The Important Link Between Food & Sleep
Deep, restorative sleep is considered the Holy Grail of health, yet many of us struggle with it. How can something so vital to our health require so much effort to achieve?
We thrive on keeping busy, getting less than six hours of sleep a night, and counting our daily caloric intake.
Let’s try to turn this around and focus on foods we can eat to aid our overall health and improve our sleep quality. Everything we use needs a recharge, including ourselves. What if, in the year 2021, we set our intentions on getting more and deeper restorative sleep so that chronic sleep deprivation doesn’t become a health and safety hazard, both to ourselves and others?
Today we explore six nutrients to eat for a better night’s sleep. A growing body of research suggests these specific foods and food components may improve your sleep quality!
Let’s dive in.
What to Eat for a Good Night’s Sleep
Prebiotics are plant fibers that help healthy bacteria grow in our gut. Early research suggests dietary prebiotics may support restful sleep by boosting gut bacteria that produce sleep-promoting metabolites.
Great sources of prebiotics include:
- Dandelion Greens
- Green Plantains
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important, healthy fats we must get from food. In fact, a study found that fatty fish may actually be great food for better sleep!
The study found that people who ate salmon three times a week had better overall sleep quality.
Omega-3 fats can be an excellent source of vitamin D, which is involved in the body’s regulation of serotonin. We need an appropriate amount of sunlight on our skin during the day to help maintain our body’s natural production of Vitamin D3, promoting serotonin production. This can be challenging in the winter when there is less sun!
In the evening, the brain naturally converts serotonin into melatonin, the main sleep hormone. Getting sufficient serotonin levels during the day can improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
Great sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
3. Magnesium-Rich Foods
Magnesium is a nutrient the body needs to stay healthy.
Many people have insomnia because they have a hard time turning off their brains at night. Magnesium helps to slow down our thought processes by a neurotransmitter called GABA. GABA (short for Gamma-Aminobutyric acid) is an important amino acid that plays a key role in our overall sleep health. One of GABA’s primary functions is helping us relax, de-stress, and ultimately, fall asleep. Magnesium helps our bodies maintain healthy levels of GABA, allowing for more restorative sleep.
GABA can also help calm both body and mind as we prepare for sleep.
This calming ritual is a natural boost to our circadian rhythm, our internal clock. This cues our brains to feel sleepy when the sun goes down and more awake when the sun rises. A healthy circadian rhythm is a natural routine that allows for deeper, quality sleep. It can be challenging to obtain sufficient magnesium in our normal dietary habits.
So, adding a magnesium supplement to our bedtime routine can be beneficial!
Read this article next: Why Sleep is Just as Important as Healthy Eating & Exercise
4. Tryptophan-Rich Foods
Tryptophan is an amino acid found in many protein-rich foods. It is necessary for making proteins and other important molecules in your body that are essential for sleep. Consuming a sufficient amount of tryptophan-rich foods can support restorative sleep by enhancing melatonin, improving sleep quality, and quantity.
The foods richest in tryptophan include:
- Organ Meats
Cherries, especially tart ones, are a rich source of food-based melatonin, which helps regulate sleep cycles.
Drinking tart cherry juice has been found to significantly increase total sleep time and sleep efficiency. So, whether it’s munching on some sour cherries or pouring a glass of tart cherry juice, this vibrant fruit could become your new favorite bedtime snack.
6. Bone Broth
Bone broth (frequently referred to as “liquid gold”) is made by simmering animals’ bones and connective tissues. Research has shown that consuming gelatin (rich in bone broth) before bed helps induce sleep because of the amino acid glycine.
Glycine helps lower body temperature by increasing blood flow to the body’s extremities, which reduces core body temperature. A slight drop in body temperature is a key part of the body’s physical progress into sleep!
Taking a few moments in the evening to revel in a warm cup of soothing bone broth can help ease you into a relaxed state. Think of it as meditation in a mug, designed to give you a better night’s sleep.
Nourishing Foods for Nourishing Sleep
Getting quality sleep is important for our overall health.
Adding in any or all of these six healthy ideas can lessen your struggle with sleep because of the sleep-regulating hormones and brain chemicals they contain. They also have high amounts of nutrients, which help you fall asleep faster or stay asleep longer.
Use this as a guide to continue your journey of deep, restorative sleep, and share your experience with us!
Related article: 5 Essential Tips for Your Best Sleep Yet