What and When should You eat to get Better Sleep?
Your quality of sleep can affect several health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, just to name a few.
However, only a third of adults in Canada are getting an adequate amount of sleep, according to the government of Canada.
Almost everything you do during the day affects your sleep at night. Eating is no exception. Fortunately, some foods and drinks contain chemicals that help facilitate the sleep cycle, meaning you can change your diet to help you fall asleep quicker and sleep better.
You’ll want to look for foods containing high concentrations of sleep-promoting compounds such as:
- gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
- vitamin D
- B vitamins
10 Best Foods and Drinks for Better Sleep
Based on scientific research and nutritional profiles, we have compiled a list of the best foods and drinks you can have. There is also information on the best time to eat them to improve your sleep quality.
Almonds contain a high concentration of melatonin, a hormone that lets you know it’s time for bed and helps regulate the sleep cycle.
Furthermore, 1 oz of almonds contains 77 mg of magnesium and 76 mg of calcium. Both minerals also help promote sleep as well as muscle relaxation.
2. Warm milk
Warm milk is a common fix for trouble sleeping due to its containing tryptophan, calcium, vitamin D, and melatonin, all of which are sleep-promoting compounds.
Additionally, the childhood association with milk and bedtime combined with the feeling of warmth and comfort of a warm glass of milk is also highly effective for promoting sleep as it is relaxing and calming.
Kiwi can help facilitate the sleep cycle and improve your sleep as the fruit contains many sleep-promoting compounds, including:
A study examining the link between consuming kiwi and sleep found that those who ate two kiwifruits 1 hour before sleeping for three weeks reported increased sleep time, improved sleep quality, and decreased the time it took to fall asleep.
4. Chamomile tea
Chamomile is known for its calming properties, a popular remedy for insomnia and facilitating sleep. According to researchers, this sleep-inducing effect may be due to a compound called Apigenin, commonly found in chamomile.
While the research evidence to support the hypothesis that chamomile improves sleep quality is relatively weak, the warm and soothing effects of drinking chamomile are still beneficial in helping one mentally wind down for sleep.
Walnuts may help promote and regulate sleep due to them containing several sleep-inducing compounds such as melatonin, serotonin, and magnesium.
In a 2018 student called “A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries,” the researchers found a positive correlation between improved sleep and cherry consumption before bed.
Cherries can help induce sleep as they are rich in four compounds that regulate sleep: melatonin, potassium, serotonin, and tryptophan. There is speculation among researchers that a special antioxidant found in cherries called polyphenols may also help facilitate sleep.
7. Fatty fish
Because fatty fish are high in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, two serotonin-regulating nutrients, they may help improve sleep. This is mainly because serotonin plays a crucial role in one’s sleep cycle as it promotes the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Fish also contains several other sleep-promoting nutrients, including:
- Vitamin B-12
Moreover, a 2014 study found that participants who ate 300 grams of Atlantic salmon three times a week for six months fell asleep faster and reported better sleep quality than those who ate other meats with the same nutritional value.
There is some evidence that rice consumption can improve sleep. A study of adults in Japan found that those who regularly ate rice reported better sleep quality than those who consumed other carbohydrates.
This study supports prior research that found eating certain foods with a high glycemic index around 4 hours before sleeping can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
Bananas can promote sleep as they contain potassium which plays a role in improving sleep duration. They also contain magnesium, which is found in studies to treat insomnia and similar sleep-related problems. Lastly, they can induce sleep because they contain tryptophan which stimulates the production of sleep and calming hormones.
10. Dark chocolate
Chocolate contains theobromine, which acts as a muscle relaxant that helps facilitate cardiovascular activities. As such, there are studies that suggest theobromine can promote sleep. Furthermore, chocolate also contains tryptophan, which again stimulates the production of serotonin and melatonin, both of which help facilitate sleep. It is worth noting that tryptophan impacts everyone differently, and the amount of tryptophan is different between each chocolate type.
What is the best time to eat before bed?
Juliana Dewsnap, RD, LDN, CPT, and a dietitian say the best time to eat dinner is at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. This schedule allows sufficient time for the stomach to digest and to prepare for bedtime before sleeping. This prevents the consequences of digestion from disrupting your sleep.
This is especially true for those that suffer from heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux, or GERD as their symptoms may worsen to go to bed while still digesting food. However, she notes that there is no “best time” to eat before bed, so just seeing how you feel and playing it by ear is not a bad idea either.
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Written by: Sean Shih