Sleep. It’s such a big part of our lives … yet we tend to often put it on the back burner. After all, our daily waking life tends to take precedence over the troubles of our sleeping lives, simply due to necessity.
However, this can be to our detriment. As you’ve probably experienced at least once, lack of sleep and lack of quality sleep can significantly affect your energy levels and mood, which, like it or not, bleeds into other areas of your waking life.
In reality, quality sleep is our foundation. It’s where we rejuvenate, heal, recover, process, and even burn fat.
Because of its importance, we’re focusing on foods that can help improve its quality.
Foods That Support Sleep
1. Cherries and Tart Cherry Juice
Cherries and tart cherry juice are rich in various antioxidants, as well as magnesium and potassium (both sleep supporting minerals). However, they also have a huge sleep benefit many people don’t know about: cherries and tart cherry juice are high in melatonin, the hormone responsible for helping us fall asleep and stay asleep!
In fact, studies have found that adults with insomnia drank 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day for 2 weeks slept 84 minutes longer and reported better sleep quality compared to when they didn’t drink the juice.
Try consuming cherries daily or drinking a couple small glasses of tart cherry juice daily (we recommend an organic variety). You can likely find both in your local health food store.
Most of us have heard about the benefits of almonds (healthy fats, high vitamin E, etc …) but these inconspicuous nuts can also help with sleep.
Like cherries, almonds are a rich source of melatonin, as well as magnesium, a mineral proven to help improve sleep quality. Magnesium is responsible for over 400 different essential chemical reactions in your body, and has a huge positive effect on your nervous system. It can help reduce tension and promote relaxation, and studies have shown that it can improve sleep quality in patients with insomnia.
You’ve likely heard of this one: one of the theories of why we’re all so tired after our Thanksgiving meal is due to the turkey!
While we’re most likely exhausted simply from too much rich food all at once, there is some merit to this. Turkey is one of the richest sources of tryptophan, an amino acid that can increase your natural production of melatonin, which helps us get “sleepy” before bed.
Believe it or not, research has shown that kiwis are also great for improving sleep quality. One study even found that 24 adults who consumed two kiwifruits one hour before going to bed each night fell asleep 42% faster than when they didn’t eat anything before bedtime!
This effect is likely due to the rich amount of trace minerals in kiwis, as well as ample amounts of vitamin C.
5. Wild Salmon and Other Fatty Fish
Wild fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in two key nutrients that can improve sleep: omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
Vitamin D in particular is a crucial vitamin that helps regulate our circadian rhythm, or sleep and wake cycle. One study found that men who ate 10.5 ounces of vitamin D-rich salmon three times a week for 6 months fell asleep about 10 minutes faster than men who ate chicken, beef, or pork.
Other studies have also shown that there is a direct link between omega-3 fatty acid levels and better sleep quality.
Try to eat wild fatty fish a few times per week to reap the benefits.
6. Chamomile Tea
While not necessarily a “food,” the herb chamomile contains potent antioxidants that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. In fact, studies shown that this antioxidant, called apigenin, binds to certain receptors in your brain that may promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.
Try starting a new ritual of drinking chamomile tea nightly before bed.
7. Dark Chocolate
Yep, this one is exciting! Dark chocolate (specifically, the cacao in dark chocolate) is very rich in magnesium, which as we saw earlier can significantly help improve sleep. The key here is to indulge in a couple pieces of 70% or higher cacao content chocolate, while making sure it is quality and free of artificial flavors, preservatives, fructose, or corn syrup.
At the end of the day (pun intended), what you eat not only has an effect on your waking life … but also your sleeping life! Try out these foods before bed and see if they help bring you rest.