Finally, it’s quiet. It’s been a long day and the daily grind has you feeling exhausted. You climb into your bed, greeted by comfy, organic sheets and soft, fluffy pillows. You close your eyes, ready to drift off to dreamland. But you can’t. You toss and turn, unable to fall asleep. Why are you still awake?
Getting an amazing nights’ sleep isn’t just about what touches your body or the noise around you. That’s only half the battle. What you put inside your body throughout the day and before bed can have as much influence over your evening as anything you sleep on. Supercharge your diet for sleep with some of these foods.
Not only are nuts a convenient source of protein, they are also key to getting some much-needed shuteye. Walnuts are a fantastic source of tryptophan, an amino acid that aids the body in creating serotonin and melatonin. Those are the hormones that regulate our sleep cycles. Almonds are another great option too. Not only will your tummy be full of slowly digesting protein (meaning you won’t be hungry for a while), but you’ll also get a nice dose of magnesium, a mineral vital to building bones and getting quality sleep.
Pistachios offer an interesting alternative to almonds. Like walnuts, they’re packed with protein and magnesium but they also contain vitamin B-6. And of course, if eating raw or lightly processed nuts isn’t your thing, you can always get the same benefits from various kinds of nut butters, so long as they don’t have added sugar or cocoa. A word of caution: nuts tend to be high in caloric value, so be sure to only have a small amount before bed or else you could end up keeping yourself up.
A glass of warm milk is the classic bedtime snack. It might be an old wives’ tale, but mothers have been giving their little ones warm milk for centuries. It works for two reasons. First, there’s a psychological component involved with drinking hot beverages to relax. It’s ingrained in us that certain beverages are for relaxation. Warm milk is one of them. Second, is our old pal tryptophan, helping you get to sleep and stay asleep. This powerful amino acid is typically a precursor to serotonin.
Not everyone has the time to heat up milk. Luckily, you can still get most of the benefits by snacking on some cheese. If you’re in a pinch for time, a single-serve cheese stick will do the trick. It might not be hot but it sure is simple and convenient.
If you’re a late-night snacker, and who isn’t, then fret not. There are plenty of things you can munch on before bed that won’t keep you up. Hummus is rich in folate and vitamin B-6. Folate aids in regulating sleep cycles, good for people who might have trouble falling asleep. Vitamin B-6 helps to regulate body rhythms.
Hummus not your thing? No worries. Popcorn or a handful of pretzels are great options as well. Carbohydrate-heavy snacks can have a sedating effect shortly after eating them. This is because carbs help your brain absorb the naturally occurring sleep hormones already inside your body. Pretzels, in particular, have a high glycemic index and metabolize in your body rapidly. Most whole grains are a good choice for sleep-inducing snacking. They cause small spikes in blood sugar, leaving your feeling sleepy after. You know the “after-lunch” drowsy feeling? That.
Who hasn’t passed out after a big Thanksgiving dinner? Turkey has been blamed for more food comas that anyone can count. Long rumored to be the result of naturally occurring tryptophan, turkey is a great way to nudge your body towards sleep. It will keep you feeling full and drowsy. Perfect. Tuna is a fantastic source of vitamin B-6 as well. Cook it with some garlic and you’ve got a high-powered vitamin B combo. Be careful with seasonings though, as you don’t want to add anything too sugary.
Veggies before bed? Yup. They’re low in calories (provided you don’t load up your salads with dressing) and the plant fiber will keep you full. Lettuce and kale offer a vegetarian-friendly way to unwind and get your body ready for sleep. Certain varieties are packed with calcium, critical to your body’s production of sleep hormones. Recent studies have shown that a calcium deficiency can make it difficult to fall asleep. Cherries or tart cherry juice can also be a good snack. They’re a great source of natural melatonin and when snacked on regularly, they can also help to maintain sleeping patterns.
There are few pleasures in life greater than a warm cup of herbal tea. The steam rising up from the cup, inviting your senses to indulge. Chamomile is a great variety to have before bed. It increases your body’s production of glycine, a natural chemical in your body that can help you relax. Valerian has been growing in popularity lately and with good reason. Some recent studies have shown that it can help speed up your body towards sleep. Either way, you can’t go wrong with caffeine-free tea.
Whatever you choose to eat throughout the day or at night, be mindful that your choices will impact how you feel. If you fuel your body with goodness, your body will respond in kind. Pamper it with organic cotton sheets and an environment conducive to rest and you’ll never have a restless night again. Eat well, sleep well.
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