What you nibble on late at night will affect how well you sleep.
Is there anything worse than trying to get to sleep with a hungry, rumbling tummy?
Settling into a restful position is near impossible when your brain is saying, “feed me, feed me,” like a spoiled child.
So up you go, wandering into the kitchen in search of a snack, a morsel, a comfort food of some sort that will let you get back to your much-needed sleep.
Now the decision of what’s it to be?
That is the impending question, but making the right decision is very key to whether you will, in fact, get back to sleep and better yet, sleep well.
Sleep affects every aspect of health, and it’s good to know that some foods and drinks contain compounds that actually help control parts of the sleep cycle, meaning that they may help you not only fall asleep but sleep through the night, uninterrupted.
So instead of reaching for slice of chocolate cake, consider one of these helpful foods that are good to have on hand to help you sleep.
Almonds are rich in melatonin, a hormone which supports regular sleeping patterns. A 1-ounce (oz) serving of whole almonds also contains 77 milligrams (mg) of magnesium and 76 mg of calcium, two minerals that may help promote muscle relaxation and sleep. Almonds are also a healthful evening snack, as they are high in good fats and low in sugar and saturated fats.
A common home remedy for sleeplessness, milk contains four sleep-promoting compounds: tryptophan, calcium, vitamin D, and melatonin. Having a warm cup of low-fat milk before bed can be a relaxing nightly ritual. Each cup of 1% low-fat milk contains approximately:
- 7.99 grams (g) of protein
- 300 mg of calcium
- 499 international units (IU) of vitamin A
- 101 IU of vitamin D
- 101 calories
Some research has looked at the link between kiwi consumption and sleep. In one small study, people who ate two kiwifruits 1 hour before bedtime for 4 weeks experienced improved total sleep time and sleep efficiency and also took less time to fall asleep.
If kiwi is beneficial for sleep, this may be because the fruit contains many sleep-promoting compounds, including:
Popular for its calming properties, the herb chamomile is a traditional remedy for insomnia. Researchers think that a flavonoid compound called apigenin is responsible for chamomile’s sleep-inducing properties. Apigenin seems to activate GABA A receptors, a process that helps stimulate sleep.
Walnuts contain a few compounds that promote and regulate sleep, including melatonin, serotonin, and magnesium. Each 100-g serving of walnuts also contains other nutrients that can help sleep, such as:
- 158 mg of magnesium
- 441 mg of potassium
- 98 micrograms (µg) of folate
- 98 mg of calcium
Cherries are rich in four different sleep-regulating compounds: melatonin, tryptophan, potassium, and serotonin. Researchers speculate that antioxidants called polyphenols in tart cherries may also influence sleep regulation. In a 2018 review on the health benefits of cherries, the authors found a positive correlation between improved sleep and cherry consumption. The anti-inflammatory properties of cherries might help reduce pain after strenuous exercise and also improve cognitive function. They are also rich in fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Fatty fish may help improve sleep because it is a good source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, two nutrients that help regulate serotonin. Serotonin is largely responsible for establishing a fixed sleeping and waking cycle.
Fatty fish is typically also high in a few other sleep-promoting nutrients. For example, a 3-oz fillet of wild Atlantic salmon contains:
- 416 mg of potassium
- 25 g of magnesium
- 170 mg of phosphorous
- 0.54 mg of zinc
- 2.7 µg of vitamin B-12
- 21 µg of folate
- 10 mg of calcium
In a 2014 study, participants who ate 300 g of Atlantic salmon three times a week for 6 months fell asleep more quickly and functioned better during the day than those who ate chicken, beef, or pork with the same nutritional value.
The researchers concluded that these benefits were primarily due to an increase in vitamin D levels, as well as possible improvements in heart-rate regulation due to the omega-3 content.
Barley grass powder
People use barley grass powder to make healthful smoothies and it is rich in several sleep-promoting compounds, including GABA, calcium, tryptophan, zinc, potassium, and magnesium. You can mix barley grass powder into smoothies, scrambled eggs, salad dressings, and soups.
Lettuce and lettuce seed oil may help treat insomnia and promote a good night’s sleep. Some people claim that lettuce has a mild sedative-hypnotic effect. Researchers believe that most of lettuce’s sedative effects are due to the plant’s n-butanol fraction, specifically in a compound called lactucin. Studies show that lettuce also protects cells against inflammation and damage resulting from stress during sleep disturbances.
Other natural sleep remedies
Aside from foods, other traditional or alternative remedies that can improve sleep include:
- St. John’s wort
- Passionflower tea
It is best to speak with a doctor before taking any new supplements to ensure that they will not interact with other medications or supplements or affect any existing medical conditions.
Lifestyle and food choices can also help improve your sleep. Here are some considerations for better sleep:
- Avoid foods that can cause heartburn, such as spicy or rich foods
- Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine close to bedtime
- Choose whole-grain foods in place of white bread, white pasta, and sugary foods
- Avoid skipping meals
- Stay hydrated
- Exercise regularly
- Finish eating more than 2–3 hours before bedtime
Restful sleep is important to maintain good health and can affect a range of conditions from obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep by being selective about the food you eat. Then climb into your Island Slumber bamboo bedding for the coziest, restful sleep ever.
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