One of the simplest ways to be healthier, both physically and mentally, is to get enough sleep. Our busy lives and demanding obligations can make that difficult, if not downright impossible. And with anxiety on the rise, falling asleep, and staying asleep, can be a real challenge. If you’re not quite ready for medical intervention but know something needs to change, try taking a look at your diet. What we eat affects so much more than just our bellies. Give these 10 foods a shot and see if you can eat yourself to sleep tonight.
Nuts, like walnuts and almonds, are great sources of tryptophan, which is the amino acid that produces serotonin and melatonin (the sleepy-time hormones). Additionally, walnuts actually have their own source of melatonin, which may help you fall asleep faster. Almonds are a great source of magnesium. When magnesium levels are low, it’s more difficult for our bodies to stay asleep. So it’s possible a handful of nuts may help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
We’ve all had the post-Thanksgiving nap, but it may not be just because of overeating and lazy holiday fun. Turkey is high in protein, riboflavin, phosphorus, and selenium, which are all important for a healthy diet. It’s also high in tryptophan, which releases sleep-inducing melatonin. Try this turkey burger recipe to get a healthy dose of tryptophan and even more of that muscle-building protein.
As long as the tea in question is caffeine-free, the nightly ritual of a steaming cup has been shown to help people fall asleep. Chamomile, passionfruit, or peppermint are relaxing choices that can help increase your glycine levels. Glycine relaxes nerves and muscles and can even act as a mild sedative.
An overall healthy diet and lifestyle is the best thing you can do for sleep, and that includes a few servings of nutrient-dense fruit per day. As far as sleep goes, though, some fruits are better than others. Bananas, kiwis, and especially tart cherries contain a lot of melatonin that can help you drift off and stay asleep. Fruits also have a fair amount of carbs, and some say carbs are necessary for a good night’s sleep, especially if you’re body is in a state of recovery.
Fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, or trout contain high levels of Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. In some studies, these two elements have been shown to help the natural production of serotonin in our brains. Eating fish over chicken, and beef can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Try this delicious roasted salmon recipe to do your sleep and your taste buds a favor.
Sprouted grains can help you keep your magnesium levels up without keeping you up. They also help to promote healthy insulin production which, you guessed it, aids in tryptophan activity in the brain. So a good, healthy sprouted grain slice of bread a couple hours before bedtime might make all the difference in your night’s sleep.
Kale and other leafy greens
Kale, as well as spinach, Swiss chard, and collard greens, are full of calcium and magnesium. Just like with whole grains and dairy products, these help to boost melatonin and get your REM cycle on a nice rhythm. They also have the added benefit of fiber which may fight blood sugar surges that block melatonin production.
Not surprisingly, the foods that help you sleep better are the same ones that can also enhance your waking hours. Visions of sugarplums may dance in your head, but it’s a healthy and balanced diet, rich in calcium, magnesium, and fiber, that will help you enjoy those dreams.