Everyone knows that a healthy diet is the key to a healthy life. Eating the right foods can give your body the energy it needs to keep you moving, give your brain a boost, prevent illness, heal wounds, and basically everything else you need to live a happy, healthy, and productive life. Unfortunately, we often forget the fact that sleep is one of those essential functions - and your diet plays a larger role than you think!
The truth is, if you find yourself struggling to sleep well, your eating habits might be to blame. A healthy diet is an often-overlooked piece of the puzzle when it comes to good sleep hygiene. It's important to eat the right foods at the right time for the best sleep possible, and even more essential to avoid the foods that can keep you awake at night! We're not just talking about pickles before bed, either: many common foods can completely throw off your body's sleep-wake cycle, especially if they are eaten within a few hours of bedtime! Read on to learn more about the best and worst foods for a restful sleep.
Melatonin is the main hormone responsible for regulating your sleep. Your body naturally produces melatonin at night to help you fall asleep, and keeps producing it throughout the night as you move through the sleep stages, before tapering off by morning so you wake up feeling rested. The more melatonin you have stored by bedtime, the easier you'll find it to fall and stay asleep, and the more rested you'll feel in the morning! If you don't have the right combination of nutrients to produce the melatonin you need, you'll lie awake or toss and turn throughout the night. It's just that simple! The main ingredients to look for when you want a good sleep are:
Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body converts into melatonin over time. This is the chemical found in turkey that is famous for making people sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner! You can find it in:
Your body needs calcium to convert tryptophan into melatonin. It's essential for a good rest! If you don't have enough, you might wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep. In fact, a calcium-rich diet has been shown to reduce the symptoms of insomnia! It is found in:
Vitamin B6 also helps you convert tryptophan into melatonin. Lower than normal levels of vitamin B6 are linked to poor sleep, mood disorders like depression, and insomnia. Vitamin B6 is found in:
Of course, there are also natural sources of melatonin that can help you sleep better! Here are a few:
Magnesium isn't used when your body is producing melatonin, but it's still essential for a healthy sleep schedule! Magnesium is called the "sleep mineral", and with good reason: it is a natural relaxant that helps to deactivate adrenaline in your body. Without it, you'll struggle to fall asleep at night. You can find it in:
Many foods that are healthy during the day can hurt your sleep if you eat them within 2-3 hours of bedtime! Here are a few simple things to avoid if you want to wake up feeling refreshed every day:
If you feel hungry late at night, skip the second supper and reach for a light snack packed with calcium, tryptophan, magnesium, and vitamin B6 instead. Some great options for a late-night snack are some whole wheat toast with peanut butter, a bowl of cereal, cheese and crackers, or a cup of yogurt with sliced fruit.