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January 2022

Can Foods Help Improve Sleep?

Although tossing-and-turning through the night is common, it should not be taken lightly. Getting a good night sleep is important for overall health.  It may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, keep the brain healthy and boost the immune system.  Sleep is affected by many things including underlying medical issues and mental health; nutrition also plays a roll.  Here are some ways to help improve your sleep.

Foods That Improve Sleep
Although there is no silver bullet or single food that will guarantee a good night’s sleep, here are some foods and beverages that may help.

  • Hot Tea – tea made from valerian, chamomile and other non-caffeinated options.  Tea is a natural tranquilizer, can lead to feelings of drowsiness and may improve the quality of sleep.
  • Nighttime Milk – a warm glass of milk, as it contains tryptophan, an amino acid linked to better sleep. If you are lactose intolerant try lactose-free milk.
  • Poultry – rich in tryptophan that helps your body make serotonin, a relaxing mood hormone.
  • Fish – rich in vitamin B6, with salmon, tuna and halibut having the most.  B6 makes melatonin, a hormone made in the brain in response to darkness. Often referred to as a sleep hormone.
  • Kiwi – a recent study suggested that this fruit impacts sleep, enhancing the duration and quality.
  • Tart Cherries or Tart Cherry juice – rich in melatonin may lead to improvements in sleep duration and quality.
  • Bananas – a good source of potassium and magnesium, minerals that are natural muscle-relaxants.
  • Nuts – walnuts, pistachios, cashews and almonds contain magnesium, zinc and melatonin.
  • Fresh Herbs – such as basil can have a calming effect on the body.

Still Can’t Sleep?
Dietary patterns and lifestyle can also impact sleep. Try making small behavior changes such as:

  • Limit caffeine, especially in the afternoon or evening.
  • Make dinner your lightest meal. Limit spicy or rich foods.
  • Stop eating two-hours prior to going to bed.
  • Avoid alcohol, especially at night.
  • Get exposure to bright light in the morning.
  • If you take a nap, make it earlier in the day, and limit to 20-30 minutes.
  • Be physically active, however, avoid exercising 4-hours before bedtime.
  • Limit screen time, especially in bed.
  • Develop a sleep routine by going to bed at the same time every night.

The Bottom Line
These foods may help sleep; however, there is no substitute for a healthy eating pattern.  Focus on a variety of colorful vegetables & fruits, whole grains, lean protein, reduced fat dairy, and healthy fats. Choosing foods from the food groups, along with an active lifestyle are vital to overall health and well-being.  Enhancing a healthy eating pattern with these sleep-inducing foods and behavior changes may reduce the restless nights and turn into “sweet dreams”!


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