There has been a lot of research into how various foods can impact our physical health and mental well-being, which are significant factors regarding our sleep quality.
People with a diet filled with processed foods, saturated fats, and high sugars will often struggle to get a full-filled night’s sleep. They will also feel generally fatigued and experience lethargy and mood swings regularly. On the contrary, tests have shown that people who consume a lot of fiber in their diet tend to get a night of better sleep.
During this guide, I will be telling you how you can turn this around with some simple lifestyle changes by introducing foods into your diet that can dramatically impact your sleep health and perhaps combat some of your sleep disorders.
What Foods Will Improve Sleep?
Below are some of the best foods (and drinks) that will improve your sleep quality. These are also recommended as a late-night snack if you’re feeling peckish and want to avoid reaching for the biscuit jar.
1. Warm Milk
This is one that you’re probably most familiar with in terms of something to have at bedtime. Even as children, one thing we’re given to drink before bed is a warm mug of milk, and to be honest, I used to believe that it was a bit of a myth as far as whether or not it promotes sleep.
However, drinking warm milk is highly likely to make you feel more sleepy. This is because it contains elements such as vitamin D, melatonin, tryptophan, and calcium, all promoting sleep.
Although it might not technically be food, warm milk is an excellent alternative to late-night snacking because it contains plenty of nutrients.
You might have been advised in the past to drink chamomile tea as a sleep aid in the evening, especially if you suffer from insomnia, but how does it actually improve your sleep quality?
Studies have shown that chamomile contains something called apigenin, which stimulates sleep. However, these findings are relatively new. Therefore, although chamomile tea is recommended to improve sleep, scientifically, this may not be the case.
Almonds are an excellent choice when looking for foods to consume in the hours leading up to bed. This is because they are high in melatonin, the hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm.
Almonds are also packed full of other vitamins and minerals, including high doses of calcium and magnesium, which promote better sleep.
Walnuts are incredibly high in elements such as melatonin, magnesium, potassium, and serotonin, all of which will likely give you a great night’s sleep, especially when combined.
Walnuts are also great for your general health when consumed in small doses, as they contain lots of healthy fats, such as omega-3 and linoleic acid. They can also reduce the chance of heart disease due to their ability to lower cholesterol.
5. Fatty Fish
As I mentioned, walnuts contain many healthy fats. Another way to consume these fats is by eating fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel. As well as being loaded with omega-3, they are also packed with vitamin D. For example, a single piece of salmon can contain over 70% of your daily recommendation.
Some recent studies on the effects of fatty fish on sleep quality showed that people who ate around 900 grams of salmon per week fell asleep much easier than people who enjoy more other proteins such as poultry and red meat.
If you’re struggling to fall asleep at night, try introducing some fatty fish to a couple of meals per week, and see if you notice a difference.
6. White Rice
Although eating white rice might not be recommended as your regular carbohydrate due to its lack of nutrients, it does, in fact, still contain enough folate and thiamine to promote a good night’s sleep.
Sleep professionals advise that eating a portion of white rice around a couple of hours before sleep can improve the quality of your slumber.
I’ve mentioned how drinking warm milk before bed can promote sleep, but it’s just milk that helps. Other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt can also have a similar effect due to their contents of tryptophan, which has proven to dramatically enhance sleep in adults, especially when combined with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
Ginseng is a plant tuber-type herb commonly used in herbal teas and medicines. It’s known for its strange appearance, which I always say has a likeness to a Mandrake, with roots that look like arms and legs.
There is no scientific proof that ginseng will help you with sleep, but this is because the FDA does not monitor the use of herbal remedies on physical health. Therefore, it’s crucial that if you opt for any herbal aids, you speak to your doctor about it first, as some of them, when misused, may cause adverse effects, such as headaches, dizziness, stomach upset, and even heart problems in some cases.
However, when used correctly in the proper doses, ginseng is thought to improve your sleep quality as well as your general health in terms of things like your energy levels, stress, and anxiety.
9. Tart Cherries/Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice has been researched extensively for its sleep-aid properties. It has always come up as one of the best natural remedies to consume before bed. This is down to the fact that it’s loaded with melatonin, so much so that it has been known to help people living with insomnia massively.
As well as its high melatonin content, it also possesses many other vital, nutritious components, such as phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium, both of which have been seen to improve people’s quality of sleep.
On top of all this, it’s also rich in antioxidants, which can aid the body’s healing process and reduce inflammation. It improves your general health, which can help you get a more restful night’s sleep.
Overall it’s clear why tart cherry juice is one of the leading favorites regarding natural sleep aids.
10. Drinking Plenty of Water to Improve Sleep
Staying hydrated throughout the day is one of the most important things you can do to improve sleep, health, brain function, and digestion.
There is some somewhat conflicting information out there as to whether drinking water right before you go to bed is good for you or not. While some say, it’s great as it can improve your mood, cleanse the body of toxins and keep you hydrated. Drinking too much water in the evening can lead to waking up multiple times while needing the toilet. Of course, this also depends on age. Older people tend to have weaker bladders than someone in their twenties, so the older you get, the less water you should consume before you go to bed.
Some research has shown that drinking a glass of warm water before bed can keep you hydrated throughout the night and help your body to rid itself of toxins.
If water isn’t something you enjoy drinking, or you find the lack of flavor off-putting, then adding lemon or a herbal tea bag is a great way to get that water consumption.
The recommended amount of water you should drink daily to remain adequately hydrated is around two liters. This can be with meals, while at work, after exercise, and sometimes when you’re hungry. Sometimes the body confuses hunger with thirst, meaning this can also aid in weight loss in some cases.
Getting restorative sleep is detrimental to your physical and mental well-being. Hence, anything you can do to ensure you’re improving or keeping up with your current sleep schedule is always a bonus. Also, the foods you eat before bed can play a massive part in this.
Foods which contain components such as serotonin, melatonin, and magnesium are always likely to improve your sleep quality, as well as ensure you drift off with ease. This includes food items such as tart cherries, pineapple, banana, and fatty fish.
A couple of the foods I have talked about today are herbal, therefore, not scientifically monitored regarding their aids to sleep or even their effects, so although they’re often advised as a solution for people struggling with sleep, it’s important to talk about this through with your doctor before introducing anything new to your diet. This is especially the case for anyone currently taking other medications or with allergies or other underlying health conditions.
If you decide to introduce any of the foods above to your diet in the hope of improving your sleep, then I suggest you consume them for a couple of hours before you go to bed. Eating right before bed is ill-advised as it can cause heartburn and indigestion.