Everyone knows that it’s a good idea to avoid caffeine for a few hours before bedtime, but did you know that what you eat can help or hinder your sleep, too? If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, try adding a few of these foods to your diet. Eat them before you go to bed, and you may find yourself sleeping like a baby.
Walnuts contain melatonin, which is a hormone that helps set your sleeping and waking cycles. When you don’t have enough of it, it’s hard to fall asleep.
Research from the University of Texas shows that eating walnuts will raise the amount of melatonin in your blood, which will make it easier for you to fall asleep. Munch on a handful of nuts an hour or two before bed and sleep should come easier than usual.
Cherries, especially the tart variety, also offer a natural way to raise the amount of melatonin in your system. Researchers from universities in Pennsylvania and Rochester, NY, found that they can help people with insomnia fall asleep faster.
You can eat a handful of the fruit or drink tart cherry juice. The juice offers a more concentrated way to take in the nutritional goodness, though some people find it too tart to drink regularly.
A study performed in Taiwan suggests that eating 2 kiwifruit every night before bed can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. It’s no wonder – kiwi contain significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, and serotonin, all of which can help improve your sleep.
You can eat your kiwi straight, or you can cut them up and put them in a fruit salad. You could even combine them with cherries and bananas for a sleepy fruit cocktail.
Vitamin B6 is essential to producing melatonin which, as was mentioned above, helps you fall asleep. In fact, without this vitamin, your body cannot produce melatonin even if it has all of the other ingredients readily available.
Fish — especially tuna, salmon, and halibut — all contain high levels of B6 and have been shown to help people fall asleep faster. Consume your fish at least an hour or two before bedtime so your body has a chance to produce what it needs for sleep.
Potassium has been shown to help people sleep better, and bananas are a great source of this nutrient. They also contain magnesium, which is a natural muscle relaxant.
In case the presence of these two nutrients wasn’t enough to convince you to eat bananas before bed, they also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan. This is converted to 5-HTP, which is essential for the production of both serotonin and melatonin, both of which help you sleep.
Dairy contains calcium, which helps you fall asleep better. Calcium is also high when your body is in the deepest levels of sleep, which suggests that it may be essential for achieving better quality sleep. Your body uses calcium when it performs the chemical reactions necessary to convert L-tryptophan into melatonin and serotonin.
Get your dairy via a glass of milk, some yogurt, or a few chunks of cheese. Consume it an hour or so before bedtime.
Eating leafy green vegetables, like kale, mustard greens, collard greens, or spinach, is another good way to get more calcium.
These will help you sleep in a way similar to dairy, making that avenue open for even the lactose intolerant. Try sauteeing them with olive oil and garlic to make them go down easier.
In a study from the American Society of Clinical Nutrition, foods high on the glycemic index increased the amount of L-tryptophan in the bloodstream. This can then convert to 5-HTP and then to melatonin and/or serotonin as needed.
In particular, study participants who ate jasmine rice 4 hours before bedtime falling asleep faster than usual, and faster than other participants who ate foods lower on the glycemic index. Eat a bowl of rice with your dinner every night, and your sleep should improve.
If you’re trying to get better sleep, consider changing up your diet. Introduce one or two of these foods at a time so you can figure out which ones aid your sleep the most.