Are you someone who has problems falling asleep at night?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
There’s an increasing number of people worldwide who are reporting problems either with falling asleep at night, or trouble staying asleep.
There are many different reasons why you’re currently unable to get quality zzz’s at night, but one major factor that could be disrupting your body’s natural sleeping rhythms is actually your diet.
Should You Eat Before Bedtime?
There’s an old wives’ tale that says that you shouldn’t eat anything right before going to bed. Unfortunately, this is only half-true.
You can eat light amounts of certain foods, but not later than a half hour before bedtime – this is to allow your body sufficient time to digest what you ate.
Eating the right types of food before bed can actually help you to fall asleep more quickly and improve the quality of your sleep.
What Foods Help Us Sleep Better?
So, what types of food should you have for supper, or a late-night snack?
If better sleep is the goal, you’ll want to aim for foods that contain:
- Melatonin, which helps control your wake and sleep cycles
- Serotonin, which can be synthesized by the pineal gland to create melatonin
- Magnesium, which decreases cortisol (the “stress hormone”) and helps you relax
- Tryptophan, which helps your body make niacin and serotonin
If you’re having some trouble sleeping at night, here’s what you should consider adding to your pre-bedtime diet:
1. Walnuts and Almonds
Walnuts are a great natural source of tryptophan. Not just that, but research has shown that they actually contain their own source of melatonin – so snacking on a bowl of walnuts before bed may help you fall asleep faster.
Then there are almonds, which are a superfood that is rich in magnesium. Try having a 1-ounce portion of almonds (approximately 20 to 24 whole nuts) or a tablespoon of almond butter before bed to help your body relax.
2. Jasmine Rice
Jasmine rice has a high glycemic index, which can help halve the time it takes you to fall asleep.
A study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition actually showed that healthy sleepers who ate suppers that included jasmine rice tended to fall asleep significantly faster than others who ate meals with lower glycemic index long-grain rice. The authors of the study speculated that the greater amounts of insulin triggered by the high-GI meals increased the ratio of tryptophan relative to other amino acids in the blood, allowing proportionately more to reach the brain.
From the results of the study, the researchers suggested that eating carbs which quickly raise blood sugar would help you fall asleep faster – so consider having a meal that includes some starchy carbohydrates at least 3-4 hours before bedtime to help you drop off more quickly.
Tart cherries (or alternatively, cherry juice) are delicious and refreshing – and exquisitely rich in melatonin. Many experts recommend cherries as an effective and safe snack that helps with insomnia.
Sip a glass of tart, unsweetened cherry juice (or snack on a bowl of frozen or fresh cherries) before bedtime to help reduce your insomnia symptoms and allow you to get some shuteye.
4. Dairy products
Your mom had the right idea when you were a kid – dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt really can help make you sleepy.
Most dairy products contain tryptophan, and are also packed with calcium, which helps your brain to use tryptophan to produce melatonin.
Besides that, stress, anxiety and depression (all of which can contribute to various sleeping issues and disorders) are linked to calcium deficiency, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting enough calcium in your diet to reduce the symptoms and get a better night’s rest.
So go back to mom’s tried-and-true sleep remedy and have a glass of warm milk before bed, or settle down with a bowl of Greek yogurt for a sleep-inducing snack.
Whole-grains, like oats, contain many of the key nutrients for helping you sleep better.
Oats, for instance, are a great source of tryptophan, while cereal (usually eaten with milk) contains calcium and carbohydrates. Other types of whole-grains, such as bulgur and barley, are rich in magnesium as well.
So top off a small bowl of oatmeal with some fruit for a yummy pre-bedtime snack that can help improve your mood and relax your mind.
6. Herbal teas
You’ll want to avoid caffeine in the hours leading up to bedtime, but it’s perfectly fine to have some of the decaf herbal varieties to help prepare your body for entering sleep mode.
Chamomile tea, for example, helps to ease stress and relaxes your nerves and muscles. It’s commonly touted as an effective and safe natural sleeping aid.
Another option is green tea. This contains theanine, which helps promote sleep. *If you are sensitive to caffeine we recommend avoiding green tea as it does contain caffeine.
Then there’s passion fruit tea, which helps people sleep more soundly. Research has found that the flower contains Harman alkaloids, which act on your nervous system and help make you tired.
Most fish are rich in vitamin B6, which is necessary to help the body make melatonin.
Also, fish that contain high levels of omega-3 (like salmon, cod, tuna and halibut) can help you snooze because they’re high in tryptophan, and help provide magnesium and healthy omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. If munching on fish doesn’t sound like a good bedtime snack to you (we get it!), try having it for dinner a couple times a week to ensure you’re getting these nutrients.
Moderation is the key when it comes to snacking or eating, so keep your night-time meals small and light (or pre-portioned). Avoid caffeine and alcohol at least a few hours before bed. Then, with some help from the superfoods mentioned above, you’ll be well on your way to a better night’s sleep.