Although adults need an estimated 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, research shows that many of us aren’t getting the shuteye we need. But a good night’s sleep is an essential part of your whole health. It helps you feel rested, recharged and ready to face the day to come.
Your habits, including what you eat, can greatly impact the quality of sleep you get each night. Here are some foods, drinks and snacks that can help you catch the ZZZs you need to feel your best in body, mind and spirit.
There’s a reason Thanksgiving dinner often leads to a nice afternoon nap: Turkey is a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid that increases melatonin, a hormone that’s released by the pineal gland and helps us fall asleep (and stay asleep) each night.
The main ingredient in hummus, chickpeas, is high in many nutrients that can promote a good night’s sleep. These include tryptophan, folate and vitamin B6. Folate, a nutrient that’s also linked to an improved mood, has also been connected to better sleep, particularly among older adults.
Vitamin B6 plays an important role in making hemoglobin, the blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. A vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to anemia, which can make you feel tired and sluggish. Even if you aren’t anemic, low levels of this important vitamin can impact melatonin production, ultimately impacting the quality of your sleep.
Peanut butter is another great source of tryptophan. Grab a no-sugar-added or natural version next time you’re at the store, spread some on whole-grain bread or crackers and drift off to dreamland.
Cereal and Milk
A favorite way to start the day, cereal and milk can also be a great way to get ready for bed. That’s because milk has tryptophan, the powerhouse amino acid that can help you fall asleep. Combine that with the carbohydrates in cereal, which help carry tryptophan to the brain, and you have a recipe for a good ZZZs. Just be sure to skip the sugary cereals and opt for a healthy alternative instead.
Sipping a cup of warm, caffeine-free green tea is not only calming, it also contains impressive health properties that have been linked to a good night’s sleep.
Most notably, green tea has L-theanine, an amino acid that helps you relax at night or feel alert during the day. L-theanine won’t necessarily help you fall asleep, but it has been shown to help boost calming brain chemicals, like GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), serotonin and dopamine, and can even lower chemicals that have been linked to stress and anxiety.
While most foods only help aid the production of melatonin, cherries actually contain this sleep-regulating hormone. Have a bowl of cherries as a bedtime snack and see if you drift off to bed a little easier.
Walnuts are another good source of naturally occurring melatonin. In addition to helping support your sleep cycle, walnuts can also help lower stress levels. Researchers found that walnuts helped lower blood pressure, thanks in part to the high amounts of fiber, antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids in this healthful nut.
Almonds are high in magnesium, which helps promote your body’s metabolism, boost your mood, manage stress, support heart and bone health, and — you guessed it — promote better sleep. Your body doesn’t make magnesium on its own, which means it’s even more important to make sure you’re getting plenty for your health. If you’re not getting enough magnesium in your diet, you may find yourself battling insomnia, restless sleep and frequent waking during the night.
Bedtime Snack Ideas
If you’re still searching for the perfect bedtime snack that satisfies late-night cravings and supports your sleep cycle, try one these healthy treats, many of which contain tryptophan:
- Cheese and crackers
- Pumpkin seeds
There’s no substitute for a good night’s sleep. If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, be sure to talk to your primary care provider. Together, you can make sure there’s nothing more serious than too much coffee or an unusually stressful day that’s keeping you up at night.