, which promotes GABA secretion in the brain, a neurotransmitter that calms
- Vitamin B6, which converts the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, a soothing
neurotransmitter that helps regulate the level of the sleep hormone melatonin
Eating a serving of raw, unsalted almonds is a natural way to increase serotonin for a restful night's sleep. These nuts are high in Vitamin B6 and tryptophan, which support the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Almonds are a super source of:
Fat and protein, which will help maintain stable blood sugar throughout the night. Steady blood sugar supports deep, quality sleep by preventing blood sugar dips, which can wake up the body.
Magnesium, which promotes relaxation (When magnesium levels are low, the body has a harder time staying asleep).
As a smooth and creamy alternative, opt for almond butter on a slice of whole-grain toast.
For an after-dinner dessert, have a few organic cherries or make a cherry-banana smoothie. Cherries are a good source of B vitamins and magnesium, and they even contain melatonin to promote sleep.
If you have to have a snack right before bed, fast-digesting carbs are your best bet. Bananas are made up of these good carbs, plus the natural muscle relaxants magnesium and potassium. They also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP is then converted to serotonin and melatonin.
Top off an evening meal with a hot cup of tea -- just make sure that it’s caffeine-free. Chamomile or peppermint are relaxing choices that can help increase your glycine levels. Glycine relaxes the body and may act as a gentle sedative. Put in a bit of raw honey or, for a decadent touch, add a splash of coconut milk and a touch of cardamom, cinnamon, or nutmeg.
Now that you know what to eat for a great night's sleep, here’s what to avoid. If you want to have sound sleep, then make sure to avoid alcohol, sugar, and caffeine in the evening. While you may feel sleepy after a glass of wine, the effect is temporary and interferes with REM, leading to an unsatisfactory night's rest.
Don’t sabotage your sleep with a processed junk food. Aim for magnesium-rich foods like the ones on this list. If you continue to struggle with sleep abnormalities, a high-quality supplement can be your next best solution.
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