There is plenty of research pointing to the fact that those who cheat themselves of sleep are also sabotaging their nutritional health: Lack of sleep can wreak havoc with your ability to choose foods that are healthy, to fight the cravings for high-fat, high sugar snacks, and even to recognize when you’re satiated. But not much is said about whether the process can be reversed. Can making smart food choices help you get a better night of sleep?
Turns out that it can. Just as there are foods that have a stimulating effect – like caffeine – and foods that can make you so feel so bloated when you go to sleep that you’re unable to get comfortable, there are plenty of foods whose chemical makeup or impact on your digestive system or muscles can help relax you and increase your level of drowsiness and peace.
If you’re looking for a better night’s sleep, try adding just a few or all of these tips to your nutritional repertoire:
- The first thing that you need to pay attention to is your weight, particularly if you are snoring at night. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom says, “Being overweight by just a few kilograms can lead to snoring. Fatty tissue around your neck squeezes the airway and prevents air from flowing in and out freely. Avoid alcohol before going to bed. It causes the muscles to relax more than usual during a normal night’s sleep. This added relaxation of the muscles makes the back of the throat collapse more readily, which then causes snoring.”
- Eating cherries is an easy and delicious way to increase your levels of melatonin, the naturally-occurring hormone that regulates when you feel drowsy at night, and which then decreases to allow you to feel alert in the morning. You can either eat a bowl full of cherries in the evening, or try adding a glass of tart cherry juice each night before you go to sleep.
- Dark chocolate is a treat that not only contains high levels of serotonin - which will make you feel more relaxed - but also has the added benefit of being delicious and a boost to your health in a number of additional ways.
- Almonds are another heart-healthy snack that can reduce your cholesterol and sooth a grumbling hungry stomach, but which also contain high levels of magnesium, which promotes muscle relaxation as well as sleep.
- Chamomile tea is an old-fashioned and comforting way to help yourself get drowsy at night. In addition to having no caffeine and increasing your body’s levels of glycine, a chemical that relaxes your muscle, there’s something very nice about adding hot tea to your evening regimen and giving your brain the signal that it’s time to go to sleep.
- Kale is a dark, leafy green vegetable that has been getting a ton of attention for its many health benefits. Now it comes to light that in addition to all of the other positive reasons for eating kale, there’s the fact that it contains high levels of calcium, which helps the brain access tryptophan in order to accelerate the production of melatonin and serotonin.
- Honey is more than just an ingredient to help you sweeten your chamomile tea. It is a natural sugar that has a moderate impact on your insulin levels. It also works to facilitate the ability of the tryptophan in your body to enter your brain and allow you to fall asleep more easily.
- Walnuts and many other nuts contain high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that is specifically engineered to boost your body’s levels of melatonin and serotonin, the two hormones that help to relax your body and mind and set your circadian rhythms to help you feel alert in the morning and drowsy at night. Walnuts also contain heart-healthy fats and oils that are good for your metabolism and reduce your cholesterol levels.
- Bananas have been described as one of nature’s most perfect foods. In addition to being delicious, self-contained, portable and low in calories, they also contain high levels of magnesium and potassium, both of which help to relax muscles, as well as tryptophan, the amino acid that helps your brain to feel relaxed so that you can easily go to sleep at night.
- Oily fish like tuna and salmon have been praised in the media as brain food and heart healthy. They also have high levels of vitamin B6, which is an essential mineral to help your body produce melatonin. That means that eating salmon for dinner not only makes you smarter and healthier, but lets you sleep peacefully at night.
- When a food has a high glycemic index, it means that the body digests it very slowly and releases glucose into the bloodstream at a very slow speed. This helps keep you full longer. Jasmine rice is a high glycemic food that not only has all of those benefits but which also boosts your body’s production of tryptophan and serotonin.
- Yogurt is another extremely healthy food that boosts your body’s level of calcium. Not only does a calcium deficiency tend to make it more difficult to get a good night of sleep, but having plenty of it is a real boost to your ability to access tryptophan. Other dairy products like milk and cheese will also work well, especially when combined with a magnesium-rich whole grain carbohydrate snack like some multi-grain crackers.
- Chickpeas are another excellent source of vitamin B6, which helps the body produce melatonin. They also are very low in fat and high in protein.